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New wave of violence in occupied Palestine

Dec 18,2018 - Last updated at Dec 18,2018

A European ambassador in Jordan once argued, insistently, that Israel can live with the Palestinian situation permanently. “Gaza is contained,” he said, “and all [that] Hamas hopes for is an open-ended ceasefire, while in the West Bank, security cooperation is working fine and Israel has been capable of reducing any unrest to rare acts of violence that can happen anywhere”.

He did not want to listen to my comment that even in the most abnormal and the most explosive situations, extended periods of calm happen, but they never last. Oppressed people do run out of energy and take a break. They take a break, but they rarely abandon their struggle and surrender. That was what I tried to drive.

He disagreed that the recorded history of numerous occupations was unsustainable, despite the occupiers’ excessive use of force, oppression, detention, torture, deprivation, execution of resistance leaders and harsh collective punishment.

“The Israeli situation is different,” he kept asserting.

Although this encounter is old, I keep recalling it every time we hear of Palestinian attacks against Israeli targets. Few as they may be, they routinely cause a lot of turmoil and lead to more oppressive and punitive Israeli measures, mostly indiscriminate. They also remind the Israelis of their serious predicament.

Once a Palestinian attacker is identified, his family home faces demolition, even if the family had no knowledge of the attack. Sometimes, the entire village is subjected to cruel punitive measures, either during the search or just as reprisal. Actually, the search process, often violent and destructive, claims a lot of victims in its way. 

Apparently, Israel believes that such measures can be preventive, in the sense that families would discourage their members from committing to such actions. But this kind of logic defies common sense. Not only because these young men and women often resort to such desperate attacks out of pent up anger against the injustice, humiliation, intimidation, deprivation and the aggression on their humanity that their ruthless occupiers subject them to, but also because the Palestinians realise that the occupation is not all they may have to live with: Israel openly plans to eradicate the Palestinians totally and completely from where they are. 

For the Palestinians, therefore, it is a battle for survival. Israeli measures have so far been enlarging the circle of Israel’s enemies, affirming Israel’s isolation and deepening the hatred; despite visible, though unreal, manifestations otherwise.  

Last week, there were more attacks by Palestinian individuals on Israeli forces, settlers and even civilians in the West Bank. Israel retaliated ferociously. Most of the Palestinian attackers were tracked down and killed. Their houses were demolished. Many others, standing in the way of this punishment, were detained or killed or pursued. This is normal in Israel. 

What is also normal is the usual chorus of condemnation and denunciation of Palestinian "terror” from many international community sources; a ritual meant to appease Israel. Never mind the fact that such condemnations rarely happen when Israeli settlers or Israeli forces kill Palestinians, or demolish their property, or destroy their farms, or cut their olive trees, or burn their crops. This is because, according to the “consensus", Israel always acts in self-defence and because Israel’s right to defend itself is affirmed in every such appeasing statement.

Obviously, the Palestinians who attack Israelis know with full certainty that they cannot escape alive. Sometimes they try, when not shot on the spot, but their escape is short-lived.

The simple message here is that a growing number of young people in occupied Palestine reach the conclusion that life under permanent occupation without dignity, without freedom, without hope and without a future is not worth living. Even those who may want to live under the Israeli occupation without dignity, without freedom, without hope and without a future may not be allowed that either. No one feels safe or is left alone to live in peace under this kind of malignant occupation.

What Israel, and its successive generations of leaders, fails to comprehend is that oppression, even benign oppression, can never be a prescription for normal life and peace.

Over the past 70 years, Israel has tried endless methods to normalise injustice, but that has not worked. Israel has tried suppression and cruel power to break the Palestinian will to defend their humanity, but that has not worked. Israel has tried to deny the Palestinian existence, but that has not worked. Israel has managed to have most of the world stand behind its illegal and aggressive tactics, but that has not worked. Israel has demonised the Palestinians as terrorists, but that has not worked. Israel has even managed to divide the Arab states and have some of them on its side against the Palestinians, but that does not seem to be working either.

As we clearly see, and contrary to what the founders of Israel may have anticipated, time is neither erasing the Palestinians, nor is it weakening their resolve for full independence on their own soil.

No one should be deceived by the apparent fact that the majority of Palestinians are quiet, even if under awful conditions. Only a few individuals have led successful liberation movements throughout history. Israel is probably encouraged by the weakness, indeed, the inability of the Palestinian leadership, by the massive support from the US and many other foreign powers, by the growing relations with some Arab states, as well as by depletion of Palestinian options in general.

This may help the occupation to prolong its life, but it will never grant Israel the needed peace and security. Only if very few Palestinians decide, every now and then, to attack Israelis, Israel’s finger will have to remain permanently on the trigger.

The choice, therefore, is either a permanent state of war or peace without occupation.

One last point: The current favourable conditions for Israel are not certain to remain so permanently. Since when has history been consistent?

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