It’s impossible to understand today’s Israeli-Palestinian reality by looking — without any context — only at stabbings and vehicle attacks. Israel is not the only player in the game, and it must come to grips with that if the flames are to ever die down.
A difficult day has come to an end. Two stabbing attacks were carried out within a short span of time: one took the life of a young woman in Gush Etzion in the West Bank; the second took the life of a young soldier. At the time of writing, I can’t help but feel that today’s bloodletting has yet to come to an end.
In this chaotic reality there is only one thing one can say for sure: by the end of the day, Israel’s cabinet ministers and MKs will compete over who can come up with the most furious, shocked and fiery responses; who will pull out the biggest stick to strike back at terrorism; and who will summon the Israeli public’s anxieties in order to intensify them for the sake of political gain. So just before our leaders reach for the keyboard or the first open microphone, perhaps it would be wise to say a few things.
The terrible terrorist attacks that took place today are part of a campaign that the Israeli government is able to but does not want to curb – a campaign that it knowingly emboldens. We can only guess how many politicians and security establishment types will appear on our televisions in the next newscast, imploring us to view reality strictly through a contextless prism of the latest events: “they” don’t want us here; “they” are thirsty for Jewish blood; “they” are a threat we must deal with forcefully. And whoever doesn’t understand all this and goes out to protest must go “there.
The security forces have already had to deal with the ineffectiveness of our heavy-handed and forceful policy in Jerusalem. But the truth is that no solution will work as long as we refuse to see the situation with a panoramic view that takes into account all its components. And those components include Palestinians’ deep and real fear about Israel’s latest moves to change the status quo in the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. It includes the Palestinian understanding that Palestinian lives, whether in Israel, the West Bank or Gaza are worthless. It includes the recognition that Israel is constantly minimizing the chances for a nonviolent Palestinian struggle, while strengthening its hold on the occupied territories every day.
In order to understand what is happening here one must recognize the fact that these extreme acts of violence are not disconnected from, say, the cabinet’s recent decision to support automatically extending Israeli law to settlements in the West Bank. These acts of violence are not disconnected from the decision to forbid Palestinians from riding on the same buses as settlers. They are not disconnected from contingency plans for the expropriation of thousands of acres of land in the West Bank in order to pave apartheid roads, from allowing settlers to take over Palestinian homes or from the collective punishment imposed on residents of East Jerusalem.
Making these connections is in no way intended to justify today’s stabbing attack, or any other act of violence. But making these connections allows us to understand a crucial point: Israel cannot continue to act as if it is the only player in the game, while at best totally ignoring the Palestinian side and at worst continuing to oppress and dispossess, all the while expecting everything to be business as usual. If the rules of the game as they are written by Israel are “take all you can” – through land expropriation, settlement building and legislation — then the Palestinian version will be “strike back as hard as you can.” This, of course, is a disastrous course for both sides.
This doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game, and one side’s gain needs not – or rather, cannot – come at the expense of the other.
The definition of the word “neighbor” in Persian is, one with whom you share the shade. Our neighbors here are the ones with whom we share the same shade. Israel must make a decision: either we are saved along with our neighbors, or we both go down together.
This article was first published on +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.