By Suraya Dadoo
Choices have consequences. But when the Israeli government makes choices, it is Palestinians that suffer the deadly consequences.
Resistance – in all its manifestations – across all of occupied Palestine over the past week is the product of a number of strategic choices made by Israel over the last month.
Ramadaan ended with Israel’s devastating bombardment of Gaza, but the assault on Palestinians quietly began in occupied Jerusalem at the beginning of the holy month, when Israeli authorities banned Palestinians from gathering at Damascus Gate in the Old City. Daily protests followed.
Videos of Israeli security forces attacking Palestinian protesters and arresting young people prompted more Palestinians to join the protests. Their resilience forced police to back down.
Meanwhile, the resumption of weekly demonstrations and daily vigils in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah – protesting against the forcible expulsion of Palestinian families there – saw police using brutal force against residents and protesters alike. They chose to ramp up Israel’s violent response in a neighbourhood that had become a global symbol of Palestinian dispossession.
Two weeks into the events in Sheikh Jarrah and Damascus Gate, Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Palestinians in Jerusalem would not be allowed to participate in the upcoming Palestinian elections. Israel could have acted in accordance with its obligations under the Oslo Accords and allow Jerusalemite Palestinians to vote. It chose not to do so.
After Mahmoud Abbas announced that the elections were cancelled, Israeli police arrested Palestinians in Jerusalem who were vocally supportive of and trying to organize around elections. This, too, was an escalation of Israel’s making.
Almost at the same time, social media captured how Israeli soldiers killed the mentally-ill 60-year old Fahima al-Hroub at a military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank. The soldiers were carrying out Israel’s ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy.
The unintended consequence of Israel’s actions is that it has united Palestinians from Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, within Israel and the diaspora.
Palestinian citizens of Israel drove hours to join the sit-ins in Jerusalem. When they organized buses to get people to Al-Aqsa, Israeli authorities responded by shutting down the roads leading to the Mosque. Jerusalemites picked them up in their cars.
This week – when Palestinians marked the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba and the displacement of more than 400 towns and villages and 750 000 Palestinians to make way for the Israeli state – Palestinian communities inside Israel were erupting in support of Jerusalem and solidarity with Gaza.
Protests have been reported in Afula, Acre, Galilee, Lod, Bat Yam, Ramla, Haifa, Nazareth, Rahat, Umm al-Fahm and Jaffa – cities and towns that have not seen protests for decades.
On Monday, Israel chose to respond to Hamas rocket fire by bombing Gaza. As the death toll shows time and time again, Hamas’s haphazard – largely symbolic – rockets are no match for the sheer power and brutality of the most powerful military in the region. At the time of writing, 69 Palestinians had been killed, including 17 children.
Multi-storey blocks of flats had been destroyed. Netanyahu promised a military operation that would “exact a heavy price” from Gaza. This, too, is a choice.
These, of course, are only the developments from recent weeks.
It is a 14-year siege on Gaza, the ongoing construction of illegal Israeli settlements, dehumanizing restrictions on freedom of movement, a military regime built on separate legal systems for Jews and Palestinians, and dispossession, and demographic engineering in Jerusalem that underpins everything currently taking place.
These injustices may be erased from the consciousness of the Israeli public and its spin doctors, but they remain the daily reality for millions of Palestinians.
Israel’s apologists loudly proclaim Israel’s right to self-defence, safety and security, but they are silent on whether Palestinians deserve those rights too. Those insisting on Israel’s right to self-defence and safety, must also reflect on Israeli choices that have led us to this moment.