Middle East


Viewpoints: Violence Between Israel and Palestine

Demonstration for Palestinian rights in the United Kingdom. (Photo: Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians are again boiling, and violence has spiked. Accounts vary slightly, but 53 Palestinians (including 11 children) and nine Israelis have been killed this month. Israel recently limited Muslim access to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem—a move that has stoked Palestinian outrage and that has been condemned by UNESCO, the U.N. cultural heritage body. In response, Palestinians have carried out "lone wolf" attacks against Israelis and Jewish sites, attacking people with kitchen knives in some instances, and Israeli security forces have responded with a heavy hand, using live ammunition against unarmed demonstrators, detaining and arresting hundreds, and destroying the houses of Palestinians involved in violence.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been in talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pursuing steps that could reduce the violence, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has sought U.N. intervention. Predictably, hatred sizzles on both sides, and talk of a third intifada, or Palestinian uprising, peppers coverage in the press. Underneath the immediate conflict, Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is still regarded by a vast majority of the international community as a violation of international law, and ongoing Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank exacerbates the situation. At this point, a two-state solution feels like a faded fantasy from the 1990s. Worldpress.org presents a sampling of recent coverage on this issue from around the globe.

France – France 24, Oct 22: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council on Wednesday that he was "not optimistic" following his talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to urge them to defuse tensions, diplomats said. Ban addressed a closed-door emergency session of the council by video conference from Amman, the latest stop on his mission to put an end to the spiraling violence. The U.N. chief traveled to the region on Tuesday to urge the Israelis and Palestinians to pull back from a "dangerous escalation" that could lead to a full-scale Palestinian uprising. After meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Ban delivered a sobering assessment of the prospects, according to diplomats at the meeting. British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said council members were "struck by the pessimistic tone" Ban took during the closed video briefing.

Germany – Deutsche Welle, Oct. 21: Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, was speaking at the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, and not only did he captivate his audience—he utterly shocked them. He said that it was not Adolf Hitler who wanted to exterminate the Jews, but the Palestinian Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini. Hitler, Netanyahu claimed, had only sought to expel the Jews. It was the Mufti that, in 1941, convinced him to systematically exterminate them. Although Netanyahu is not known for his diplomatic tact, this particular statement has caused grave irritation. … Former Israeli ambassador to Germany Avi Primor told DW that Netanyahu is not even remotely interested in negotiating with the Palestinians anyhow. Real, honest dialogue is the only way out of the impasse, yet Netanyahu makes that impossible, Primor said.

Israel – The Times of Israel, Oct. 22: The Israel Defense Forces carried out a sweeping arrest operation Wednesday night in the West Bank, arresting 58 Palestinians suspected of involvement in recent violence, the army said Thursday. Of those detained, 16 were reportedly activists in the Gaza-based Hamas terror group. Israeli officials said 26 were suspected of "popular terrorism," a military term for uncoordinated rock-throwing attacks against Israeli vehicles and similar attacks. The single-night tally is unprecedented in recent years, and follows a sweep on Tuesday night in which 47 Palestinians were arrested. … "We are in the final weeks of a policy of 'mowing the lawn,'" a military official told the NRG news site, using a military euphemism for periodic offensives meant to lower the level of threat, but which are not intensive enough to neutralize it. … Meanwhile Thursday, Hamas' leadership in the Gaza Strip called for another "Day of Rage" in the West Bank on Friday—the third time such a day was called since late September.

Jordan – Al-Bawaba, Oct. 19: At least nine Palestinians were left homeless on Monday after settlers escorted by Israeli security personnel forcibly evicted them from their homes in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The Silwan-based Wadi Hilweh Information Center said a large group of Israeli border police and officers escorted staff from the far-right Israeli Ateret Cohanim organization to the Batn al-Hawa area of the neighborhood. Israeli forces then surrounded two Palestinian houses belonging to the Abu Nab family before ransacking the property and evicting the families. … The Wadi Hilweh group said the eviction of the Abu Nab family is part of a larger plan to take over 5,200 square meters of land in the Batn al-Hawa area, which Ateret Cohanim claims belong to the Jewish Yemenite families.

Palestine – Palestine News Network, Oct. 21: Palestinians continue to demand the cancellation of the Oslo Accords signed in 1993 between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), as the representative of the Palestinian people, and the government of Israel. Oslo was intended to end the state of hostility between the PLO and Israel and to mark a new era of peacemaking, but has since turned into an endless process that has delivered neither an end to hostilities nor a coherent framework for peace. Calls for the dismantling of the Oslo Accords come not only from Palestinian civil society activists and intellectuals but from Palestinian Authority (PA) figures as well, including President Mahmoud Abbas himself. Are such calls serious, or are they aimed at capturing the world's attention, particularly that of the United States? Have Palestinians fully considered the implications of canceling the Oslo Accords, which created the PA in the first place?

Qatar – Al Jazeera, Oct. 22: Between October 6 and 12, at least 201 Palestinian children were injured by Israeli soldiers or settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Such periodic bouts of violence "leave deep psychological scars" on Palestinian children, Federica D'Alessandra, a policy fellow at Harvard University's Carr Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera. "Research by many scholars has shown that depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and general psychological difficulties are common among [Palestinian] children," she said. Triggered last month by Israeli incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, protests against Israel's ongoing occupation have given way to a spike in violence in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces have used tear gas, stun grenades, rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition against demonstrators, including children.

Turkey – Daily Sabah, Oct. 22: Israeli authorities have arrested 959 Palestinians since the beginning of the month, a Palestinian NGO said. … According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since the start of October now stands at 53, including 11 children and a woman. Over the same period, at least 1,900 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli gunfire, while thousands of others have suffered temporary asphyxia as a result of the excessive use of teargas by the Israeli security forces, the ministry said. … The Israeli authorities on Thursday imposed fresh restrictions on Palestinians seeking to enter East Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, while facilitating entry into the site by Jewish settlers.

United Kingdom – The Guardian, Oct. 5: A weekend of febrile violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has led to growing fears of a third Palestinian intifada. One of the latest victims was a 13-year-old boy killed by Israeli forces during clashes outside a refugee camp in Bethlehem. … Some asked whether the latest events fitted the pattern of the two previous intifadas, which began in 1987 and 2000, and if not, how the current escalation could be curbed before becoming one. … What can be said—as the pollster and political scientist Khalil Shikaki argued following the release last month of the most recent survey by his organization, the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research—is that there appear to be the same levels of dissatisfaction within Palestinian society that were in evidence at the outbreak of the second intifada. The poll found 42 percent of respondents believe that only an armed struggle would lead to Palestinian statehood, and two-thirds want Mahmoud Abbas to step down as president. It also indicated that the majority of Palestinians no longer believe that a two-state solution is realistic, with 57 percent saying they support a return to an armed intifada in the absence of peace negotiations, up from 49 percent three months ago.

United States – The Nation, Oct. 21: Palestinians have taken to the streets to demonstrate against nearly 50 years of military rule and the denial of their freedom at the hands of Israel. These protests come after the death of the peace process, the election of a right-wing Israeli government that has stated it has no intention of granting Palestinians their rights, and growing discontent with the unelected Palestinian Authority (PA). …? And while the mainstream Western media focus heavily on the loss of Israeli lives, Palestinian deaths are often treated as mere numbers and statistics. More importantly, lost in the media coverage of the violence from "both sides" is the fact that only one side is occupying the other. In this climate, a new framework is needed that places civilians and their rights at the fore. With no end to Israel's military rule in sight, it is time for an international protection mechanism to be created.