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Unlearned lessons in Jerusalem

Jul 25,2017 - Last updated at Jul 25,2017

As feared, after the recent Jerusalem attack, the Israeli government immediately jumped at the opportunity to step up premeditated plans for the gradual usurpation of the Muslim noble sanctuary, Al Haram Al Sharif.

But that does not mean that the attack was part of the Israeli plan, as some have rushed to speculate. 

Equally inaccurate is the assumption that even if the attack on the Israeli forces at Bab Al Asbat by Palestinian citizens of Israel late last week was a genuine act of resistance, it still offered Israel the needed pretext to tighten its control on the Muslim shrine, and that nothing would have happened if the attack had not occurred.

Israel may not have needed a pretext, and yet the attack came in handy for political exploitation.

Israel’s incursions at Al Aqsa Mosque compound have been regular and relentless. The perpetrators are not Jewish religious extremists who commit their intrusive and provocative actions against the wishes of the Israeli government. Rather, they regularly move with official funding, blessing and protection.

It is a well-known fact that Al Haram Al Sharif is at the top of Israel’s list of non-negotiable spots in the city for takeover.

The so-called Temple movement — religious extremists backed by the Israeli government — calls openly for the final takeover of the holy site so that they can demolish the Muslim shrines and build a Jewish temple in their place.

The so-called Temple Institute, a government-funded extremist organisation, has even published detailed blueprints and a computer-generated video showing what the new temple, standing in the place where Al Aqsa sits now, would look like.

Israel’s claim to the site was raised at the Palestinian-Israeli Camp David summit in the summer of 2000 and was a major stumbling bloc that contributed to the failure of that last effort by president Bill Clinton.

However, some lessons can be learned from last week’s events.

Israel badly miscalculated, and it is not the first time.

There are a number of conditions which must have led Israel’s leadership to believe that it would get away with its latest move: the Arab world is sinking deeper in its own troubles and some Arab circles openly call for cooperation with Israel to confront an alleged Iranian threat; Washington is assumed to be on Israel’s side no matter what; the Palestinian Authority is weak and in disarray.

On top of this, Israel got away with so much previously without arousing Muslim or Arab anger that its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, must have thought that this time would be no different.

That is why the Israeli reaction was out of proportion.

Obviously the metal detectors at the entrances to Al Aqsa were not meant for security, but to demonstrate that Israel is in charge, and that its claim to sovereignty can be exercised on the ground whichever way Israel wishes.

But the stunt blew up in Israel’s face.

Anyone would have expected that years of frustration built up after half a century of brutal Israel occupation and colonisation in Jerusalem needed the smallest spark to be ignited.

Recall that the first Intifada started with a car accident in Gaza in 1987. It lasted for six years and was only stopped by the Oslo agreement.

The second Intifada was sparked by Ariel Sharon’s deliberately provocative incursion into Al Aqsa Mosque compound accompanied by hundreds of armed occupation forces.

That was the spark, but the fuel for the second Intifada was the years of broken Oslo promises, and a grim reality of deepening occupation and unchecked settlement expansion.

The warning signs — in the form of dozens of young men and women who over the last two years have signalled their growing anger and frustration with individual acts of resistance against occupation forces — have been ignored.

Not many tried to understand what prompted those young Palestinians who had everything to live for to offer their lives in protest against an endless and cruel occupation.

The three Palestinians from Umm Al Fahim who attacked the Israeli forces on July 14, and the young Palestinian who infiltrated a settlement and killed three settlers knew that they would be unlikely to survive.

They knew that their family houses would be demolished, yet that did not deter them.

They must have known, like scores of others before them, that their immediate families would be subjected to cruel and illegal collective punishments by the occupier, but that did not deter them either.

Over the years, Israel did not spare any method in dealing with such acts, and yet it has been unable to ensure that its occupation can continue without constant resistance and challenge.

In fact, Israel’s tactics have been counterproductive in the sense that more punishment led to more defiance and desperation, prompting harder resistance. It is a spiral that will not end as long as the occupation stays.

The easy way — and the one adopted by Israel’s staunchest supporters, including the US and EU governments — has been to see Palestinian actions as resulting from “incitement”, as if the occupation were not the biggest incitement.

Alternatively, there is the misleading narrative that the violence is prompted by religious fanaticism, of Muslim against Jew.

There has been quiet understanding — or at least no meaningful protest — in the face of Israel’s ever more brutal, illegal and draconian measures to try to force an occupied population to surrender.

But all of this is self-deception.

This time will not be any different. Now that the situation is getting quickly out of hand, expect international operators to rush in with some band-aid solution to deal with the immediate crisis.

They may come up with something to restore the status quo. But the status quo, let us remember, is one of brutal injustice and occupation.

 

As long as that remains the case, and they do not dare challenge Israel’s reckless and criminal actions, they are only buying time until the next explosion.

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