The situation that has arisen since three young Israeli Jews were abducted and later tragically found dead is symbiotic of the inequality that permeates the greater Palestine and Israel conflict. Consequently the current situation has been treated as an exchange between adversaries of equal standing, like the greater Palestine and Israel conflict, ignoring the chasm that separates the two. The inequality in the current situation can be seen in the demands placed upon the respective parties, their responses, the injuries and casualties, level of military involvement and global reaction. These factors clearly show that it’s all far from equal.
Upon the reported abduction of three young Israeli Jewish boys the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) were deployed to begin a search. Yet the search reached far beyond the area in which the boys were reported to have been abducted. Bethlehem, Al-Quds University (East Jerusalem), Ramallah, Nablus, Arab American University (Jenin), Birzeit University and Gaza are but few of the places that the IDF search reached. In total more than 220 raids were conducted and more than 400 Palestinians arrested in the ensuring search conducted by the IDF. Five Palestinian lives were also taken in the process.
Few Palestinian lives were left untouched by the situation. With fear and uncertainty as to where the IDF might next appear doubt lingered as to what tomorrow might bring. It is during these tough times that people often look to their political leaders for reassurance and safety. However for the Palestinian people no such saviour has been forth coming. From the outset the Palestinian Authority (PA) and President Abbas have been hamstrung as how to respond.
Shortly after news broke as to the abduction of the three teens the Israeli Prime Minister made public that he had spoken to Abbas. He was reported to have said:
“I expect you to assist in returning the abducted youths and in apprehending the kidnappers.”
“The Hamas kidnappers came from territory under Palestinian Authority control and returned to territory under Palestinian Authority control.”
Whilst expecting Abbas to support the search of the three young boys was not unreasonable, the reality was that he was left with a zero sum game. The implication was not that the PA would simply be assisting in the search, but rather that they would be assisting in the enforcement of collective punishment against the Palestinian people. Nevertheless Abbas was left with little option but to support Israel’s actions. To act otherwise would have been understood as a signal that the PA was siding with terrorists or condoned the harming of innocents. Such signals would have had repercussions as to the PA’s relations with its supporters and hence for the greater peace negotiations.
In wholeheartedly supporting Israeli efforts to search for the missing teens and inflict collective punishment upon the Palestinian people, the PA has had to endure another crisis of legitimacy. Unlike the Israeli Government, the legitimacy of the PA is constantly under question. Much of this arises from the high level of control that Israel continues to assert upon the lives of Palestinians (including those living in towns under the nominal control of the PA). The control can greatly be felt at border crossings and general movement between towns, with interrupted access to water, electricity and telecommunications and constant threats of house demolition. The latest legitimacy crisis came to the fore in Ramallah in late June. Following the early morning raid on the town by the IDF, locals hurled rocks at the PA Police local station. Locals acted so as to demonstrate their disapproval of the PA Police’s collaboration with the IDF during the raid. This is not a situation the PA is ever likely to place Israel.
Tragically the three young Israeli teens were found dead. The outcry of emotion on the news was global. The US President, UN Secretary General and the Pope were all reported to have come out and condemned the killings. To that one can add the likes of the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (via twitter). All are right, the death of innocent civilians should be condemned in the strongest terms and those responsible should be placed on trial. However what is so striking about this response is that a similar response has not in the past been forthcoming despite the fact that the equivalent of one Palestinian child has been killed every three days for the past 13 years. No doubt all lives are equal but the response has been far from equal. The inequality in response can partly be explained by the ability of the Israeli Government to successfully draw global media attention to the situation. The abduction of three young Israeli Jewish boys is not something that occurs in Israel every day. However on the other hand, the death of a young Palestinian, well that is something that happens every three days. After a while the newsworthiness of the story simply dissipates.
The IDF has come out recently and named the two men thought to be responsible for the abduction- Marwan Kawasme and Omar Abu Aysha. Both men are said to have links with Hamas. Their last known place of residence was in the West Bank. Yet despite these announcements the Gaza Strip continues to be placed under heavy fire by the IDF. Taking a quid pro quo stance both Hamas and the IDF continue to justify their actions by citing the preceding attack by the other.
Amidst it all Khaled Mashaal, Hamas’ leader has continued to distance himself and Hamas from the abduction of the teens. He has denied Hamas’ involvement in the abduction. However his appeals have been left unheeded. He has resorted to sending his messages via the Prime Minister of Turkey in the hope of dissuading the launch of a massive strike upon the Gaza Strip. One does not expect these messages to be received and a response to be forthcoming. From the outset the Israeli Prime Minister has sought to ostracize Hamas and force the hand of Abbas in ending the unity government agreement reach days before the abduction took place.
As is usually the case the issue at the centre of all this is the maintenance of the status quo or rather the inequality that permeates the relations between Palestine and Israel. The PA and Palestinians will mostly likely be forced to compromise as at the end of the day they are the weaker party. This will see the death of the unity government and a weakening in negotiating power for Palestine when the negotiations commence once again. Then again the situation could play out otherwise. However for that to happen global players (political leaders and media) need to realise that the current situation, both at the macro and micro level, is far from equal.