Democracy Now had an excellent segment yesterday on the stabbings, and shootings, in Israel and Palestine. Amy Goodman interviewed Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group and Jamil Dakwar, the human rights lawyer.
Thrall had an op-ed in the Times yesterday about why violence is attractive to Palestinians: because Israel is cordoning off 91 percent of the West Bank — as Palestinian areas– while absorbing the rest of that land and East Jerusalem. Palestinian suspicions about their loss of access to the Al Aqsa mosque are completely understandable given these patterns. Compare his view to Jeffrey Goldberg’s apologia for the Israeli government and recitation of Jewish religious claims to the Temple Mount.
Thrall spoke about the tension in his East Jerusalem neighborhood as more checkpoints are thrown up, and all Palestinians are subject to suspicion and possible stop-and-frisk. Then he related it to the politics of Palestine, the end of the two-state solution:
What we’re seeing right now among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and particularly in Jerusalem, is a real sense that the idea of a Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem is escaping them. Jerusalemites have felt for many years that they are losing Jerusalem. They feel that they’re losing control over Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well…
Palestinians, in general, feel that they are approaching the end of an era, and that era is the era that was inaugurated with President Mahmoud Abbas’s election in January 2005. This came just after Yasser Arafat had died and at the end of a very bloody and painful intifada, one that was bloody and painful for both sides. And what Abbas represented for Palestinians was a chance to try a totally different strategy, one that was not based on armed conflict, one that would basically give Israel exactly what it most wanted, which is security, and to cooperate with Israel, fully in security, to hunt down militants in the West Bank and to prevent attacks against Israelis, against settlers….
[T]hat strategy, that was inaugurated with Abbas’s election in January 2005, has been given 11 years now to play itself out, and it hasn’t achieved anything. And it hasn’t really eased life or restrictions on Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and Jerusalem. And so, what Palestinians are doing now is, in a very nonstrategic and emotional way, rebelling against that, without a clear vision of where they’re headed.
Dakwar also spoke of the Israeli pressure on East Jerusalem, fragmenting Palestinian leadership in the city and changing the status quo of the holy sites. Then he spoke of the knife attacks in the context of Palestinian despair, and the dangerous escalation that the lynching of an Eritrean man represents:
There is no hope for any real, normal life. This is the new normal for the Palestinians, which is military occupation continues unabated, the Israeli government continues to send settlers to the West Bank…. These kinds of things will make Palestinians despair or make the Palestinians, some of them, to resort to violence and do what they are doing. And I think that is what is really concerning…
You mentioned the Arab Palestinian citizen who stabbed the soldier. The overwhelming majority of Palestinian citizens are peaceful. They’ve been peaceful in their activities for their entire career, and yet the Israeli government is cracking down on their leadership, is cracking down—there are home demolitions inside Israel, displacement of Arab Bedouin communities. That is making people see that despite the fact that you are making an effort to be a citizen, a law-abiding citizen, the Israeli government is saying, “No, you are not welcomed here. You are an enemy. You are not going to be enjoying the same basic rights as others in the country.”..
[W]hat’s happening is that now anyone appears to be an Arab Palestinian. And that starts with the racial profiling, stop-and-frisk, that is a daily experience of Palestinians. But also Israeli Jews who are Arab Jews, who come—[Sephardic] Jews, who appear to some Israelis or to the Israeli security forces as suspicious Arab Palestinians, some of them are even being attacked. I think this is going out of control, because the Israeli government and the politicians are spreading those statements, making those statements that are very dangerous statements, encouraging citizens to take arms and shoot people, shoot to kill…
[P]eople are mistrusting anyone who is a Palestinian, who is an Arab, who appears to be Palestinian, and that’s why the Eritrean refugee got in that situation. And the lynching—there’s situations where a soldier is standing by, security forces standing by and not protecting those civilians. That, in and of itself, is a huge, dangerous escalation that I think even worse than the act of lonely or individual taking some knives and stabbing people, because that frustrates entire—puts entire communities at risk, when law enforcement carries those attacks and crackdowns and opens fire with no respect to human life.
He said that the United States government knows the occupation is the root cause but it is incapable of saying so publicly:
Every time Secretary Kerry tries to say something right, whether it’s the recent comment that he made, where he said, “Well, we’ve seen building of settlements, an expansion, etc. That is now—and now we’re seeing violence.” So he’s making the right connection, a very logic, commonsense connection, and yet he had to retract those statements, even though he’s really saying what everybody knows, what everybody knows in the Obama administration, what everybody knows here in the United States, that settlements are illegal, and yet they are now getting full support from this Israeli government, and is now building on turning this conflict into a religious war. And I think that is really the critical point where I think we need to be very, very concerned about. People who know the situation know that if you are going to speak to the youth about religious wars and agitate them, they will take things like this, they will take knives and stab people. And without leadership, without any hope, without a future, this will become the norm. And unfortunately, that would be a very dangerous route to go to.
Amy Goodman then said that President Obama had gone out on the limb on a number of issues, including Cuba and Iran. Would he take any risks on Israel and Palestine? Dakwar responded:
Sadly, I think it will probably be hard to see him pushing that in the last year in his administration, given the Iran deal, given everything, the political capital, has spent on all these other foreign policy issues. I think it would be very sad for this administration that they didn’t really get it right on the priority and the action, because U.S. ultimately has the power over financial support to Israel, diplomatic, political support. They know what needs to be done. And sadly, every time, you know, Palestinians resort to nonviolent practice—and that’s the overwhelming majority of Palestinians have been doing that, as was mentioned, whether in Nabi Saleh, in all the different places in the West Bank, in trying to oppose the wall, trying to oppose other crackdowns, and all of a sudden now, individual attacks and violent attacks, that are very, very unfortunate, now turn to be the one to be representing all the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice. And that’s, I think, the sad reality where we live.
I think that’s why I think there’s a need for the Palestinian unity, for Palestinian leadership to realize the need to be a lesson learned from the 22-year failed experience of Oslo, what it meant for the Palestinians, and to have more legitimacy within the Palestinians to give them the confidence that the Palestinian leadership is indeed speaking on behalf of Palestinians, so that they can also garner the support internationally, even if the United States will not be on their side in the near future.
Democracy Now October 19, 2015: