Protests have broken out in the West Bank in the last few weeks, which have seen thousands of Palestinians clash with Israeli soldiers and “security” police in the cities of Ramallah, Hebron and Nablus, and East Jerusalem.
Some in Israel have described this as an “intifada (uprising)-lite”. While the protestors have used stones, the Israeli forces have deployed baton charges, tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and live ammunition.
More than 100 Palestinians were reported injured in and around East Jerusalem last week. In the Abu-Dis suburb of the city, where I am based, a number of boys aged between 14-16 are being treated for rubber bullet wounds in the back, and in one case a broken leg.
Israeli soldiers killed four young Palestinians in Nablus, in the northern West Bank, over the weekend. Two of them, Mohammad Qadus aged 15 and Osaid Qadus aged 17, had not even taken part in the protest that was attacked. But they were both killed by a single shot to the head after they had got off a bus nearby.
In the last few weeks in Hebron there has been a spate of arrests of local boys for the “offence” of throwing stones. Children as young as 13 have been detained, interrogated and forced to sign “confessions” without access to lawyers or their families.
The immediate cause of the protests was the attempt by radical Zionist settlers, backed by the Israeli government, to re-open a synagogue next to the Al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem. This came just after the Israeli government announced its intention to annex the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron and the Bilal mosque in Bethlehem as “Jewish heritage sites”.
The Israeli government hides its actions behind a smokescreen about “religious tolerance”. In reality this is a conscious political strategy to destroy any chance of justice for the Palestinians.
Its claims over the religious sites is one part of the strategy. The other is a massive expansion of Israeli settlements, which means that, along with the separation wall which cuts off East Jerusalem from the West Bank,
Palestinian territory in the West Bank is more fragmented and encircled by Israel than ever before. Just before the protests over the Al-Aqsa mosque, Israel revealed plans for 1,600 new settlement homes in east Jerusalem. The Israeli Ha’aretz newspaper has reported that a further 50,000 housing units are in the planning and approval stages on occupied land in East Jerusalem.
The economic situation has also deteriorated for Palestinians, largely due to people losing employment in Israel during the last intifada, and the effects of Israel’s strangulation policies on the economy in the West Bank. Now almost 60 percent of Palestinian households live below the poverty line.
There has been talk during the recent protests about a third intifada, but it is not clear if this will happen at the moment. People are caught between immense anger and bitterness towards Israel and the memory of being crushed in the past.
Another factor adding confusion is the collaboration of some of the Palestinian leadership with Israel. In some areas it has now taken over the job of capturing “militants” on Israel’s behalf.
It is certain that there will be more protests in the next weeks and months, and what will make a difference is international solidarity with the Palestinians, most urgently by the masses in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the rest of the Arab world.
Read Jon's blog from Palestine at » www.palestinenotes.blogspot.com