Back to Jerusalem
Back in Jerusalem after an absence of one year and three months. The tension is present in the air, particularly in the Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, with Israeli police cars present at almost every corner. Israeli PM Netanyahu has declared this morning that Palestinian President Abbas is “teaching terror” and inciting violence. This coming from the head of a right-wing, settler-backed Israeli government that has launched one of the deadliest and most ruthless military assaults on the Palestinian people in recent times this past summer, with over 2,200 Palestinians killed, more than 10,000 injured, and almost 500,000 displaced.
In Jerusalem, the Israeli government is actively working to alter the status quo of holy sites, particularly Al-Aqsa mosque, despite assurances to the contrary. Senior ministers and officials of the Israeli government have forced their way into Al-Aqsa mosque on more than one occasion “to pray” under the cover of heavily armed security personnel who have desecrated the holiness of the mosque and attacked worshipers with brutal force on numerous occasions. The entry of senior Israeli politicians into Al-Aqsa mosque has been made possible by the passing of a Knesset bill, advanced by Likud’s Miri Regev and Labor’s Hilik Bar, aimed at allowing Jews to pray at the mosque’s compound, a move that is viewed as a provocation that has inflamed recent tensions in Jerusalem.
The Israeli Internal Security Minister, Yitzhak Aharonovich, under direct orders from Netanyahu, has authorised the use of excessive police force against protestors who pose even limited or no threat to the lives of Israeli policemen, as was evident in the killing of Khair Hamdan in the Arab village of Kfar Kana last week. The government and the Israeli judicial system continue to support the aggressive purchase of Arab property in East Jerusalem as well as the confiscation of lands to advance settlement expansion around the city. All this with the objective of increasing the Jewish population and slowly pushing out Arab residents from strategic neighbourhoods such as Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah. The active neglect of Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, the continued lack of equal public services in terms of quality and availability, as well as aggressive policing and the lack of adequate housing for Arab residents is indicative of de facto Israeli hegemony over the city. This hegemony is further expounded by the pursuit of segregation policies and control of the Arab population in East Jerusalem.
Consequently, when Israeli PM Netanyahu accuses Palestinian President Abbas of teaching terror, a look in the mirror at his government’s policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians, its settler-oriented makeup, and its own incitement and provocation is the preferred course of action. In politics, it is always easier to find scapegoats for the failure of a government’s policies, and Abbas is Netanyahu’s scapegoat. Yet the international community is neither blind to nor ignorant of what Netanyahu is trying to do: to thrive on tension and violence, primarily a result of his government’s own policies, in order to further alienate the Palestinians and kill off any remaining chance for a meaningful, time-confined, and results-oriented diplomatic process to take shape. Peace and pro-settlement, pro-occupation policies are mutually exclusive.
As a result of Netanyahu’s conniving and distrustful politics, more and more countries are pondering unilateral recognition of the State of Palestine, as was the case with Sweden and the parliamentary approvals in Britain and Ireland with France expected to follow suit. Additionally, the BDS campaign has never been stronger, with conscientious individuals of the world choosing to actively apply their own pressure on an Israeli government that has chosen pro-settlement policies over the pursuit of meaningful diplomatic initiatives to resolve the longstanding conflict. Netanyahu’s policies are also paving the way for a successful Palestinian campaign at the UN and eventual accession to international bodies such as the International Criminal Court (ICC). More and more countries are pondering full political support and a US veto at the UN Security Council is no longer an automatic guarantee. The Netanyahu government can ratchet up the anti-Palestinian rhetoric as much as it wants. Its actions speak louder than its words.