Palestine Spring in the making?
By Jamal Kanj
A third Palestinian uprising is simmering slowly, fuelled by the denigrating policies of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
With the chances of a political solution steadily diminishing, and lacking other options, the conditions are ripe for a new Palestinian Intifada, or uprising.
While the Palestinian leadership has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to a peaceful settlement, Israeli governments are simultaneously building Jews-only settlements and taking steps to undermine the prospects for an independent, viable Palestinian state.
A combination of internal and external Palestinian factors could result in “the street” taking over from the endless “peace process” and ending the de facto peace for Israelis.
Internally, the “peace process” has produced a class of VIP Palestinians who appear to have lost touch with the public’s pulse. Externally, and after 20 years of perpetual negotiations, Palestinians are seeing their land disappear before their own eyes – more so than when they started what was supposed to be an interim peace process.
Since the Oslo accords, Israeli governments without exception have been in a race to create Jews-only facts on the ground, making any future Palestinian state physically and economically unlivable.
The Palestinian economy has become subordinate to that of Israel and Palestine is becoming a nation surviving on foreign aid and taxes collected by its enemy.
Last month’s Israeli vote for a new anti-peace government hammered the last nail into the coffin of an already comatose peace process.
The deteriorating health conditions of hunger-striking prisoners – detained under administrative orders – and the recent death of a prisoner could ignite the spark, transforming long-suppressed frustrations into an outright anger on the streets.
The prisoner holding the longest hunger strike, Samer al-Issawi, had been released as part of a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas last year, but soon afterwards was re-arrested for ostensibly violating his release terms by travelling outside his hometown of East Jerusalem.
Al-Issawi has refused food for more than 200 days and his weight has dropped to 48 kilograms. Three other administrative detainees joined in the hunger strike 90 days ago.
There are approximately 200 Palestinians, including several elected parliamentarians, incarcerated under the misnomer of “administrative detention”.
The so-called “administrative detentions” are used to deny prisoners their basic right to due process and in violation of international law.
Israel abuses it to circumvent its own judicial system by holding Palestinian prisoners indefinitely and without charge, refusing them an opportunity to defend themselves in court.
Earlier this week, one such prisoner, Arafat Jaradat, 32, died in an Israeli jail. He leaves two children.
Mr Jaradat was arrested at midnight on 18 February when the Israeli army raided his house for throwing stones at cars driven by Israeli colonists in a small village near Hebron.
He was led to the interrogation unit at Megiddo prison.
On 21 February he told his attorney he was suffering from back pain as a result of being hung up for several hours and beaten during interrogation (physical torture is a court-sanctioned practice in Israeli jails).
His attorney asked the court to look into his allegations and to provide him with proper medical attention.
Two days later, Israeli prison authorities announced that Mr Jaradat had died of cardiac arrest.
An autopsy conducted in Israel in the presence of Palestinian officials concluded that extreme torture was the likely cause of Mr Jaradat’s death.
Medical examiners revealed that the deceased suffered six broken bones in his neck, spine, arms and legs.
At least 207 prisoners have died while in Israeli custody.
The international community’s gutless stance on the continued building of Jews-only colonies in Palestine – combined with daily racist humiliations at the hands of illegal settlers, Israeli checkpoints, torture and extra-judicial detention – means it is only a matter of time before the Palestinian street takes matters into its own hands and starts managing relations between occupied and occupier itself.
A version of this article was first published in the Gulf Daily News. The version here is published by permission of Jamal Kanj.