Acts of vengeance betray a loss of faith
An alarming wave of individual attacks in Jerusalem over recent days is a direct result of a failed peace process and Israel’s policy of continued colonial expansion in occupied territory.
Moreover, say analysts, that no faction is in charge of these incidents underscores the general despondency among Palestinians about their future.
The chronology of these events go as far back as April and the collapse of US-brokered peace talks. Since then, Jerusalem and areas classified as "Area C" under the Oslo Accords - areas under Israeli security control – have set
|Israel now has no clear opponent but itself
- Ghassan Khatib
the stage for repeated exchanges of violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians.
The escalation can be directly traced to what Ghassan Khatib, a political analyst and a former Palestinian Authority planning minister, calls Israeli "arrogance".
There have been repeated Israeli provocations in and around Jerusalem, he said, including regular announcements of new settlement tenders, settlement construction and extremist Jewish incursions onto al-Aqsa Mosque compound – widely perceived among Palestinians as an attempt to divide the compound between Muslims and Jews, as happened at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron.
Israel is acting “irrationally”, Khatib said, by stoking tensions in areas it controls at a time when the West Bank is relatively quiet despite there being no immediate prospect of a political breakthrough.
There has been violence and tit-for-tat killings between settlers and Palestinians in "Area C", with Palestinians using whatever is at hand, whether knives or cars, as weapons.
Israeli settlers have gone on rampages in Palestinian villages and burnt olive orchards and mosques. While the settlers are classed as civilians in such cases, Palestinians in Area C are subject to Israeli military law and are dealt with much more harshly. This has allowed settlers to act with impunity.
In the most egregious such recent example, settlers are said to have lynched a Palestinian bus driver, Yousef al-Ramouni, 32, who was found hanged on his bus. Israel has said he committed suicide.
That incident was followed on Tuesday by an attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem, where two Palestinians armed with knives and a gun killed four Israelis and a policeman, before being killed.
Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or PFLP, both praised the synagogue attack, but no faction has claimed responsibility. The PFLP described the attackers as members of a local cell, but added that their actions had been neither planned nor ordered by the movement.
Jamil Mozhir, a member of the PFLP’s politburo, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the attack was rather a "natural result of the occupation’s crimes in Jerusalem and its holy sites".
Such individual attacks are almost impossible for security services to predict and control and are a huge concern to Israel.
Khatib, the analyst, said the individual nature of the attacks was evidence that Palestinians had lost faith in their leaders. And given that no single political faction was behind in control, "Israel now has no clear opponent but itself," he said.
He predicted that Israel would react with its usual show of force, a policy that would only exacerbate the situation.
Shawan Jabarin, the head of al-Haq, a Ramallah-based human rights organisation, said the attacks were a sign that Jerusalemites were "struggling for their existence in their city".
"The small explosions we see in Jerusalem now should be seen as consequences of the wider context," he said. "This context is also present in the West Bank, where the setting seems mature for even bigger explosions."