Since July of the last year, arrests in East Jerusalem soared. Many of them were minors. However, Israeli citizens choose to ignore those facts. «We were in deep denial until the events of the last few weeks,» says Seidemann. Then, he goes on to clarify why, in his opinion, the situation has reached an unprecedented stage. He talks about the Haram and about the transformation of a national and political conflict into a religious conflict, far more dangerous. The perceived or real threat to a sacred place, explains Seidemann is a trigger for violence. In other words, the exclusive and exclusionary control over a sacred place jeopardises Jerusalem pluralism.
Beyond religion, there is another aspect to this and it is territorial. The continuous expansion of settlements is stabbing the two-State solution to death. Relocating the settlers is no small issue. Is there a leader, in Israel, capable of and willing to gather the political energy necessary to accept the challenge?
The daily reality of occupation causes not only «the absolute visceral disgust with Israeli rule». Seidemann focuses on the demographic aspect of the resistance of the last decade or so. A resistance led by teenagers and women. «There is a vote of no confidence toward the heads of households in this», men incapable of granting their families a future.
Seidemann is highly critical of the incumbent Government. «There have been times in this conflict since 1967 in which occupation has been a disease in remission … there were things that were bearable, and there was a veneer of normal … We are now witnessing a stage of occupation, particularly under this new government, in which occupation is metastasizing. It is aggressive, and you‘re seeing 15-, 16-year-old kids going up in front of border patrol police and provocatively baring their chests, as if to say, “Go ahead, shoot me.” There‘s a lot of machismo and play-acting in this, but it‘s basically saying, “What do we have to lose?”».
(There is a third aspect contributing to the demise of the two-State solution. That is, the disengagement of the Obama administration.)
Seidemann does not call this wave of violence ‘Third Intifada’, as many do. He just offers an analysis about the meaning and relevance of this new wave of violence. Violence can wane, the wave retreat, but «the periods between the eruptions or the conflagrations will be shorter, and each round will more convulsive and more violent. That’s what’s in store for us».
SHULMAN: ISRAEL’S DISEASE
Shulman describes this autumn atmosphere in Jerusalem. An atmosphere filled with violence and fear. An atmosphere filled with a deep and widespread sense of insecurity «of lurking danger, random, episodic, entirely unpredictable». Army intelligence thinks the situation is bound to get worse. But this very situation, according to Shulman «is the natural and inevitable result of the Netanyahu world». He accuses the Prime Minister and the Government spokesperson of fostering nationalist fanaticism, thus contributing to an atmosphere of fear and hatred.
Shulman too relates the outbreak of violence in Jerusalem with the perceived threat to the Haram, including the raiding of the al-Aqsa mosque to search for weapons and explosives. There is a Jewish extremist fringe – related to the like of Moshe Feiglin (former member of the Knesset), of Government officials like Miri Regev (Minister of Culture and Sport) or Tzipi Hotovely (vice-Foreign Minister) – that foster hate between the communities and seek to establish a permanent Jewish presence on the Haram. This situation looks a lot like Ariel Sharon’s walk that triggered the Second Intifada (2000).
Shulman is highly critical of the Government and of the society at large. «Most Israelis profess to be surprised at the current outbreak. It has apparently never occurred to them that one cannot occupy the lands of another people for half a century, deny them elementary human rights, disenfranchise and humiliate them, repeatedly demolish their homes and villages, harass and even kill them with impunity, without at some point facing serious furious resistance».
He continues, «It has been over ten years since the height of the second Intifada, long enough for a new generation of Palestinians to emerge, traumatized by the occupation, witnesses to the remorseless land-grab for Israeli settlement». Then, he ferociously attacks Benjamin Netanyahu. He states that the Prime Minister is ill, that he is paranoid, and that his vision of the eternal war has come to shape Israel. «True to their narrow vision, the government and the army have reacted to the violence with even greater violence. There is the familiar Hebrew proverb: “If force doesn’t work, use more force.”»
Shulman’s article amounts to social and political condemnation. It warns on the potential, devastating effects of the Israeli Government’s attitude, an attitude embrace by a large portion of the Israeli society. After all, states Shulman, «Today Israel rules over several million Palestinians, the vast majority of them peaceful civilians who want to have the kind of normal lives that Israelis have or think they have». However, their daily routine is made of State terror, expropriations, demolitions and violence. «It’s easy to fall into despair or something even worse than despair, say a dark and helpless numbness».
This article has taken into consideration these two voices because they come from within Israel. They are not Palestinian voices. They are Israeli voices. Who better than them could possibly criticise Israel itself so poignantly and accurately?
Everyone is used to violence when the subjects are Israel and Palestine. Palestinians are used to violence. Israelis are used to violence. That is a horrific routine. When is violence reaching the point of no return? According to Seidemann and Shulman, very soon.
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