Since 1 October, at least 52 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israelis in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Nine Israelis have also been stabbed or shot dead. On Saturday Israel and Jordan agreed to steps, including 24-hour camera surveillance of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, to try to calm tensions. We asked MOHAMMAD ALSAAFIN if we’re seeing the beginning of a third intifada.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the current spike in violence between Palestinians and Israelis is that it has taken so long to happen.
Since the second intifada ended in the early 2000s, Israelis have enjoyed relative peace without feeling any pressure to end the occupation.
During that time, Palestinians have watched as that occupation-the settlements, checkpoints, land grabs and constant violence-has become ever more entrenched.
The peace process – which began in 1994 – has been effectively dead for several years. The Palestinian Authority’s dual strategy (appeasing Israel by cracking down on any form of resistance, while seeking diplomatic pressure on Israel from international bodies like the UN) has not made the prospect of self-determination any easier. Another generation was coming of age with every detail of their lives dominated by Israel. Gaza has been under siege for eight years. There is de facto apartheid in the West Bank. Even Palestinian citizens of Israel are openly treated like second class citizens. Under these conditions, violence seemed inevitable.
Israeli leaders have maintained that Palestinians are being incited to violence by the lies of their leadership. But even the most casual observer will notice that Palestinian factions and parties are playing no real role in what is taking place on the streets. The stabbings – hysterically dubbed a “Wave of Terror” by Netanyahu – are being carried out mostly by teenagers unaffiliated with any group. The stone throwing and protests, when they’ve been organised at all, are often arranged by university students. For the most part, it’s young people – angry, disenfranchised and unprotected from Israeli state violence – who are taking it on.
This sudden disturbance in the system has not inspired the Israeli leadership to rethink its strategy towards the Palestinians. Instead, it has predictably announced a raft of measures to “deter attackers”. These include increased home demolitions, further restrictions on freedom of movement and not returning the bodies of Palestinians killed by Israel’s security services to their families.
Rather than deterrence, that’s likely to be the catalyst for more conflict. Whether this turns into a third intifada or not, the root cause remains the domination of one people over another.
Follow Mohamed Alsaafin on Twitter.