While I strongly condemn any violence, any loss of innocent life, the recent attack on a Tel Aviv open air market was, unfortunately, predictable. I say this with regret and deep sadness. I have just returned from two weeks in Israel and the West Bank where I have seen the immediate and systemic causes of such attacks. On the systemic level, this week Palestinians entered the 50th year of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza. As I explain in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides, this means that generations of Palestinians have lived under brutal and discriminatory Israeli military rule, constantly facing threats of imprisonment, land confiscation, home demolitions, and forced to live under a system of movement restrictions in which Palestinians must obtain Israeli permission to travel. This systemic violence cannot simply be ignored.
As to the more immediate causes, since September alone, Israeli forces have killed nearly 200 Palestinians, including a number that were summarily executed, and have refused to turn over many of the bodies in an attempt to control even Palestinian mourning. Since January, Israel has also destroyed or confiscated more than 600 Palestinians homes and other structures in the occupied West Bank. Israel continues to destroy Palestinian homes with complete disregard for international law, basic humanity, and the demands of the international community.
This type of state violence only breeds further violence. As noted by Tel-Aviv mayor, Ron Huldai after Wednesday’s attack: ‘We might be the only country in the world where another nation is under occupation without civil rights…You can’t hold people in a situation of occupation and hope they’ll reach the conclusion that everything is alright.’”
If Israel’s oppressive military rule and apartheid regime are not brought to an end swiftly, and if Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian rights continue to go unaddressed, we can expect to see more of this type violence. The sad reality is that violence goes on everyday here for the Palestinians. Even sadder, the world has become desensitized to the violence experienced by Palestinians on a daily basis. Earlier this week, 20-year-old Jamal Muhammad Dweikat died after Israeli soldiers shot him in the head with live fire as he was protesting illegal settlers entering his city in the occupied West Bank. This is life in Palestine and it goes unnoticed by the international community.
As a result of the Tel Aviv attack, Israel plans to impose collective punishment and take further repressive measures against Palestinians. This, despite warnings from even its closest ally, the US, against engaging in collective punishment, with a State Department spokesman stating on Thursday that Israel needs to ‘take into consideration the impact on Palestinian citizens that are trying to go about their daily lives.’
Israel has cancelled permits for more than 80,000 Palestinians in the occupied territories to travel to Israel to visit family and to visit occupied East Jerusalem and its holy sites for this month of Ramadan, denying them the right to worship freely. This will likely further increase tensions around the Noble Sanctuary mosque complex, known as the Temple Mount to Jews, which has been the focus of mounting provocations by Messianic Jews, including members of Netanyahu’s government, for many months and was one of the immediate causes of the outbreak of violence last fall.
Israel has also announced it is deploying two more battalions of soldiers in the occupied territories resulting in another major crackdown in the West Bank, including curfews, mass arrests, the indefinite imprisonment of Palestinians without charge or trial, and additional restrictions on movement.
As was the case in the past, these actions will only lead to an increase in violence. Israeli leaders have yet to understand, or worse, they don’t really care, that further repression has a boomerang effect and that only an end to the denial of freedom and repression and a restoration of the most basic human rights will bring about peace and security for all.
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