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UN Bid & Misplaced Rhetoric of Violence

September 20, 2011

This week the Palestinian Authority will take their bid to the UN Security Council to seek full membership of the UN for a recognised Palestinian state. Israel and its allies of course have opposed this, with the common line taken by Israel, the US and Israel’s other allies that it is not the right course of action and that direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials should take president (with Israeli allies presiding over the negotiations of course). Little is being discussed regarding Palestinian willingness to take part in such negotiations and how recent attempts to engage in such have been scuppered by Israel’s refusal to bring a halt to the expansion of their illegal settlements in the West Bank. However what is being discussed within mainstream media is the Israeli rhetoric of expected Palestinian violence in the coming days and months.

Israeli officials and spokespeople’s talk of violence towards Israel and its citizens can be seen to be designed to set an agenda of expectation amongst the international community and to provide further rhetoric for the move to full membership for Palestine to be denied. Being out here it would seem that the predictions are based on very little except maybe the expectation that eventually retaliation will occur. Speaking to locals their seems to be very little to no appetite for armed resistance to the oppressive and illegal occupation, but people do seem to have a great belief that the increase in settler and occupying forces violence towards the Palestinian people in recent months has been designed to invoke such a reaction.

My last Blog discussed the increase in settler and military violence within the West Bank. How agricultural land was being set alight by settlers with military support of the Israeli occupying forces, how water wells and homes were being destroyed by Israeli military – leaving thousands without water and hundreds homeless and how 3 young men had been killed within the space of two weeks in two separate incidents by Israeli military whilst invading the refugee camps of Al – Fara’a and Qalandia. This pattern of violence has in the time since my last blog continued and settler violence has actually increased. This could possibly be attributed to the Israeli governments ‘response’ to their own assumptions of Palestinian violence, being to train and arm settlers to ‘defend’ against and fight Palestinians in the coming days and months (See article: Providing the settlers with weapons and military training, who as I wrote in my last blog in recent months have burned agricultural land, attacked shepherds and beat international observers with metal crowbars and attacked villagers with stones, could be seen to not be a measure taken by a government who wishes to avoid violence. As can the response by the Israeli military after the tragic attack on a bus in Eilat in the south of Israel last month.

The attack on a bus near the Egyptian border resulted in the tragic death of at least 7 Israeli’s and many more injured. The attack however was quickly assumed to be the work of Palestinian militants from Gaza. With no group claiming responsibility and the alleged assailants followed illegally over the border into Egypt and gunned down along with reportedly 5 Egyptian Police by Israeli forces, no investigation into the attack to discover who was responsible was carried out. Instead within hours Israeli airstrikes were carried out on the Gaza strip, with the Israeli government and military acting outs its promise to retaliate with “full force”.  The airstrikes on the world’s most densely populated strip of land are reported to have killed at least 6 Palestinians including a leader of the popular committee and a 3 year old child. A coordinated raid on the cities of Hebron and Bethlehem and their surrounding towns and villages also took place the next day, with reports of up to 300 people being arrested. It was reported that this number included over 60 from one family and a 60 year old man who was arrested due to his son who was the target of the arrest not being home.

Settler and Israeli military violence around Nablus has increased and become geographically closer to the Palestinian Authority controlled city in recent weeks. The violence has consisted but not exclusively of; an unannounced invasion of Israeli military into the city of Nablus to ‘escort’ Israeli’s in the dead of night to a contested religious site, the destroying of at least 3 water wells,  the uprooting of over 500 Olive trees, the burning of agricultural land, a number of Palestinians being injured in numerous assaults by settlers, two Mosques being attacked with anti –Islamic slogans and Stars of David graffiti being sprayed across the walls inside and tyres being set alight inside one of the mosques effectively burning it out. Palestinian cars were also set alight in the same attacks and others.  The people of Qusra village were subjected to Israeli military storming the village on Friday (16/09/2011) injuring 11 Palestinians after settlers had assaulted the village and shot at least one Palestinian resident. Settlers also shot at a home in the village of Burin south of Nablus late on Sunday afternoon and in a separate incident on the same day settlers also attempted to raid the village of Awarta south of Nablus. Other incidents of harassment and violence can be seen to have taken place across the West Bank.

On the eve of the Palestinian Authority called demonstrations within the cities of the West Bank thoughts of the Palestinian people, certainly within Nablus, do not seem to be with the prospect of  Palestinian militant violence but with the prospect of violence from illegal Israeli settlers. This fear could be viewed as a legitimate one, not only because of the Israeli Governments policy of arming and training these settlers or the upsurge in violence already spoke of, but also because of the plans that armed settlers have to march on Palestinian cities tonight and over the coming days (See Article: Tomorrow thousands of Palestinians are expected to gather in the centre of Nablus and other cities after the Palestinian Authority called for its people to demonstrate peacefully in support of the UN bid.  The numbers that turn out tomorrow may provide an indicator for Palestinian peoples support for the move. However it may also be an indicator of the level of people’s fear of violence or indeed their defiance in the face of the threats they are faced with.

There would seem to be elements of scepticism of the bid from some Palestinians, however the issue of the bids pros and cons and its suitability for providing a more even platform for negotiations, or the possibility of it just solidifying the Palestinian Authorities control over the West Bank without much progress seem to be largely missing from media and public debate and are instead replaced with Israeli and US assumed rhetoric of Palestinian violence. The people of Nablus and the rest of the oPt whilst being concerned with the threat of violence from Israeli settlers and military also seem to be fearful as stated above, that the upsurge in violence against them may at some point evoke the reaction that Israel, with its metaphorical ‘poking of Palestinians with a stick’ seems to be seeking. As already said, there is very little appetite for a reaction to the violence and little means in which to carry it out. However there is also a feeling of, for how much longer can a largely unarmed population continue to live in such circumstances without some form of reaction. The danger of any such reaction however is that without the context of the incessant harassment, violence and humiliation that the Palestinian people suffer at the hands of Israeli settlers and military, which is clearly missing within mainstream media, it will be packaged as the evidence which Israel and its allies will use to show to the world that they were right all along. That Palestine is not ready for full UN membership and that its people must continue to live in servitude to an illegal Israeli occupation and its only hope of statehood can only come through direct negotiations in which it is to continue to have little leverage on which to negotiate favourable terms for its people. The coming days and weeks may be very important for the future of the region, it is hoped by many here that Israel’s step up in violence does not result in what seems to be its aim of escalation in order to scupper the Palestinian peoples chances of future self determination. Whilst the International community is busy considering whether or not to recognise Palestine as a state it could do well to not forget its responsibility to ensure that the people of Palestine are not forced to ponder such scenarios.
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