Palestine Spring in the making?
By JAMAL KANJ *
A THIRD Palestinian uprising is simmering slowly, fuelled by the denigrating policies of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
With the chances for a political resolution steadily diminishing, and lacking other options, the conditions are ripe for a new Palestinian Intifada.
While the Palestinian leadership has repeatedly committed to a peaceful settlement, Israeli governments in parallel are building “Jewish 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 hijacking the endless 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 have seen their land disappearing 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 “Jewish only” facts on the ground – making any future Palestinian state physically and economically unliveable.
The Palestinian economy has become subordinate to the Israeli economy and Palestine is becoming a nation surviving on the conditionality of 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 administrative detainees and the recent death of a prisoner could ignite the spark, transforming long-suppressed frustrations into an outright anger on the streets.
Longest hunger-striking prisoner Samer Al Issawi was released as part of 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 48kg. 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”.
This term is used illegally to deny prisoners basic rights to due process in violation of international law.
Israel misuses it to circumvent its own judicial system by holding Palestinian prisoners indefinitely without charge, refusing them an opportunity to defend themselves in court.
Earlier this week, Arafat Jaradat died in an Israeli jail.
He was arrested on midnight of February 18 when the Israeli army raided the house of the 32-year-old father-of-two 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.
Last Thursday 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 “Jewish only” colonies in Palestine – combined with daily racist humiliations at the hand 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.
* Mr Kanj (www.jamalkanj.com) writes weekly newspaper column and publishes on several websites on Arab world issues. He is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. A version of this article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper.