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The endless state of emergency

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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:

Actions Needed

 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?

Marc H. Ellis
About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His new book, Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures, is forthcoming.

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3 Responses

  1. CigarGod
    October 8, 2015, 9:51 am

    Even the 1948 borders were a design failure.

  2. JLewisDickerson
    October 8, 2015, 2:35 pm

    RE: “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?” ~ Ellis

    MY COMMENT: Netanyahu needs to escalate the conflict in order to help pass sweeping “anti-terror” legislation (i.e., to serve as “cover”) currently pending in the Knesset that will virtually make Israel a police state (assuming it isn’t already one).
    If the bill referred to below passes the Knesset, there will be no turning back.*

    * SEE: “8 ways ‘terror’ as Israel knows it may be about to change” | By Marissa Newman | | September 18, 2015
    A new bill expands the definition of terror and who is engaged in it; doesn’t differentiate between Jews, Palestinians and attacks on soldiers, civilians; and toughens jail sentences

    [EXCERPT] When two Jewish arsonists torched a Jewish-Arab school in Jerusalem, Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel railed against the dangers of arson and the severity of the crime. Although no injuries were sustained in the Hand in Hand school attack in November 2014, “there is no way of knowing how a fire will spread, who or what it will hurt, and with what force. A person who sets a fire cannot keep it from spreading, and the dangers involved are great: one knows how it starts, but not how it ends,” he wrote in the March indictment.

    That observation – which preceded by six months the deadly arson attack in the West Bank village of Duma, in which three members of the Dawabsha family were killed, and the arson attack on the Church of Loaves and Fishes by three months – is cited in a footnote of Knesset legislation on new sweeping counterterrorism measures which passed its first reading two weeks ago and which for the first time anchors in law that attacks on religious sites and arson constitute acts of “terror.”

    In its current draft (which will likely be tweaked by the Knesset’s Constitution, Justice and Law committee before its next readings), the controversial laws do not distinguish between Palestinian and Jewish terror, nor between attacks on soldiers and those on civilians. It doubles jail time for terrorists, broadens the definition of “terror” considerably, and gives the Shin Bet leeway in holding suspects without charges.

    The 100 pages of legislation have been floating around the Knesset since 2011, drafted and redrafted, and approved several years ago for a first reading, but never brought to the second and third readings needed to pass it into law. The bill would entirely overhaul the legal system’s treatment of terror suspects, supplanting the British mandate-era laws adapted into Israeli law in 1948 with the establishment of the State of Israel.

    With both coalition and opposition support, the bill’s first reading was approved 45-14, amid fierce objections by some rights groups and members of Meretz and the Joint (Arab) List. The vote, held early in a special summer recess session after the Duma attack, came after a year that saw an unremitting stretch of stabbings, car-ramming attacks, shootings, firebombings, stone-throwing, and vandalism, primarily in Jerusalem and the West Bank, which left 18 people dead and dozens injured.

    (As of Thursday, it was not immediately clear whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to advance legislation permitting the use of live fire against rioters and harsher penalties against stone-throwers was set to be incorporated into the sweeping anti-terror bill or presented to the Knesset as a separate proposal. The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a request for comment). . .


  3. a blah chick
    a blah chick
    October 8, 2015, 2:46 pm

    This is the attitude we’re up against:

    Arsen Ostrovsky ‏@Ostrov_A 5h5 hours ago
    Let there be no mistakes, ifs, buts or maybes. We are being targeted for one reason and one reason only: we are Jews. #IsraelUnderAttack

    In a later tweet he had a picture of the latest weapon in the terrorist arsenal: a screwdriver!

    It’s almost like they enjoy victimhood.

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