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Israel/Palestine: New round of repression answered by wave of rage and protest
London Gaza demo 19 July 2014, photo Paul Mattsson
Yasha Marmer, Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI Israel/Palestine)
The July-August brutal war on Gaza resulted in the slaughter of around 2,200 residents. Since then the Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank and particularly in annexed East Jerusalem, have refused to return to 'normal' life under the occupation.
Hundreds, and on some occasions thousands, of young Palestinians have been taking almost daily to the streets of East Jerusalem to protest against colonial settlement expansion, repression and nationalist and religious provocation.
This was then accompanied by a wave of protest in the Palestinian communities in Israel after the cold blooded police shooting and killing of 22 year old Khayr Hamdan in northern Israel. Tens of thousands took part in a one-day popular general strike, declared by the Supreme Committee of the Arab-Palestinian public within Israel.
Prime Minister Netanyahu reacted to the protests by saying: "to all those who demonstrate against Israel and in favour of a Palestinian state, I say something simple: I invite you to move there".
With the background of the horrific death toll of last summer's war and the growing settlement expansion and land confiscation since then, a series of tragic and desperate acts of stabbings and vehicles being driven into people were conducted by Palestinian individuals.
This resulted in the killing of six Israelis including a three-month old baby. Almost all of the attacks ended with on-spot killings of the attackers by the police.
Four Israelis were then killed in an attack on a Synagogue in Jerusalem on 18 November. Again the two suspects were killed on the spot. These assassinations without trials were fully backed by the head of the police and the government ministers.
Internal Security Minister (responsible for the police) Yitzhak Aharonovitch praised the police killings saying that he wishes that any act of terror will end with the on-spot death of the attacker.
This was obviously referring only to Palestinians, as Jewish terrorists that attack Palestinian communities go unpunished.
A week before Aharonovitch's statement, a five year old Palestinian girl was killed in a hit-and-run incident by a settler in the West Bank. He was freed immediately after a short police questioning.
In contrast to that, after Khayr was murdered by police he was immediately tagged by Netanyahu's government ministers as 'terrorist'. Those statements made crystal clear that the family and community of Khayr cannot expect any justice from the police investigation that was launched into his killing.
This brings back memories of October 2000 when 13 unarmed Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed during protests at the beginning of the second intifada. No police officers were indicted for that crime. Since then, 48 young Palestinians with Israeli citizenship have been killed by police gunfire. In only three cases was the officer convicted.
The situation in the occupied West Bank is obviously much worse. At least 50 Palestinians have been killed there since the beginning of the year by the Israeli army and settlers. Those killings are another attempt by the Israeli regime to consolidate an image of military supremacy. The recent declarations of more settlement expansion and building of hundreds of new housing units in East Jerusalem aim partly for the same goal.
There is no doubt that those declarations encourage far-right and other settlers' groups. In the last month they managed to take over tens of houses in the Palestinian impoverished neighbourhood of Silwan - an act without precedence in the last 20 years.
This was done with the support of a big presence of riot police and border police and celebrated publicly by government ministers. The minister of housing, Uri Ariel, from the settlers-based racist party 'Jewish Home' even declared that he is going to move to one of the houses.
The expropriation of Palestinian families in Silwan comes along with the provocative tours by the same settlers' groups in Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. The declared aim of the tours is to 'reclaim' the already occupied and annexed compound of the Al-Aqsa mosque. Far-right members of the Knesset (Israel's parliament) and government ministers take part in these tours almost on a weekly basis.
There has been a stepping up of collective punishment against Palestinian neighbourhoods, villages and refugee camps in the Jerusalem area in the recent weeks. These include: new restrictions of movement, house demolitions and draconian fines and traffic tickets.
This comes after almost five decades of systematic discrimination and criminal neglect of infrastructure, and lack of schools, housing and jobs. The levels of poverty (78%) and unemployment (40% for men, 85% for women) have now reached the highest point since the start of the occupation in East Jerusalem in 1967.
There's a growing fear among the Israeli establishment that the situation is spiralling out of their control. The answer of Netanyahu's government to the growing discontent is more repression. Since the start of the Gaza war around 1,000 Palestinian youth have been arrested in East Jerusalem, many of them minors.
The government is cynically playing on the yearning of the Israeli residents of Jerusalem for security and stability, while spilling more fuel on the fire it started.
With a promise to "restore calm" the government ordered a deployment of 1,000 additional police to East Jerusalem, 2,500 troops to the West Bank and increased police presence around the Palestinian communities in Israel. In addition to that, Netanyahu ordered more house demolitions, fining the parents of children involved in stone-throwing, and banning organisations in Jerusalem that encourage "incitement".
It seems that a new uprising on a mass scale - a third intifada - is just a matter of time. Some commentators in the Israeli media already refer to the recent events as a new intifada or "silent intifada" or "urban intifada". In some cases it is done deliberately to spread fear among the Israeli public and put pressure on the government.
But it needs to be stressed that the current protests are not yet on a mass scale and therefore it's not yet an intifada in the true sense of the meaning - a mass uprising against the occupation and national oppression. This kind of uprising is absolutely necessary to stop and reverse the arrogant and brutal policy of the Israeli regime.
The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority's (PA) policy of 'security cooperation' with the Israeli army means holding back and suppression of protests. Hamas, on the other hand, declared a few symbolic 'days of rage' in the West Bank but without the ability or the will to mobilise wider layers for an effective, prolonged, struggle.
The recent war on Gaza exposed the limitations of Israel military power, but it also showed that the military balance of forces is clearly on the side of the Israeli war machine.
There's also a clear limitation to PA diplomatic campaigning. This impasse can lead to more counterproductive, desperate acts, but also to a bigger openness to new methods of struggle and new political forces potentially emerging on the left.
Mass and semi-mass demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories can win an immediate solidarity worldwide, and potentially reignite the revolutionary struggle in the region. It can also change the outlook and win support from a significant section of Israeli society. Recent polls show that support for Netanyahu's government policies is far from solid.
The socialist left in Israel should strive to widen further the cracks in the government's support, especially given the background of deteriorating economic conditions. There is an urgent need to build a working class-led movement in Israel that can put forward a socialist alternative
The current stage of struggle poses the urgent need for setting up democratically elected popular committees in the Palestinian communities to plan further actions, mobilise a wider layer of workers and youth and organise effective self-defence, including with arms in hands, against the Israeli army's lethal repression and settlers' attacks.
Those committees can generate discussion in all levels of society on how to take the struggle for national and social liberation forward.