If the logic of this piece is followed, there has not been one Occupation, but two – the original colonial enterprise crystallised in 1948; and then its extension in 1967 to, in effect, incorporate all of Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River into Israel.
And so it goes on. The policy of home and livelihood demolitions continues unabated; the arrest and holding in military detention of minors, continues; the imposition of movement restrictions on Palestinians, continues; the holding of countless Palestinians in non-trial administrative detention, continues; the army exercises – breaking into Palestinian homes without warning, in the dead of night, continues; the insertion of thuggish, violence-disposed Settlers (colonisers properly called) into Palestinian areas, Hebron for example, continues; the establishment of Settlements on Palestinian land, continues; the diversion of water supplies away from Palestinian villages to Jewish-only Settlements, continues; the policy-led starving of resources to Palestinian towns, continues; the policy of debasement, continues; and so on, and so on.
And within all this, and more, the attempt by Jewish settlers to evict Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrar, East Jerusalem, all to help Judaise the city as a whole. (Sheikh Jarrar is but one of many examples.) And, a few days ago, the wilful and unnecessary attempt by Israeli police to close off the plaza by the Old City’s Damascus Gate, part of the route to the Al Aqsa mosque, and where by custom and habit Palestinians meet socially after Ramadan prayers.
Then the assault on, and in, the al Aqsa mosque, a monstrosity at any time, but during the Holy Month of Ramadan? Designed as a provocation? Or not designed at all, but rather the ‘natural’ manifestation of contempt and supreme disregard for the Palestinian Other.
I have just looked (13 May 2021, 10.35a.m.) at the English edition of Ha’aretz which is running the following story:
‘The Israeli military is preparing for an order to end Gaza cross-border fighting as soon as possible, citing the threat of Jewish-Arab clashes across the country spiralling [sic] out of control.
Awaiting the government’s orders, the military is preparing to ramp up the strikes on the Gaza Strip in order to bring the round of violence, which began on Monday and escalated throughout the week, to an end.
In recent discussions by Israel’s top defense officials, they assessed the violence in Lod, Bat Yam, Acre and other cities pose a security threat that is no less grave than the Gaza fighting.
So far, Israel has turned down several offers for cease-fire mediations, but sources say the violence inside Israel may force Israel to reconsider.’
So far as Gaza is concerned, the obvious straightforward meaning of this is that there will be more, and possibly more intense, bombardments of Gaza with the predictable attendant deaths and maiming of Gaza’s children and their parents. And this in itself may well prompt Hamas to deploy another salvo of missiles aimed at Israeli towns. If the past is any guide, some of those missiles will get through, and may also cause death and injury, though to a significantly lesser extent, but devastating nonetheless.
As you sow, shall you reap
But the article also alerts us to what appears now to be extensive, yet concentrated, inter-communal violence. This did not come from nowhere. It emanates from, and exacerbates, the original festering wound.
Right-wing Jewish young people, encouraged, guided, coached, incited, cultivated to hate from birth by racist rabbis and community leaders are then egged on by politicians.
Last week, Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the far-right Religious Zionism faction issued a barely veiled threat to Israel’s large Palestinian minority. Expulsion, he suggested, was looming for these 1.8 million Palestinians, a fifth of the Israeli population. ‘Arabs are citizens of Israel – for now at least,’ he told his party. ‘And they have representatives at the Knesset [Israeli parliament] – for now at least.’ He then described Palestinian legislators – the elected representatives of Israel’s Palestinian minority – as ‘our enemies sitting in the Knesset’.
Then there is Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the neo-fascist Jewish Power party. His supporters last month took to the streets around the occupied Old City of Jerusalem, chanting ‘Death to Arabs’ and making good on promises in WhatsApp chats to attack Palestinians and ‘break their faces’.
The street speaks?
Another potentially significant, and more optimistic, development – time will tell – is the seeming growth in Israeli-Palestinians identifying with the plight of Palestinian Jerusalemites under threat of eviction at Sheikh Jarrar. Nir Hasson in the Ha’aretz refers to a ‘pan-Palestinian cause’:
‘Something has been happening recently in the pro-Palestinian movement that hasn’t occurred in years. The fight by Palestinian residents in Jerusalem against their eviction from their homes by organizations seeking to settle Jews in their neighborhood has become a pan-Palestinian cause. It has been embraced from East Jerusalem to Arab towns in Israel to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. And no one really understands what brought it about…
…A wider circle of support has come from Arab citizens in Umm al-Fahm, Jaffa and elsewhere who have expressed their identification with Sheikh Jarrah and come to the neighborhood for the Friday protests. On Wednesday of this week, they also protested in the center of Umm al-Fahm over the issue.’
Previously, Israeli Palestinians did not overly identify with the residents of Sheikh Jarrar or those who who lived in Occupied, East Jerusalem. But that seems to be changing and, as Nir Hasson says, we could be seeing the first stages of a pan-Palestinian consciousness. This will terrify Israel since its policy has been to create as many impediments as possible to any prospect of Palestinian unity. Until now this has been very successful from Israel’s point of view, but a growth in pan-Palestinian self-consciousness may well prove able to vault the temporal and spacial discontinuities Israel has sought to maintain between Palestinian communities.
But the wider point here, at least for those genuinely concerned for peace and justice for Palestinians, Israeli Jews, and others who live between the Sea and the River, is that Palestinian unity and collective self-consciousness is the necessary pre-requisite to any sort of durable and just settlement of the Palestine/Israel issue. I go so far as to suggest that Israel, afflicted by its own self-inflicted wounds, cannot grow or find a better self in the absence of Palestinian unity and self-fulfilment.
Then only might the seeping wound begin to heal.
Note: This examples of racist behaviour by rightwing youngsters and politicians has drawn on Jonathan Cook’s work at https://www.jonathan-cook.net/2021-05-04/jerusalem-protests-mob-establishment/