This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
As the crisis in Israel-Palestine devolves, with some predicting a third intifada, the YWCA in Jerusalem issued an alert:
Four Palestinians, ages 13-19, have been executed in less than 32 hours. Over 500 have been injured just since Saturday, October 3rd. More than 40 have been shot with live ammunition while another 150 or more shot with rubber bullets. Fourteen ambulances have been attacked. It is for all these reasons that the Red Crescent has declared a “state of emergency.” We call it the Endless State of Emergency.
The YWCA of Palestine mourns the loss of all these lives. Many of those killed were innocent of the alleged crimes they were said to have committed. They were children coming home from school like 13 year old Abed Al-Raham Obeidallah who was shot in the Aida Refugee Camp or Hadeel Al-Hashlamon, an 18 year old young woman trying to cross the Hebron checkpoint. She was shot 10 times and left to bleed out. Later her ambulance was met by her father, the doctor on duty on the eve of the Jewish Holiday, the Atonement or what Jews call Yom Kippur who had to pronounce the death of his own daughter. In one case one of the alleged “terrorists”, Fadi Alloun, 19 years old, was going home and was gunned down by the police in Jerusalem when he approached them for help against an angry mob of settlers calling, “Death for Arabs” in Jerusalem.
In addition to this recent violence, holy sites have been under attack including a fire up in the Galilee at the church known for Jesus’ miracle with loaves and fishes and Al Aqsa. Al Aqsa has been stormed many times over the past few weeks by settlers and soldiers and Muslims have been denied their right to worship.
We are more than deeply concerned about this escalation of violence which many feel is fueled by the newly elected extreme right wing government whose Prime Minister, Netanyahu, has just declared “a war to the death against Palestinian terrorism.”
Whether or not this is the beginning of an intifada, it is definitely a deepening of an entrenched military occupation which acts with impunity and settler colonial policies like the ongoing settlement buildings which are against international laws.
The title of the alert – “Endless State of Emergency” – is alarming. Rather than carrying a question mark at the end, thus signaling the possibility of an end to the emergency situation, the endless quality of the emergency is stated as a fact. With or without a question mark, however, a central questions remains. If the state of emergency is endless, can we continue to view the situation as an emergency or should we view what is occurring today as a fact that everyone can, indeed has to, live with?
The call to action should measure up to the alert’s “emergency.” Something new and unprecedented must occur and quickly. Yet the actions called for seem too familiar. We have heard them before:
Support Palestinian rights to nonviolent resistance
Demand that all holy sites be respected and protected
Use your economic leverage to support the BDS global movement
Hold Israel accountable for war crimes at the International Criminal Court
End arms trades and unconditional military and diplomatic aid
In previous “endless” emergencies, the same call has been issued. It has fallen on deaf ears. This call to action will likely suffer the same fate.
A paragraph within the statement demands our attention as the key to the future – “Whether or not this is the beginning of an intifada, it is definitely a deepening of an entrenched military occupation which acts with impunity and settler colonial policies like the ongoing settlement buildings which are against international laws.” The emphasis here is on Israel and its ongoing ability to exert force against Palestinians in service to its policies to colonize Jerusalem and the West Bank. Or has this colonization already occurred?
The issue before us is whether Palestinian resistance and its clarion call to solidarity should be viewed as a process of decolonizing Palestinian territory with the prospect of driving Israel back to the 1967 borders or whether that resistance and solidarity is taking place within a permanent Israeli colonization. If the latter is true, the endless state of emergency demands the same actions called for and something more.
The “more actions” needed is the challenge in the days and months ahead. Are the actors, including nation-states and international agencies, as well the NGOs, church groups and alike, willing to deal with an emergency that isn’t endless and, worse, has become the normal state of affairs?