Apr 07 2013

West Bank Seeing New Wave Of Anti-Israel Violence

Published by at 10:12 am under Articles,Palestinian politics



By Daoud Kuttab

The death of Maysara Abu Hamdieh is not the first time a Palestinian prisoner has passed away while behind bars. Less than two months earlier, 30-year-old Arafat Jaradat died while being held in the Megiddo prison. However, the circumstances of the death of Abu Hamdieh, 64, touched a nerve. The fact that he was suffering from an advanced stage of throat cancer and left to die without any serious treatment reflected the sort of mercilessness that incites the anger of an entire nation.

This Palestinian anger is not limited to the lack of medical care in prisons. It comes at a time when a number of prisoners have been on hunger strike for a long period without any response from the Israelis. The lack of response to the strike by prisoners like Samer Issawi, who is being held without trial or charge, has captured the imagination of many inside and outside of Palestine.

Despite attempts by US President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry, who is due in the region Saturday, April 6, Palestinian faith in the peace process is at an all-time low. One reason for the scarcity of optimism is the very political environment that exists in Israeli-Palestinian relations. A peace process is not simply what political leaders do or say in multilateral meetings, but what is happening on the ground.  And on the ground in Palestine today, there isn’t even an attempt to prepare the environment for any future peace talks.

Traditionally, occupiers try to lessen hatred and anger against them by loosening up some of their restrictions on the people under control. Not in the occupied Palestinian areas. The Gaza siege has not relaxed despite the “technical” apology given to the Turkish prime minister. Palestinian access to Area C, which has been expected, requested and hoped for by Europe and the US, has not been granted.

Prisoners, including those held even before the Oslo Accords, continue to so despite promises to release them.

Last year, Israeli occupation officials appeared to have agreed to gradually end the repressive administrative detentions. This was the Israeli position that was discussed in February 2012 when hunger-striking Khader Adnan agreed to end his 66-day protest. He was released, but others continue to be held without trial or charge under pressure from Israeli security, who feared losing the deterrent.

Even the visit of Obama to Israel failed to produce a single confidence-building measure by the occupying force.  The Israelis probably held back making any gestures to the Palestinians so that they can trade those gestures in return for a Palestinian concession.  Palestinian leaders responded repeatedly that freezing settlement activities or permitting Palestinian access to their own lands in Area C is not a gesture or a precondition, but a right and part of earlier signed commitments.

With no change in political conditions, and with the political horizon totally darkened, it is not a surprise that anger would boil over in the streets of Palestine. Protests, demonstrations and stone-throwing at Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers have been escalating daily. Israel’s response has not been to suggest a political horizon to Palestinians, but to consider stone-throwing a lethal act of murder. Hassidic Jewish stone-throwers, however, are tolerated and never arrested or tried for murder. Even the Easter holy week didn’t provide enough reason for Israelis to allow Palestinian Christians to visit Jerusalem. Church leaders have said that only one third of their requests for permits to visit Jerusalem were approved.

Near one of the West Bank’s largest Jewish settlements, Maaleh Adumim, four Israeli vehicles were set on fire. The nearby Palestinian town of Izzariyah had been quiet for years. If Izzariyeh, which is located on the strategic south-to-north West Bank road becomes violent, we might be getting closer to a new wave of anti-Israeli violence.

Ten thousand Palestinians participated in the funeral of Maysara Abu Hamdieh in Hebron. Afterward, Palestinians expressed their anger by throwing stones at well protected Israeli soldiers. Similar protests are taking place in the north of the West Bank after the death of a young Palestinian in Tulkarem.

Kerry will be visiting very hot Palestinian areas this weekend. The anti-Israeli anger and violence is unlikely to abate, despite security restrictions and the rhetoric of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.  What are needed are a political horizon and a genuine effort to create the environment for peace talks, which must include serious changes regarding prisoners, travel restrictions and a settlement freeze. Abbas, who has called for giving Kerry’s effort a chance, will find that his hands are more tied this week than it was a few weeks ago.

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