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Sheikh Jarrah Epitomizes the Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Sheikh Jarrah Epitomizes the Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Wednesday, 19 May, 2021 - 09:45

With the whole world watching, Israel’s war machine brought down Gaza’s highest residential and commercial tower. This action was surely expected by both the Palestinians and Israelis, and why not, after Hamas missiles rained down on several Israeli towns and cities.

To begin with, the governing Israeli Right has sought to uproot the population of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah without any provocation; so why would it hesitate to raze Gaza buildings when there is the perfect “excuse” of “self-defense” that the West dearly wants to accept.

Let’s forget all the numbers, pleadings, denunciations and mediations. The Likud, Hamas and those backing Hamas are fully aware of the “game” and its repercussions. This is what logic and decades old experiences tell us.

The Israeli “political establishment”, whose chemistry has been transformed from Zionist labor socialism to an “alliance” of conservative Zionist militarism and fundamentalist Biblical fascism, has its own clear project. This alliance is pursuing its project without hesitation, buoyed by consecutive legislative election results that show the virtual collapse of the pro-peace leftist and liberal alternatives which truly believe in the feasibility of peace and coexistence. Unfortunately, this is now a fact that only the naïve and obstinate would deny.

On the other side, there is a Palestinian “alternative”, represented by Hamas and the “Islamic Jihad”, which also has its political project relying on an intellectual and organizational symbiosis between religion and arms, whereby the military arsenal serves the politico-religious slogans, and these slogans justify the use of this arsenal.

Hence, regardless of the patriotic considerations, brotherly feelings and nationalist-religious loyalties, both camps appear to the neutrals (and those who claim to be so) very similar. This, however, does not apply to the regional and major global players, whose calculations go far beyond the numbers of martyrs, the tears of the innocent, efficacy of missiles, or pictures of ruined buildings. By the end of the day, every war must end, and for every end there is deal.

The other day, the White House spokesperson, Jen Psaki, made an “eloquent” statement. Claiming that Hamas was a “terrorist” organization and so there was no justification for its use of missiles, Psaki added that the movement “does not represent the views of the suffering people”, and that “all the Palestinian people” were suffering as a result of the violence!

What I find odd here are two issues:

The first, is that since Hamas is a “terrorist organization” - as Psaki said – it has no justification in using missiles to attack civilians, but such an act is fully justified, respected and defensible if it came from a sovereign state (i.e. Israel), which the US has allowed to disregard UN resolutions, the last of which pertains to the status of Jerusalem.

Indeed, allowing Israel to have “an undivided Jerusalem” as its “eternal capital” has encouraged Benjamin Netanyahu – so keen to escape a jail sentence – to start the campaign of taking over Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

Furthermore, Psaki’s mentioning of “terrorism” poses the question of whether the same applies to Yemen’s Houthi militias, who have been targeting Saudi civilians with missiles and drones; and yet their crimes have been almost ignored by Washington and Western capitals. Aren’t the Houthi attacks terrorist acts? Don’t the Houthis get their missiles from the same source that supplies Hamas and the “Islamic Jihad”, and which Washington and West European capitals are keen to negotiate with, condone its nuclear capabilities and free its financial assets … earmarked to be used for what the Western powers call “terrorism”.

The second is saying that “Hamas does represent the views of the suffering people”. This may be true, but Psaki would not tell us if the Palestinians have the right “to express their views” about the Israeli occupation, settler attacks, destruction of homes and uprooting of their fields, banning the Jerusalemites from voting, and declaring the “undivided Jerusalem” as “the eternal capital of Israel”.

Does Psaki – and, of course, the authority for which she is the spokesperson – think that any Palestinian politician who keeps quiet about such acts would ever retain any representative legitimacy? Does she not realize that what Israel has been doing - with American backing - in order to destroy the credibility of the rational, moderate and pro-coexistence Palestinians has been driving generations of Palestinians to despair, and subsequently, pushing them towards Hamas and similar organizations?

Those who truly represent the Palestinian people are those who love, respect and defend their rights. So is the international community really interested in listening to them?

The “War of missiles” of the last few days has diverted the attention away from the spark which started it, i.e. the attempts to occupy and Judaize Sheikh Jarrah. This has been the spark of the current events. And just like Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Haram (Temple Mount) in 2000 was intended to spark the “Second Intifada (Uprising)”, Netanyahu has attempted to displace the inhabitants of Sheikh Jarrah in order to provoke a regional war.

In fact, Netanyahu’s motives are personal and opportunistic. He wants to avoid prison at any cost after being accused of corruption. This will not be possible if he does not enjoy the immunity accorded to him by the post of prime minister; which is why he, a secular right-winger, is willing to rely on the support of colonialist Biblical Right.

It is a fact that Netanyahu benefited throughout Donald Trump’s presidency from him and his son-in-law Jared Kushner. The most valuable Trump “gifts” to the Biblical Right have been moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing it as the “undivided and eternal capital of the Jewish people” and recognizing the Syrian-occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

So Netanyahu, who has been in deep trouble for a while, wanted a confrontation. Such a confrontation has been made more attractive given its promising regional dimension; as the new US Democratic administration is returning to Barack Obama’s old plans for normal relations with Iran. Here both Netanyahu and the Israeli military feel that it is in Israel’s interest to have a say in the expected US-Iranian regional agreements.

The Iranians, for their part, know the role of their militias in the Middle East, and are arming and using them to serve their aims. They also understand the balance of regional power and are pretty much aware of a “ceiling” for “understandings”, and what is needed for a “coexistence and apportionment deal” with Israel. This is why Lebanon’s Hezbollah has avoided any cross-border engagement, while there was no serious movement by Bashar Assad’s troops or the Syria-based Palestinian and Iranian organizations backing his regime.

The human tragedy currently playing out in Gaza and the West Bank is destined to end with a “negotiated” political settlement. Thus, unless we witness unforeseen surprises, the likely outcome I expect would benefit neither the Palestinians nor the Arabs, but would rather accelerate a “deal” to partition the area between Israel and Iran with Washington’s blessings.

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