Palestine youth have had enough. Throughout their entire lives they’ve known only humiliation, oppression and deprivation. They’ve been let down by their political leaders, resistance organisations and the international community. And now that they’ve been stripped of all hope, students as young as 13 are violently lashing out because they see violence — which to date has robbed the lives of over 40 Palestinians and seven Israelis over the past two weeks — as the only option left to them.
This time it’s different because unlike the two previous uprisings, they are not being directed or controlled by Fatah, Hamas or any other organisation and it’s this bottom-up rather than top-down trend that worries Israeli authorities. Indeed, Israel’s Defence Minister showed his impotence when he told his cabinet colleagues that he could hardly gather up all the kitchen knives in the land.
Attacks on civilians cannot be defended no matter who’s carrying them out. Israelis standing at a bus stop were killed including a man who was hacked to death. That said, Israel has killed thousands of Palestinians over the years, including women and children. Israel’s utter disrespect for Palestinian lives and its unwillingness to offer land for peace is the crux of the problem.
The peace process is dead in all but name. Oslo has turned out to be a poor joke not worth the paper it’s written on, which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas alluded to in his recent speech to the UN General Assembly. Palestinian children have been incarcerated for the ‘crime’ of throwing stones at armed police in riot gear.
They’ve been walled-off like pariahs. They’ve been attacked by Jewish extremists and witnessed their olive groves and orchards being destroyed by gun-toting colonists. They are the victims but if you believe slick-talking Israeli spokespersons comparing the actions of frustrated Palestinians with Al Qaida and Daesh, you would get the opposite impression.
Let’s get something straight. The West Bank and East Jerusalem are under an illegal occupation. That’s a fact, evidenced by a slew of United Nations Security Council resolutions. And here’s another. According to international law, a people living under occupation have the right to resist the occupiers. All this is well known but because the occupation of Jerusalem and the West Bank has endured since 1967 when those areas were forcibly annexed, younger generations need reminding.
Moreover, Israel has flouted the Fourth Geneva Convention on several counts with impunity. The 1949 Geneva Conventions clearly states that collective punishment is a war crime. Yet Israel demolishes the family homes of offenders. Article 49 expressly forbids the occupying power from transferring its own civilian population into the territory it occupies but that hasn’t deterred Israel from grabbing Palestinian land to the extent a two-state solution is arguably no longer feasible.
The heavy-handedness of Israeli police and its military is no secret, but in recent days their actions against Palestinian women and children have been nothing less than barbaric as numerous stomach-churning videos shown on television and circulating on social media show.
A 28-year-old woman allegedly carrying a knife was shot dead by security forces whereas she could have easily been rendered harmless and arrested. A 13-year-old boy lying on the ground bleeding from his head, his eyes painfully fearful, was met with abuse. Israelis shouted in Arabic “Die, you son of a (expletive).”
Another child aged 16 was allegedly discovered carrying a knife when he was patted down by police, ran and was shot in the back 16 times, his body thrown into black garbage bags. Adding insult to injury, Israelis screaming invectives placed pork on the face of a wounded young Palestinian being carried on a stretcher into an ambulance — and the ambulance personnel did nothing to stop such abuse.
Rather than attempting to diffuse anger, the Israeli government has adopted measures that will only serve to pour gasoline on the tinderbox. Israel is refusing to return the bodies of Palestinians killed to their families for burial and is stripping more than 19 occupied East Jerusalem residents of their permits. Furthermore, rules giving Israelis the right to bear firearms are being relaxed when as things stand Jewish colonists have gone on a spree of torching Palestinian homes, vehicles and lands.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is set to hold discussions on the conflict with Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday — don’t hold your breath. US President Barack Obama says he is “very concerned”. Hillary Clinton commiserates with Israel, a cynical vote-getting stance.
On Friday, the UN Security Council convened in an emergency session when France called for international observers to be stationed in occupied Jerusalem, a call backed by the Palestinian National Authority, which wants its children to be protected. Naturally, Israel refused any such suggestion, saying it would violate the long-held status quo — an illegal status quo that makes a mockery of human rights and the United Nations founded to safeguard them.
A just solution is the only way to keep both Israelis and Palestinians safe, which is something a succession of Israeli leaders have refused to address with any seriousness. To use a phrase Israelis understand well, ‘Ye shall reap what you sow’.
Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at email@example.com