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Coming soon: A third intifada?

Israel’s continued occupation and denial of rights to Palestinians cannot persist unchallenged

October 9, 2015 2:00AM ET

At the United Nations General Assembly last week, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu focused his fears on an external threat from Iran, the internal situation in Israel and Palestine started to boil over. The dramatic scene he painted during his speech served to deflect attention from his government’s decades-long military occupation policies in the Palestinian territories.

Talk of a third intifada pervades the media now as tensions rise between Israeli settlers in the West Bank and the indigenous Palestinian population. “Anyone claiming to be surprised that a third uprising is imminent has been burying their head in the sand for the last decade,” Israeli journalist Gideon Levy says.

Most of the world has turned a blind eye to what has been unfolding on the ground in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem. These developments include ever-increasing house demolitions, arrests and imprisonment (especially of minors), expropriation of Palestinian land, Israeli settlement building and expansion and construction of an exclusive road network for Israeli settlers, construction of hundreds of miles of a separation barrier, curfews and collective punishment, the closure of Jerusalem and its holy sites to Palestinians, and outright murder of Palestinian civilians by both military forces and armed settlers.

It is instructive to remember these causes of the highly tense situation which Palestinians endure every day. Resisting the occupation and its oppressive policies is a natural reaction of a people who have long experienced such policies. In fact, this right of resistance is enshrined in United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/3246 of Nov. 29, 1974, which “Reaffirms the inalienable right of all peoples under colonial rule, foreign domination and alien subjugation to self-determination, freedom and independence” and “Reaffirms the legitimacy of the peoples’ struggle for liberation from colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation by all available means, including armed struggle.”

Israel must face the reality of the situation it has created: It is a ruthless occupier suppressing a population of millions.

The killing of innocents and civilians is never justified, by any side. Violent acts have recently been committed by both sides — by individual Israelis and Palestinians. It is not fair, however, to paint all Palestinians with the brush of terrorism. To reduce all Palestinian acts of defiance against the occupation simply to acts of violence or terrorism serves to strip the people of their human right to live with dignity and freedom. It also eliminates consideration of the historical and political context in which they live. Labeling Palestinians as terrorists allows Israel to abdicate its responsibility as an occupying power and to obscure criticism from the international community that it is acting like a colonial settler state. It also severely dehumanizes the Palestinian people.

Moreover, even Palestinian nonviolent resistance is targeted regularly by the Israeli military. Peaceful demonstrations are frequently met with brute force, thus escalating the confrontation. Acts of civil resistance, such as hunger strikes, are not tolerated; many Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails often face torture, solitary confinement, and various forms of intimidation. A number of prisoners are held indefinitely and without trial by administrative detention — an anachronistic relic of British colonial rule. This practice is applied almost exclusively on Palestinians, and even on lawmakers such as Khalida Jarrar, who has been incarcerated without charges since April 2015. Indeed, as of June of 2015, there were 12 Palestinian parliament members in Israeli jails, held under administrative detention.

Israel must face the reality of the situation it has created: It is a ruthless occupier suppressing a population of millions. It has done this since 1967, and this policy is clearly not tenable now, let alone in the long run.

Whether a full-fledged third intifada is about to explode remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that Israel’s continued military occupation of Palestinian land, and the denial of rights to the Palestinians living there, cannot remain the status quo and hold profound ramifications for both Palestinians and Israelis. Any people will rise up if they are suppressed for a long time, and they have the right to do so. Israel’s 48-year occupation should not be allowed to continue, and the indigenous Palestinian population should be able to reclaim their inalienable rights.

Zeina Azzam is the executive director of the Jerusalem Fund. The views expressed are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the fund.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America's editorial policy.

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