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East Jerusalem's youth: Proof that managing the conflict doesn't work

The blood of East Jerusalem’s children, and the blood of their Israeli victims, is a reminder of one thing: there is no way to ‘manage’ the conflict.

A Palestinian youth prepares to throw pieces of concrete during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, October 5, 2015. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian youth prepares to throw pieces of concrete during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, October 5, 2015. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

A year of mostly bitter, devastating events has finally come to an end. From the murder of 16-year-old Shira Banki at the Jerusalem pride parade to the grotesque behavior of the Israeli Right to the growing exclusion of Arabs from the public space, 2015 leaves behind it very few reasons for optimism. This was the year in which women continued to be murdered in horrifying numbers across the country, Gaza continued to bleed, Israel’s foreign relations took another turn for the worst, and the occupation’s roots became evermore entrenched.

For me, however, the story of the year was the Palestinian uprising in East Jerusalem, which was led by teenage boys and girls, and was nicknamed the “Intifada of the Knives” by the Israeli media. This is the story of never-ending protests in the city’s neighborhoods, of the struggle over Al-Aqsa Mosque, and of those who chose the path of violence — of knives, axes or vehicle ramming — knowing full well that making such a choice will likely lead to the end of their life. This is the story of despair in its deepest sense.

There is no ‘managing’ the conflict

In a reality where the circle of violence forced upon us by the occupation has led many Israelis to accept that we must “live by the sword” — as was recently confirmed by Prime Minister Netanyahu — the murderous stabbings by these teenagers forced us to examine some very basic insights:

Firstly, waking up from the illusion of “managing the conflict.” The violent scenario in which children take knives and head out to stab others is everything but “managed.” This is the ultimate expression of the violent chaos toward which continuing occupation leads us. And this is happening in annexed East Jerusalem, the place where Israeli rule was supposed to reach the peak of effectiveness. As opposed to the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority has limited governing power, there is no sovereign in Jerusalem apart from Israel. Israel controls it all: from security to municipal management over civilian affairs.

Ultra Orthodox Jews mourn at the funeral of Yeshayahu Krishevsky, that was killed during an attack by a Palestinian earlier today, in West Jerusalem, October 13, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Ultra Orthodox Jews mourn at the funeral of Yeshayahu Krishevsky, that was killed during an attack by a Palestinian earlier today, in West Jerusalem, October 13, 2015. (Activestills.org)

This is where the carrot, which comes in the form of social privileges that come with residency status (Palestinians in East Jerusalem hold Israeli residency, not citizenship), was meant to dull the pain from the stick that repeatedly bruises the city’s Palestinians. The youth’s uprising is proof that this simply doesn’t work. Those same children, who are of no interest to Israelis — not when police officers harass students outside schools, not when there aren’t enough classrooms to begin with, and not when they lose their eyes (or lives) — the blood of these children and their Israeli victims is a reminder of one thing: there is no way to “manage” this conflict.

Warning sign

This uprising teaches us an important lesson about the standard tools used by Israel to oppress the Palestinian population in the occupied territories, first and foremost the violent repression of the local leadership. Since the 2001 closing of East Jerusalem’s Orient House — where PLO activity had taken place over the years — Israel continues to destroy any possibility for effective Palestinian leadership in East Jerusalem, be it on a municipal level or even inside the neighborhoods. Every attempt at organizing, including building a cultural center for children in the neighborhood of Silwan, is faced with violence on the part of the authorities, including arresting minors.

By doing so, the state itself puts these children on the front lines of the struggle. As East Jerusalem’s infrastructure collapses and the astounding rates of poverty essentially paralyze the older generation, the State of Israel is paving the way for the young generation to choose the nightmare scenario.

Palestinian protesters sit on top of the separation wall during clashes with Israel security forces in Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem, October 11, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Palestinian protesters sit on top of the separation wall during clashes with Israel security forces in Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem, October 11, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

This nightmare, which played out in the streets of the city, has taught us an important lesson about Israeli society and the way we act in times of crisis. It forced us to face the bitter truth that Israeli society can so quickly turn into the executioner when under threat, and that we are essentially opting out of establishing basic ethical norms for ourselves in the violent reality we live in. The lethal knives in the hands of East Jerusalem’s youth have become our mirror, and what a horror it is to look at ourselves.

I chose this story not because the youth of East Jerusalem symbolize heroism — the opposite is true. I chose it because it captures the violent, unavoidable path that a reality of oppression that affects both Palestinian and Israeli society. This is our warning sign — my hope is that we heed those warnings come next year.

A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Gustav

      But this isn’t new. This has been going on and off for nearly 100 years. A nationalist conflict between two peoples.

      The Arabs always bet on the idea that we Jews will blink first and that in the long haul they will win and we will leave in droves to escape their violence.

      No, there is no managing this conflict so long as the Arabs have the incentive to continue the confrontation instead of reaching solutions. So what incentives do they need? They need to be made to realize that their violence will cost them a heavy enough price which they will not be willing to pay. Is that possible? If this would be Russia or China, then the answer is definitely yes. They have already demonstrated that it is possible. But since this is Israel, it may not be possible. So what do we do?

      We either grin and bare it while still making them pay a price and wait another 100 years till they grow some brains. Or we just give up and leave. I vote for the first choice because there is a saying here: Ein breira. The locals know what it means.

      PS
      The choice which the extreme leftists dangle is no choice at all. Simply put, it is a recipee for national suicide.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Well, yes and no. (In regards to Russian and China.)

        Russia demonstrated it could occupy, brutally suppress and totally control the population of East Germany and several other Eastern European states for quite some time, but not forever, and in 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and it was not a controlled process. And even the Soviets did not try to transfer their population into occupied Germany. They’re trying to in Ukraine with mixed results but at least the Russians aren’t whining about being “singled out” by anti-Slavic Europeans. And they don’t attribute every criticism to “anti-Slavicism.” Let’s give those Russians credit where credit is due

        China is getting away with its brutal occupation of Tibet for now but if it tried to swallow Taiwan it would bite off more than it can chew for sure. In any event, Israel is not China. Israel’s occupation is much less sustainable than China’s. China is huge. China depends on no one the way Israel depends on the U.S. The number of Tibetans is dwarfed by the number of Han Chinese and these populations exist within a vast, isolated land mass. On the other hand, by 2035 the Jewish population of Israel/Palestine is projected to be just 46 percent of the total, and within a land mass about 0.2% of China’s (while Israel’s population is roughly 0.6% of China’s). And China makes no pretensions to democracy and human rights. The differences are vast.

        Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          BEN:”Russia demonstrated it could occupy, brutally suppress and totally control the population of East Germany and several other Eastern European states for quite some time”

          I know Benny-leh, red herrings are easier to dismiss. But I was talking about Chechnya.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Bruce Gould

      @Boaz – if that’s the case then Israel will be stuck managing the lives of 6 or 7 million “animals” indefinitely, a possibility that Blue White Future ( http://bluewhitefuture.org/ ) believes may destroy Israel. So why not take their suggestion and unilaterally withdraw to the 67 lines – keep in mind that one of the founders of BWF is Ami Ayalon – so the Israelis can have their Jewish state and the Palestinians won’t have to worry about home demolitions, administrative detention, torture and land confiscation anymore?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        What an ugly, shameless man this Boaz character is. This repellent man is the face of right wing Israel? Wow.

        Reply to Comment
        • SkyHawk

          Ben, why do you use multiple aliases, including “Bruce Gould” to talk with yourself? Are you really that schizophrenic?

          Ok, Ben, now march out “Israel” an show us what a schizophrenic psychopath you are.

          Entertain us, Ben!

          Reply to Comment
          • Israel

            But of course, Ginger LIES, whenever you lose the plot, run out of other peoples’ ideas and legal arguments to copy and paste, or just want to spread vile anti-Semitic blood-libels about the indigenous Palestinians of the Holy Land, you melt away and disappear, being the little old creepy coward and Zionist anti-Semite you are, and re-appear as “Donkey of Judah”, “Daniel” or “SkyHawk”, to continue running around in circles, hurling anti-Semitic slurs and stalking your beloved “Ben”. Ziotard-leh Ginger LIES can barely string a sentence together, so instead chooses to run and hide from real people and uses “Donkey of Judah”, “Daniel” and “SkyHawk”, to distract and obfuscate and stalk her beloved “Ben”.

            And now, little old creepy Zionist anti-Semite and psychotic serial stalker Ginger LIES will respond as “Merkava”. Wait for it folks, here she comes…LOL.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Gustav

      @Lachlan
      Go back to the 1967 lines reminds me of an old phrase…

      “…this is my last territorial demand….”(ya don’t like this bit? That’s why you refuse to publish my post? Then think about it… What if we go back to the 1967 lines, evict hundreds of thousands of our people – yes our people – from their homes, and the Arabs keep on with their war against us? tell me, what then?).

      Uprooting several hundred thousand of our people from their homes then we would get more of the same. After all, before 1967 we faced Arab violence too. So what would change? Changing the clock is not the solution. It is just playing games or to put it another way, it is death in stages.

      On the other hand if the Arabs are really ready for peace then the so called settlements should not be an obstacle. Land swaps should be able to appease them. If not, then why not? My guess is that the only reason why not is because their aim is to inflict pain on us and if so, it does not bode well for their intentions. Moreover, the 1973 Yom Kipur war demonstrated what could happen if we have no strategic depth only a narrow 15 mile wide land strip where our major population centres and industry are. Gaza is also a lesson for us after withdrawing 10,000 of our people from their homes, with some of them kicking and screaming, all we got in return was more Arab violence. Nah, we are not willing to repeat that mistake again.

      As I said, the solution of the extreme left would lead to national suicide.

      PS
      Benny is part of the +972 staff. His last comment was regarding this post even though it wasn’t published. Yet he could see it? It does not reflect well on this publication. No surprise though, birds of a feather stick together…

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “Benny is part of the +972 staff. His last comment was regarding this post even though it wasn’t published. Yet he could see it? It does not reflect well on this publication.”

        Wow. Excuse me, but what on earth are you talking about? What more evidence do I need that you are unhealthily obsessed with +972, unhealthily obsessed with me, have Benny on the brain, are not well?

        Who’s Lachlan?

        Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          I hate those who hate my country. You want to call that an obsession? I have no problems with that.

          Reply to Comment