Tensions around Jerusalem’s revered Al-Aqsa Mosque and anger over the killing of a Palestinian baby in July are behind the current outburst of hostility in Palestine and Israel, according to Palestinian officials and analysts.
In the past week, four Israelis and 14 Palestinians have been killed in a wave of violence that has involved public stabbings and widespread clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces.
While the violence began with the barring of Palestinian men under 50 from Al-Aqsa, Islam’s third holiest site, many Palestinians are also angered that there have been no arrests after Israeli settlers burned to death 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh and his parents in the West Bank town of Duma in July.
Senior Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) official Mustafa Barghouti said Palestinians were reacting to “insults to Al-Aqsa Mosque and to Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement activities.”
“What made people very angry was the handling of the murder of the Dawabsheh family and the fact the Israeli army did not bring anything to court yet from those who committed this terrible crime,” Barhgouti told Anadolu Agency.
He said the protesters, who have taken to the streets in almost every Palestinian city and town as well as in Jaffa, which adjoins the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, come from across the political spectrum and are disillusioned by a lack of hope or opportunity.
Despite the PLO leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas saying he did not want any further violence, Barghouti said the current situation signalled the end of negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.
He said the result of negotiations started with the 1993 Oslo Accords had been “a big fat zero, nothing. So people are turning back to what they know; struggle against occupation, struggle against the system of apartheid.”
“I think what’s happening today is nothing but another intifada, an uprising with merely the participation of young people,” said Barghouti. “They realize that we are now in a new stage, that a whole period, 22 years of useless negotiations is over, that we have to change the balance of power.”
Two other popular uprisings, known as intifadas, gripped Palestine and Israel from 1987 to 1991 and 2000 to 2005 and many observers have been questioning whether the current wave of violence constitutes a third intifada.
Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post on Friday quoted several Arab academics at Israeli universities saying an intifada was “inevitable”, but had not yet broken out.
Said Zeedani, professor of Philosophy at Al-Quds University, told Anadolu Agency that “it’s [a] wave of events and counter events… it has been building for weeks.”
“The wave is going to continue for a few days but I don’t see it as a third intifada,” Zeedani said.
“Palestinians have the same complaints [as during the intifada], but the situation is different. Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] is against the escalation and is continuing the security co-operation [with Israel]. There is also Gaza and the special situation there,” he said, referring to the withdrawal of any active Israeli presence in Gaza after the second intifada ended in 2005.
The stabbings of around 15 Israelis, two of whom were killed, has led to heavy security measures by the Israeli government, especially in Jerusalem’s historic old city where regular checkpoints and metal detectors have been installed.
But Israel has recognized neither Al-Aqsa nor the Dawabsheh murder as the cause of the violence.
Instead it has accused Abbas and other Palestinian factions of encouraging it by criticizing hardline Jewish groups for forcing their way onto the site, despite what Israel says were limitations imposed on the number of Jews allowed at one time.
Reflecting statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick wrote Thursday: “Abbas and his lieutenants not only incited attacks, they incentivized would be perpetrators to kill Jews.”
Zeedani said however that Abbas has made it clear he wants to avoid violence and that Netanyahu’s decision to ban Israeli lawmakers from Al-Aqsa could also help avoid further violence.
“But it depends on how the two parties behave on the ground,” he said.
Barghouti, on the other hand, said the Palestinian leadership should unite behind the young protesters gathering across Palestine and support their movement.
“That would contribute dramatically to changing the balance of power,” he said. “They [the youth] are all with the spirit of resistance and I think what Netanyahu should understand is those who plant oppression eventually will harvest rage.”
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.