Aug 30 2013

Qalandia Attack Insult to Peace Talks

Published by at 3:49 am under Articles,Palestinian politics


By Daoud Kuttab

One of the most repeated questions that was asked by many following the Israeli attack on Palestinians in the Qalandia refugee camp on Aug. 26 — which left three killed — was why? Why does the powerful Israeli army need to carry out a raid inside a Palestinian refugee camp at a time of relative quiet? More perplexing is why this was done during ongoing peace talks aimed at bringing an end to the 46-year Israeli occupation?

The official Israeli narrative has been very simple. The widely circulated Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that — according to the Israeli army’s preliminary investigation — the Israeli army and Border Guard forces “felt threatened and began to fire live rounds of ammunition in self-defense despite the fact the Palestinians had not fired on them.”

Self-defense usually applies to a person being attacked by an armed perpetrator. Is this what happened in the Qalandia refugee camp?

Anyone familiar with the Qalandia refugee camp knows that it falls way beyond the checkpoint that bears the same name on the Ramallah side of the 10-meter-high cement wall. Israeli daily Maariv revealed that the killings occurred when an undercover Israeli unit known as Mistaaribin, disguised as Arabs, was discovered entering the Qalandia refugee camp at 3 a.m. in an attempt to arrest a Palestinian activist — who had recently been released from jail — apparently from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ own Fatah movement.

The Israeli military’s arrogance in continuing to enter the Palestinian territories without coordinating with Palestinian security and making a request for arrest violates both the spirit and purpose of the peace process.

On Aug. 21, Israeli and Palestinian police chiefs met in Jericho to celebrate the fact that they are proceeding with help from a US-based nongovernmental organization to implement criminal and traffic related violations on West Bank roads. However, in the case of Qalandia, the excessive confidence of the Israelis backfired and resulted in the deadly clash.

An entire agreement in the Oslo Accords is dedicated to security and legal coordination in which Palestinians or Israeli settlers in the West Bank are accused of committing a crime. The fact that this coordination mechanism was not utilized points to a larger problem in which Israel and its security forces prefer to continue to dominate the Palestinians irrespective of a peace process or actual peace.

Israeli action also falls within the Israeli belief that to keep Palestinians subdued and refusing to take part in anti-Israeli resistance activities, the pressure must continuously be placed on Palestinian activists. Israelis consider such arrests among rebellious Palestinians an integral part of their strategic deterrence policy. With Palestinians never feeling safe, even within their own territory, the Israelis feel that such pursuits — even if they are against the spirit and letter of the peace process — are somehow necessary.

Strategic deterrence — defined as the inhibition of attack by a fear of punishment backed by superior military power — has been part of the Israeli strategy for some time. At times, Israel used extreme force, especially in and around Gaza, to maintain this deterrence principle.

What makes the Israeli “strategic deterrence” unworkable is that it doesn’t come as part of a comprehensive plan that has a political component. By sending undercover security men into a hostile refugee camp shows brazen apathy to the Palestinian reaction. Israel, which prides itself for its top-notch coordination on security and diplomatic efforts, cannot escape the accusation that the raid on Qalandia was approved from the very top of Israel’s political circles with the knowledge and blessing of the security cabinet and possibly the prime minister. Such a position puts a major dent in Israel’s claims of wanting to make the difficult choices for peace.

Some security strategists and just war theorists argue that there may be nothing morally objectionable about deterrence in cases where the lives and welfare of a civilian population are not directly affected. The threat of retaliation that underpins its strategic effectiveness remains implicit and hypothetical. However, when deterrence becomes indistinguishable from violation of international law and an insult to the idea of a peace process, it is far less likely to achieve its intended result.

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