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Israeli government fans the flames of conflict
Yasha Marmer, Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI, Israel-Palestine)
Since the beginning of October, 58 Palestinians, ten Israelis and one asylum seeker from Eritrea have been killed. More than 4,000 Palestinians and more than 100 Israelis have been injured - many of the Palestinians during demonstrations.
This has been the deadliest month in the national conflict since the war on Gaza in summer 2014. The arrogant policy of "management of the conflict" of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is claiming more and more victims from both sides of the national schism.
During his first term as prime minister, Netanyahu cynically promised a "computer for every child". His fourth government today promises a gun to every Jewish citizen and a death penalty to every Palestinian suspect!
The relaxation by the ministry of interior of the terms to obtain weapons licences, alongside the call of ministers, mayors and police officers to the public to get armed, led to a 5,000% spike in applications for gun licences in two weeks!
Tragically, the range of the 'immediate suspects' is widening by the week: Arab-Palestinians, asylum seekers, Jews from Mizrahi Arab or Caucasus origin... everyone becomes a "potential terrorist" unless proven otherwise.
Government spokespersons, with generous help from the mainstream media, work extra hours justifying every bullet fired by the Israeli army, police and border police, while playing on the genuine security fears of the Jewish population.
On 21 October, Jewish security guard Simha Hodedatov, originally from Dagestan, was shot dead by two Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem. The Israeli media chose to emphasise that during the confrontation between Hodedatov and the soldiers he allegedly yelled "I'm Daaesh" (Isis). The purpose of that emphasis - according to other reports he had shouted "Am I Daaesh?" - was clear: to justify the shooting.
In the case of Palestinian suspects, the 'justification' is automatic. This was the case with Asra Abed, a young Palestinian woman from Nazareth who was shot while surrounded by tens of armed security guards, police and soldiers, after automatically being labelled as a "terrorist".
A week later, a small article in a local paper reported that the police are seriously examining the option that the young woman didn't intend to carry out any attack. But this didn't make any headlines.
Before the case of Abed, there was the deadly shooting of Fady Alon, a Palestinian youth who was filmed trying to escape from a group of Jewish settlers after allegedly stabbing one of them during a fight. He was shot dead by a policeman, who is shown on video not making any effort to stop him first.
The Jewish terrorist who carried out a deadly attack on a gay pride march in Jerusalem two months ago and other Jewish terrorists from the recent period have been arrested by the police without causing them any harm. This is not a mistake, but a policy, and it's dictated from above.
Execution without trial
But the policies of execution without trial and licence to kill will not stop desperate individuals from conducting stabbings or running people over with vehicles. They also won't give a sense of security to Israeli Jews, and definitely not to Arab-Palestinians and non-Jews.
It's not surprising that Palestinian parents from Acre were afraid to let their kids go to a theatre play in Tel Aviv and cancelled the trip. In parallel, a number of schools in Tel Aviv cancelled trips to Jerusalem.
The direction that society is being dragged in by the government was shown horrifically during a terror attack in the bus station in Beer Sheva and a lynching immediately afterwards.
Habtom Zarhum, an asylum seeker from Eritrea, who was in the bus station during the terror attack was shot by security guards and then lynched due to the colour of his skin. He paid with his life for the government's incitement and scaremongering.
On 21 October the police arrested four suspects for involvement in the lynching. Two of them are prison service officers. The next day all of them were freed on bail.
In contrast, young Palestinian citizens of Israel from Haifa, Acre, Jaffa and elsewhere have spent long days and nights in police custody only for posting Facebook messages calling for people to take part in protest marches against the occupation and government policies.
Netanyahu and defence minister Ayalon tried to shake off any responsibility for the lynching and called on citizens not to take the law into their own hands. But the lynch mob was acting in accordance with the message coming from the Knesset (Israeli parliament), the defence ministry, prime minister's office, and from the ranks of the Knesset 'opposition'.
The mob, particularly the two prison officers, implemented the new semi-official policy: execution without trial of every (non-Jewish) suspect of terrorism.
The government has reacted to the conflict escalation - that it itself has fuelled - with more and more repression against Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Waves of arrests (including of children), collective punishments, reducing gun regulations, setting up checkpoints and deployment of troops to Palestinian neighbourhoods in east Jerusalem, did not calm the situation.
Instead they pushed more desperate young Palestinians towards the destructive path of indiscriminate attacks against Jews.
According to a Knesset TV channel poll (22 October), 72% of Israelis are not satisfied with 'the way Netanyahu deals with the current terror wave'. His promises to "bring back calm" haven't been realised.
According to a previous poll by the same channel, 68% don't believe that a 'centre-left' government headed by Labour Party leader Issac Herzog or Yair Lapid (leader of Yesh Atid) would do any better.
This is not surprising, as the heads of the Knesset opposition have supported the catastrophic policies of the right and haven't proposed any alternative.
Although among Israeli Jews there is a rise in nationalism and support for the right, sections of the population are drawing the conclusion that none of the establishment parties can offer a way out from the constant state of war.
The government doesn't have and can't have any military solution to the national conflict; it just makes it worse. Even the military Chief of Staff, Gadi Eizenkot, admitted on Israel's channel 2: "There's no clear military solution to this kind of challenge" (21 October).
The present national and religious tensions have built up over a period of time, to a large extent under the influence of flare-ups at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound in Jerusalem.
There has been an escalation in the campaign of Jewish religious fanatics, with backing from elements of the regime, to fan a religious war regarding the compound. Lying behind this is the aspiration to perpetuate the occupation and to "Judaise" east Jerusalem through expropriation of Palestinian families' homes for the benefit of settlers.
In a number of areas, Palestinians, mostly young, have demonstrated against the provocation at the Al Aqsa and the occupation. So far these protests haven't had mass participations, except for funerals.
This signals that it's not yet a new intifada in the sense of a popular mass uprising - like it was during the first intifada and in the first period of the second intifada before it deteriorated, tragically, to a series of military confrontations and terror acts.
However, a popular mass movement is necessary, democratically run, and needs to be accompanied by the building of joint struggle between Jews and Arabs against escalation of the conflict, indiscriminate attacks on civilians and the policies of the government.
Also, crucially, this struggle needs to aim to mobilise wide layers in society to oppose the root causes of the problem: the occupation and settlements, the discrimination and national oppression, and the capitalist system.
These must be met with a political alternative: the building of left political forces of Jews and Arabs that put forward a socialist programme.