Saturday 17 October 2015

Palestinian Actions Speaking as Loudly as Words

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  delivered  another triumphant speech at the United Nations General Assembly meeting.  He seems to be at his best when standing at the UN podium and presenting Israel's case to the world.  His speech came only a day after the one delivered by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and it was noticeable how Netanyahu's speech contained much optimism in stark contrast to Abbas's words.  Since these speeches were delivered, a number of innocent Israelis have been murdered and many more injured in Palestinian terror attacks in the city of Jerusalem, in the West Bank and elsewhere in Israel.  It frequently seems as though nobody in the UN General Assembly is really listening to the speeches, as most people come there with their positions firmly entrenched.  The speeches are heard by audiences outside of the General Assembly chamber in New York, particularly by the electorate of the leader concerned.  Abbas's speech appears to have been very much directed at the Palestinian people.  There also seems to be a strong link between the tone of the messages delivered, and the actions that have taken place on the ground in Israel since the speech.

Those close to Abbas had warned for many months prior to this UN General Assembly meeting, that Abbas's speech was going to contain a "bombshell".  This expectation was set, not only amongst the international community, but also amongst the Palestinians who are looking to Abbas for leadership.  There was speculation about what it could be.  Most of the ideas that were put forward as possibilities were along a negative theme.  Some thought that Abbas would resign or dismantle the Palestinian Authority.  Those people who were hoping for something positive that could somehow contribute to the situation in the Middle East, and possibly move the peace process forward, were drowned out.  After the speech, the so-called "bombshell" was described by one Israeli newspaper as more of a stink bomb than a bombshell.  There was nothing dramatic that one could point to in his speech that could be termed a "bombshell".  Perhaps, more importantly, there was certainly no hint of anything positive to give one a feeling that a way forward can be found.  Instead, there was evidence of frustration that the Palestinian issue has been replaced on the front pages of the international press by the ISIS threat and by the Syrian refugee crisis.  There was an appeal for governments around the world not to forget that they should continue to pursue foreign policies that criticise Israel's behaviour and actions, while heaping sympathy on the Palestinian "victims" in the conflict.  The message, however, was received loudly by the Palestinian people, while not registering any response on the agendas of foreign governments.  The clear message sent by Abbas and received by the Palestinians, was one of hopelessness and lack of optimism for the future.

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the Palestinians have heard the message from the UN, and have embarked upon a spree of terror attacks across Israel that have killed and injured innocent people.  In the process, children have been orphaned, parents have lost children, and wives have lost their husbands.  Even though the wave of violence has been blamed by Palestinian leaders on events that have recently taken place on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the violence cannot be attributed to these events in any way.  The events on the Temple Mount are simply part of this violence that we have seen elsewhere, rather than a cause of it.  The cause of the violence can be traced back to the words in the UN General Assembly Hall that reflect the general message that has been in evidence for the Palestinians for some time.  A lack of hope and optimism, and a feeling that there is little to lose, can cause people to behave in extreme and sometimes illogical ways.  This is clearly the case with Palestinian people right now.  It is too simplistic to explain the current events as simply arising spontaneously out of a lack of hope.

It is frequently the case that the actions of the government serve to give their people the optimism that drives them to feel motivated or not.  Actions by a national government can easily trigger a positive feeling and spirit amongst its populace, and equally cause it to dry up as a result of actions that drain their mood.  This can sometimes be triggered by relatively mall things that are of greater concern to people. It seems to me that the spirit of the Palestinian people has been drained by the negative actions of Mahmoud Abbas.  How can a nation feel motivated when your leader stands up in front of the international community and expresses views that are completely devoid of any optimism for the future?

The Palestinian Authority is not only guilty of milking their people of any optimism to the point that they have effectively given cause to this cycle of violence, they are also guilty of inciting them to continue this violence.  The word "intifada" has been mentioned many times in relation to this cycle of violence.  For those of us who lived through the previous 2 intifadas, this cycle of violence looks remarkably like an intifada.  We are told, however, that this is not an intifada.  The most commonly quoted reason is that the previous 2 intifadas were actively supported by the Palestinian Authority, with weapons, money and specific instructions being given by the authority.  On this occasion, according to what we are being told, the authority is not actively supporting the violence.  It is noticeable, however, that they are also not speaking out against this violence in any way.  This can surely be considered and interpreted to be support.  Those who are not speaking out against this wave of violence, are clearly seen to support it.  In my view, and according to the official definition, this is an intifada.

The involvement of the Palestinian Authority in previous intifadas was described as a "guiding hand" behind the scenes.  The Israeli government is telling us that, on this occasion, there is no guiding hand.  Having said that, there are some hallmarks of the current wave of violence that seem to be part of an orchestrated strategy.  The fact that the weapons of choice being used in the current round of attacks are stones that are being thrown, and knives being used for stabbing attacks, is different from intifadas in the past.  And it is also noticeable that many of those involved in attacks in the current wave of violence are youths and minors.  This certainly tells a better story for putting on social media.  Minors are clearly problematic from a prosecution perspective under Israel law, when the perpetrators are arrested.  They cannot be treated in the same way as adults are treated under the law, and this may be one of the reasons why this strategy is being employed.  As much as we are being told that the violent attacks are spontaneous actions by individuals on the ground, it seems that the attacks are coordinated and part of a strategy.

A recent development in the wave of violence, is the involvement of Israeli Arabs.   Some of the attacks carried out in Jerusalem, have been undertaken by Arabs who are citizens of Israel.  Over the past few days, protests have been seen in Israeli Arab cities up and down Israel.  These are protests in support of the wave of violence directed against Jewish Israelis.  The involvement of Israeli Arabs is a dangerous development, and creates a dilemma for the Israeli government.  The interior minister has threatened to withdraw Israeli citizenship from any Israeli found to be involved in the violence.  Even this is more of a knee-jerk response, and not necessarily a longer-term solution.

The responsibility for this wave of violence falls directly on the Palestinian Authority.  And this is not only because of their responses (or lack of responses) over the past few weeks.  This responsibility goes back many years during the time that they have educated their children for conflict and violence against Israel and Jews.  Such education takes a long time to undo, perhaps even a number of generations.  Of course, this is not aided by staying silent when their people carry out heinous attacks on innocent people, and by blaming Israel for a change in status on the Temple Mount.  This is an outrageous accusation, that is simply designed to get support from fellow Muslims around the world, and to return the Palestinian issue back to the front pages of the newspapers.

Despite the fact that the support and the "guiding hand" of the Palestinian Authority is different from what it has been in the past, this is an intifada in definition and action.  The authority has adopted a policy of maintaining a feeling of hopelessness amongst its people, in order to build hatred and despondency that is being channelled against Israel and Israelis.  It continues to educate its children for hatred, war and conflict rather than education for peace and coexistence.  The speeches at the United Nations showed clearly that Israel stands for all that is positive and optimistic, while the Palestinian Authority stands for the opposite.  Until this is rectified, there can never be peaceful coexistence in this land.