A Palestinian Failure

October 27, 2014 11:52 am

Shortly after the war in Gaza, trouble started elsewhere – this time in Jerusalem inside the Occupied Palestinian Territory of the West Bank. Although it is hard to pinpoint the exact start of the problems, Palestinians have been protesting the fact that Israeli Jewish settlers have been allowed access to the Temple Mount or Haram-Al-Sharif, where the Al-Aqsa mosque is located. Following these protests were several incursions by the Israeli army inside the mosque itself, where they used stun grenades and tear gas to subdue the protesters.

Ever since, Jerusalem has been at almost a boiling point between the Palestinian and Jewish Israeli residents. Israeli media described the event as riots. But if you are fortunate enough to speak Arabic, or at least can use a translator, it is also worth checking out the facebook page of the Jerusalem News Network (Shabaka-Quds-Al Ikhbariya in Arabic). They usually provide the video footage taken on the Palestinian side of things.

But this trouble that has been at an almost boiling point could say to have exploded, when a young Palestinian man – Abd Al Rahman Al Shaloudi, used his car to kill and injure several Israelis – including causing the death of a three-month-old baby.

What followed was of course what is expected. Condemnation – and if what I say matters, then yes that act should be condemned. But what may come as a shock to some was that quite a lot of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza celebrated the actions of Al Shaloudi:

Courtesy of Jerusalem News Network

Courtesy of Jerusalem News Network

The above is one of many posters that will no doubt be hung up around Palestine – and it reads “the martyr and hero, Abd Al Rahman Al Shaloudi”. Before I carry on I will say this. I may have not lived through war, or the second Intifada in Palestine. I have not lived under a military occupation for a significant amount of time. I have not lived among the death and destruction in Gaza that was caused by Israel – nor was I personally denied my farmland because of settlements or the wall in the West Bank. I did not have my citizenship revoked, nor did my home in East Jerusalem get taken from me or get demolished. So this might be easier for me to say and realize:

But the fact that this man was celebrated for his actions marks a great failure and step back in Palestinian society, and in my opinion it is a sign of us, the Palestinian people, playing into Israel’s hands. When the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, up until the late 1980s, we had a secular national liberation movement. And although the tactics of the PLO were morally questionable, there were people on both sides; Israel and Palestine, that looked at the conflict in a unique angle. The true left wingers of politics from these two peoples managed to unite under a class struggle, and a struggle for justice. One excellent glimpse into that different world decades ago is the documentary about Matzpen, a socialist Israeli party that found common cause with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (look at 27 minutes and 20 seconds). The Israelis from Matzpen were especially brave, since they suffered the label of being traitors to Israel.

I had a recent conversation with a Palestinian friend, which I believe reflects general Palestinian feeling. Since the Oslo accords in the early 1990s, and the various negotiations that broke down in the face of violence, settlement expansion, wall building and judaization of Jerusalem, Palestinians have seen what remains of the Occupied Territories slowly disappear. The friend told me that they felt like they were being cornered, and since Israel holds the economic, military and legal power – it is the one that sets the parameters of the war. And it has made the subject of the war about existence – the Palestinians have to fight for their existence as a nation, or face extinction – and they have to fight for the destruction of Israel (as a national entity ). The above incident, with the death of the baby, seems to be a microcosm of what could happen and the enactment of the meaning of the conflict today.

Let us  not forget Israel’s support of Hamas in its fledgling years in 1987, that I wrote about*. The religious element of all of this – of the Islamist party of Hamas, of the religious right wing Israeli settlers, of the Islamic status of the Temple Mount – all of this has been used to sabotage further any possibility of a group like Matzpen in Israel, and a group like the DFLP in Palestine to make progress ever again. It is in the interests of Israel to corner the Palestinians and make them feel like they are fighting for their existence, because if they turn it into such a war then history and the world will be on their side; considering the holocaust.

israel palestine

Israel’s success in divide and rule – not just within Palestinians, but between Palestinians and Israelis as well as the dehumanization on both sides is shown by the microcosm of Jerusalem. It is backing Palestinians into a corner, but unlike my friend above, despite all of it’s advantages, I don’t believe that Israel has the power to set the parameters of the conflict. Palestinian National Identity, as young as it is, had a proud political heritage of secular, socialist equality. And elements within this and within Israel had a shared vision, and they came close to overcoming the dehumanization efforts of the ruling elite; Israeli Zionism. But what happened recently symbolizes a Palestinian failure, a step back.

With all of my discussion of Palestinian suffering, its only proper that I express how upset I am at the death of the 3-month-old baby. No one should suffer such a loss – and I can only hope that it doesn’t happen again.

 

*Extracts from Beyond Intifada – a book on Palestinian experiences of resistance:

Tawfik Abu Khousa – ““In the early 1980s, the Israeli authorities were seeking an alternative to the widespread support of for the PLO in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip […] To counter the PLO the Israelis decided to support certain groups of Islamic Fundamentalists in the Gaza Strip, including the Islamic Brothers [Muslim Brotherhood probably]. Hence, the Israeli authorities were pleased when the Islamic organizations at the Islamic University in Gaza became strong enough to challenge the Shabiba, which they knew was affiliated with the PLO. In addition, they were quite happy that violent disputes flared up between our different organizations in the Gaza Strip.”

and

In March 1985, a verbal disagreement between activists of the Shabiba and Islamic Fundamentalists at the Islamic university had turned violent […] there were quite a few youths wounded, some of them had to be hospitalised. The Israelis were pleased with this development and did not interfere in this violent conflict.” 

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