by Aramie Louisville Vas
Violence in occupied Palestine has escalated into what some fear may be the start of the third intifada – “insurrection” – as Israel continues building Jewish-only settlements on the West Bank in defiance of international law.
May I just take this opportunity to state that I was raised Jewish? I hope that by now we know that the Jewish religion and the government of Israel are two separate things in the context of occupied Palestine. My rabbi would strongly disagree that Palestine is an occupied land, and that Israel needs to step back, but lots of Jews, rabbis included, are strongly pro-Palestine and a support a two-state solution.
Here is how Israel has been conducting itself of late: besides the Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land, Israel has called for its own citizens to start carrying guns. Yes, they have been notorious for addressing conflict by arming themselves to the hilt, while patently not engaging in dialogue to address any of the issues. They meet conflict with increased violence, and where I come from in Kentucky, we have all sorts of derogatory names for people who only fight fire with fire. And we laugh at them.
But what’s happening at the hands of the Israelis is no laughing matter. The first Palestinian revolt against the Israeli government was brutal. Thousands of Palestinians died, from tens of thousands up to hundreds of thousands were arrested. Hundreds were deported, thousands of Palestinians had their homes razed, and upwards of 30,000 Palestinian children – yes, children – required medical treatment for their beatings at the hands of Israeli soldiers. The First Intifada lasted from 1987-1993, during which it was estimated that some 60,000 Palestinians were injured from shootings, beatings, and chemical agents such as tear gas. If you’d like to run comparisons, 179 Israelis were killed. Around 3,000 total suffered injuries. Grievous, insane differences between those numbers.
The Second Intifada lasted from 2000 – 2005. It saw 3,000 Palestinian deaths, 1,000 Israeli deaths, and 64 foreigners killed.
Currently, there have been a series of stabbing attacks in Jerusalem and also in Jewish-only settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. The attacks began October 1 when an Israeli couple were killed in the West Bank.
Both Israel and Palestine declare Jerusalem as their capital; Palestinians refer to “their” portion as East Jerusalem with the idea of a shared capitol, West Jerusalem would be the capital of Israel. Past Israeli peace proposals back in the 1990’s pushed the East Jerusalem Palestinian area to a more symbolic region than actual East Jerusalem; it was outside municipal borders, and the proposal had Israel keeping sovereignty. So, it wasn’t much of a solution at all in the sense of shared area.
At any rate, the stabbings in Jerusalem and East Jerusalem have been linked to the growing unrest over Israel’s Jewish-only expansion settlements. Since Oct. 3, 27 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and nearly 2,000 have been injured. By contrast 4 Israelis have been killed and 67 injured. You do see the pattern?
Israeli civilians carrying guns at all times was the mayor of Israel’s response to all the unrest and subsequent violence. In a video from Oct. 7, Israeli plainclothes police are seen shooting a Palestinian youth at point-blank range as other Israeli officers hold him down. They infiltrated Palestinian protests, incited violence, then turned on the youth. Is Israel actually calling for more of this kind of behavior? If the police act this way how will all the armed civilians behave?
Respected Israeli economist Shir Hever notes that Israel’s answer to conflict is simply to keep arming themselves to “increase punitive measures.” Hever summarizes that Israel, with its practice of engaging in conflict without political compromise, is fanning the flames of war. Increased repression, notes Hever, will not only fail to quell Palestinian anger of decades of bloody occupation, Israel’s bullheaded tactics could potentially hurt their arms export trade undermining their own economy.
Increasing the violence, “is not going to deter people,” says Hever. “…the Israeli government is trying to push their technological solutions. They’re using drones, they’re using armored cars, and concentrated tear gas canisters … in the hope that that would somehow control the resistance and stop it. And the mayor when he … calls on civilians to join in the fray by taking up arms, this is something that in a way shows the desperation of the Israeli authorities. They have no answer, really. And their only solution is to use violence with the hopes that somehow Palestinians will be cowed into submission.”
Hever has an interesting point about Jerusalem, one I hadn’t been aware of or yet considered: the old city of Jerusalem is one of the most heavily monitored in the world, in terms of security. It’s extremely sophisticated.
“It’s like a maximum security prison, basically, with cameras at every corner and police in all–and they’re not quite able to stop the violence,” says Hever.
I don’t mean to just throw Hever’s quotes at you will-nilly, but I really do not want to re-word what he has said so well:
“And so if that technology wins, if it’s possible to use technological means to repress people completely, like prisoners, that would be a very bad omen for the rest of the human race, because that is the kind of technology that Israel exports all over the world. However, if Palestinians are able to continue their resistance despite all this sophisticated technology, this is a big failing grade for the Israeli military technology. It would affect Israel’s arms exports, it would affect the whole model of the Israeli government that they can somehow manage the conflict without actually making political compromise.”
WOW. The true power of the people vs.machine. Let’s keep our eyes on this, us, the most of us, who are safely out of harm’s way here and can only but learn of what is happening and share it. There are other ways for pressure as well, such as an international boycott of Israel, and Hever notes that a possible tactic would be for the Palestinians to find some way to pressure Israeli government without resorting to violence.
“…and that is actually up to the rest of the international community to make sure that there are means for Palestinians to use that kind of pressure. As long as Palestinians feel isolated diplomatically, as long as Israel receives international support, the conflict tends to become more and more physical and more and more violent.”
We may be witnessing the end of a colonial regime. The Palestinian flag is now flying high at the United Nations. Are the lighted beginnings of a free Palestine finally in view? Perhaps. But first, we must emerge beyond the crisis.