Attempts to make Palestinians sound as though they are beyond the realms of normal human existence or that the violence in recent weeks is attributable to some kind of pathological hatred of Jews is completely absurd.
Israeli officials have been bouncing numerous claims about the recent wave of violence occurring in Israel-Palestine; it’s all the result of Palestinian incitement, Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are responsible, this is Palestinian hatred of Israel and anti-semitism showing its true face and so on.
What all of these claims have in common is that they deliberately ignore all other factors that have contributed to current (and previous) escalations in violence.
One cannot for instance just overlook the political history and context, nor should we forget that the Palestinians have been (and continue to be) subjected to expulsions, house demolitions, denial of basic and fundamental rights, a brutal belligerent military occupation and many other forms of abuse.
Palestinian violence, whilst certainly unpalatable – especially when it crosses over from what is defined in international law as legal resistance to the illegal targeting of civilians – doesn’t exist in a isolation.
The Palestinian population as a whole faces constant violence with impunity from Israeli actors; both state and non-state alike.
The way mainstream media frame the current situation is that Israel is responding to Palestinian violence – and that there is no reason underpinning this violence except incitement and hatred of Jewish Israelis.
Factually speaking, this is nonsense. Israel’s ‘response’ to Palestinian violence is just more of the same; collective punishment, illegal actions, home demolitions and mass detention campaigns (usually after terrifying night raids).
All of this before we even mention the live ammunition used enthusiastically by the IDF against mainly nonviolent protestors.
In Jerusalem alone the police have announced that since 13th September 2015 they have arrested 490 Palestinians – including 212 minors. In addition to arrests, hundreds of Palestinians have been injured by Israeli forces or israeli settlers and scores have been killed – many of whom weren’t engaged in hostilities or violence.
Will any of the Palestinians arrested receive a fair investigation and trial that follows due process? Is that even possible in a dynamic where there is an oppressor and an oppressed?
An occupier and the occupied? What about the Palestinian victims of Israeli violence? Still no arrest in the Dawabshe case despite it being months down the line.
Of course no conflict is ever black and white – we have to look at the nuances. But don’t just swallow Israel’s narrative without question. Even the claims of Palestinian incitement being the main cause of violence have been undermined by Israel’s very own Shin Bet security agency who ruled out incitement from Abbas – even admitting that he had used the PAs own militia to try prevent violence towards Israelis.
Our response, as part of the international community here in the UK and Ireland, to recent events should be to call on our politicians and leaders to be consistent with the robust application of international law and human rights law.
We cannot continue allowing violators to get away with their crimes using vague excuses about damaging the ‘peace process’. It’s nonsensical, not to mention completely at odds with our supposed commitment to human rights globally.
Neither Israel or the Palestinians should be treated any differently under international law than any other country. There needs to be a consistent approach and an appropriate use of accountability mechanisms. It is through ensuring there is justice that we can best help calm tensions and prevent violence in Israel-Palestine.
There are many lessons to be learned here from Northern Ireland’s experience.