The latest Palestinian uprising was sparked by the Duma murders of last summer, when Palestinians saw that Jewish settlers faced no accountability for murdering Palestinians in the occupied territories. And no amount of Israeli violence can turn off this uprising; the young are demanding their freedom, according to two prominent Palestinians speaking on a Wilson Center conference call last week.
Khalil Shikaki, the Palestinian pollster, said there was popular support for the violence because of Palestinians’ feeling that no one is defending them. He cited two factors: Palestinians have the “overwhelming” perception that Israel intends to undertake “dramatic and drastic change” to the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif, or the site of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. And the other factor is settler violence. Shikaki said:
The event in Duma where Palestinian family was attacked and burned, and the fact that no one has yet been arrested, even though the defense minister at one point indicated that Israel might know who the attackers are– I think is making Palestinians believe that settler violence is state violence, that there is no difference between the IDF and the settlers and that Palestinians need to take matters into their own hands if they want to defend themselves.
“Driven by this desire to defend oneself,” Shikaki continued, “we have seen a dramatic increase in support for violence and armed intifada.” For the first time during a relatively peaceful period, polls show that a majority of Palestinians support “a return to an armed intifada among the youth.” The figure is most marked among Palestinian men, aged 18 to 22: the level of support for armed resistance has recently jumped from 49 to 71 percent.
His views were echoed by Hanan Ashrawi, the legislator and longtime activist. Speaking on the same conference call, she termed the settler violence the “reign of terror”: settlers are terrorizing wide rural areas and villages.
People are literally getting away with murder, like the Dawabshe family [in Duma], like Mohammed Abu Khdeir [in East Jerusalem in July 2014].
Ashrawi also cited Israel’s destruction of the two state solution–and the hypocrisy of maintaining that a Palestinian state is still possible– as a cause of desperation among young people. “The two state solution is no longer possible though people repeat the mantra of the two state solution,” she said. Palestine’s “geriatric” and unelected leaders also bear responsibility for the spontaneous violence among the desperate young.
“[The rebellion] can’t be stopped,” she said. “Because it has not been engineered or in a sense organized from above. It has its own dynamic. It can’t be stopped by escalation, by more violence from Israel, by shoot to kill orders, by siege or more stringent measures from Israel, that will lead to greater violence.”
She said that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s crackdown on East Jerusalem has demonstrated that East Jerusalem is just as occupied as the West Bank, with the same army and checkpoints; and that only a political solution forced from outside Israel and Palestine will bring change.
People have to deal with the grievances of the young, both internally and with their aspirations for freedom and dignity. We can’t go back to business as usual. Business as usual is lethal. It Has created the situation that is so dangerous. Things will not quiet down. There is no one state solution available, there is no automatic solution available. We need intervention.
Ashrawi and Yossi Alpher, an analyst associated with Peace Now, agreed that the current situation has become a single-state apartheid reality with no political solution in sight.
Alpher described the political situation as an “ugly, violent… tribal and religious reality”. And while Israeli president Reuven Rivlin would be for granting citizenship to all Palestinians, Alpher said, Likud leaders have no problem with “something that in one form or another looks like some sort of variation on apartheid.” He urged the world to start facing up to this “very sad reality.”
Former congresswoman Jane Harman, a strong Israel supporter who heads the Wilson Center, then interjected that the “whole Middle East has changed.” She used to think that Israel and Palestine were an island and things would work out while there was a “mess” around them.
“Well guess what, they’re in the mess too,” she said. “Tribal issues and religious issues and all the crosscurrents of the Middle East are part of this problem too. That depresses the heck out of me.
Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times was also on the call. She said the problem was that two narratives, Palestinian and Israeli, are “dueling” and irreconcilable. And she said she could imagine 10,000 Palestinians undertaking nonviolent resistance at the entrance of Armon HaNetziv, a settlement in East Jerusalem, but she hasn’t seen “mass demonstrations by Palestinians,” with two exceptions (Bab El Shams in 2013 and a West Bank demonstration against the Gaza war in 2014). “I’ve seen little nonviolent popular resistance in my time here,” Rudoren said. The statement was further evidence of how culturally bound Rudoren is inside the Israeli Jewish experience: she gives no credit to the long tradition of nonviolent demonstrations against land confiscation in Bil’in and Nabi Saleh among other West Bank communities. Let alone the BDS call, or boycott, divestment, and sanctions, which is a form of nonviolent resistance.