Last week the Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas reached a reconciliation agreement after 11 years of bitter rivalry and violence. In contrast to failed attempts of the past, the agreement was possible due to an alignment of political interests, which included Egyptian, Israeli and American efforts aimed at weakening Iranian influence, in tandem with bolstering their image and credibility.
Though the agreement is far from perfect for all Palestinians, a reduction of tensions within Palestinian society has positive aspects that should be celebrated.
Israel, on the other hand, has been consistent in its intransigence, and continued incitement against Palestinians and any of their advocates, such as those involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement both in Palestine/Israel and abroad.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s response to Palestinian reconciliation was characteristically reactionary. As part of a long message on Facebook, Netanyahu wrote:
“Israel opposes any reconciliation in which the terrorist organization Hamas does not disarm and end its war to destroy Israel.
“There is nothing Israel wants more than peace with all our neighbors.”
In spite of Netanyahu’s statement here, Israel has consistently sabotaged any efforts at peace and security with its neighbors by maintaining the occupation and oppression of Palestinians in the West Bank and the brutal siege on the Gaza Strip, among other reasons.
Israel will undoubtedly use the Palestinian reconciliation agreement as an excuse for its continued intransigence and as an after-the-fact justification for its unprecedented levels of settlement expansion.
Netanyahu’s call for Hamas’s disarmament was all the more cynical and hypocritical in light of the statements made by his Minister of Public Security – Gilad “anti-BDS Czar” Erdan.
At the inauguration of a new firearms licensing bureau in Ramla, Erdan encouraged Israelis to acquire more guns as a means of self-defense against future “incitement and attacks” that will be more likely, according to Erdan, as a result of Palestinian reconciliation. At the ceremony he said:
“We will no doubt find ourselves in even more complex situation (sic) and waves of severe incitement, which will lead to more terrorists deciding to carry out attacks.”
Erdan’s reactionary appeal for armament continues his recent call to expand the use of guns among settlers, a sector of the population that is already armed to the teeth. Alarmingly, this prevalence of guns within settler communities is often complimented by firearms training sessions for children as young as 10.
Furthermore, Erdan’s efforts come at the wake of sweeping Israeli support for Elor Azaria, the IDF soldier who summarily executed an incapacitated Palestinian man and whose ludicrously lenient 18-months sentence was recently shortened by 4 months.
In line with his call for arms, Erdan recently endorsed another reactionary effort, a “university prison” collaboration between the Israeli government and Bar Ilan University. Erdan hopes that the project “will inspire other countries”.
With this endeavor he signals Israel’s intent on capitalizing on the growing needs of a global prison-industrial complex in addition to its already established and controversial weapons export and security industries.
A Palestinian example of efforts to disarm and heal
While Netanyahu and Erdan continue to incite against Palestinians and drive Israeli society in a violent and xenophobic direction, it is instructive to examine a new initiative by the NGO the Abraham Fund, which aims to disarm and heal Palestinian communities in Israel plagued by gun violence and the Israeli response to it. Notably, the organization promotes cooperation with Israeli police forces (for which Erdan is responsible). Thabet Abu Rass, Abraham Fund co-director described it thus:
“The idea is to raise awareness that we have a problem of illegal weapons, that these weapons feed violence, and to put the issue on the table so that it is a serious issue for serious discussion in the Arab community”
In addition to directly confronting violence with these sorts of initiatives, the Abraham Fund aims to encourage reconciliation and equality between Palestinians and Israelis.
So far, the disarmament program has been met with little enthusiasm from the Palestinian population in Israel, which has an understandably deep distrust of the Israeli police forces.
But instead of extending the police amnesty program as a means of supporting the Abraham Project’s objectives, Erdan was quick to declare the police’s participation a failure.
As these recent events demonstrate, whereas Palestinians are actively making efforts toward reconciliation, prevention, peace and security both in the Occupied Territories via reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and within Israel by calls to disarm and heal, Israel’s vision for the future is clearly one of guns, prisons, violence, security and continued xenophobia and intransigence.