By Dr. Samah Jabr
President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech at the UN, which had been preceded by inflated propaganda claiming that it would be a “bombshell”, turned out to be no more than a litany of well-worn complaints and appeals to the international community. The speech certainly failed to raise any new challenges, offer new strategies or inspire hope among the Palestinians burning under Israeli occupation. A few days after the speech, when Israel announced that the Palestinian Authority had assisted in the capture of a group in Nablus who were accused of committing an attack on illegal settlers, Abbas’s response – the usual tired threat not to commit to agreements that are being breached by Israel – was revealed to be no more than a “sound bomb”.
Palestinian youths had hoped that the announcement would mean that the PA would stop acting like Israel’s subcontractor in the effort to crush Palestinian resistance. They then stood up to fight the Israeli appropriation of the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, to resist the closing of the city to its own people and to oppose the relentless attacks by settlers on villagers in the West Bank, such as the one that resulted in burning a family alive, a crime for which no one has been brought to account.
These birds of freedom are hunted down, one by one. They are pushed into Israeli as well as Palestinian cages, yet they are blamed in accordance with the typical dynamics of abuse: “They brought all that suffering upon themselves and their families!” We have heard similar comments about women who have been raped: “She asked for it; she provoked it; she is the one to blame for it.” Israel has ordered the shooting of any Palestinian child who is seen throwing stones, mandated minimum sentences of 4 years and placed prohibitive fines on their parents. All of these measures only invite more children to defy the ruthlessness of Israeli laws.
Muhannad, aged 19; Amjad, 17; Fadi, 18; Hadil, 18; and Shurouq, 18 are just a few of the Palestinian youngsters who have been executed without due process in the past couple of weeks, accused of carrying weapons, holding or attacking Israeli settlers or soldiers with knives. Their homes will be demolished to punish their parents for their biological link to their children (even though collective punishment is prohibited by international law).
The Israeli police are trigger-happy when it comes to Palestinians but so patient with Jewish criminals. Yishai Schlissel stabbed six participants in a gay pride march last March, but no police officer shot him. Settlers’ crimes against Palestinians are observed, covered-up and even encouraged by the Israeli authorities, while no Palestinian gets away with any act of resistance. Undercover Israeli police enter Palestinian hospitals to kidnap injured people under the very gaze of the Palestinian police, but Israel always fails to arrest Israelis who kill Palestinians; when Palestinians take photographs of the criminal act, the Israeli authorities find endless excuses to minimise the penalties.
In recent clashes, Israel made use of lawless settlers operating with impunity to terrorise Palestinians, shooting at passers-by and burning their properties, their crops and olive groves, vehicles and homes. Armed settlers were witnessed to have preceded the incursion of Israeli soldiers into villages surrounding Nablus. Given the complete impunity of the Israeli authorities, it is no surprise that some adventurous youngsters would try to break the chains of their helplessness, reasserting a sense of agency through dramatic action and seeking revenge for their humiliated nation and their raped country.
Today, many people are wondering whether or not the current upheaval will lead to a third intifada; this very name, like the first and second intifadas, is predictive of an ominous destiny of being aborted before the end of the occupation. Indeed, of it being aborted as soon as the politicians and negotiators are able to reap the rewards for their personal interests. My fear is that the motivation for this – the loss of freedom and loss of life that have brought us such indescribable anguish – will be exploited by our same tired, mummified representatives who care little about liberation or the national cause, whose only goal as subcontractors is to take advantage of Palestinian resistance to maintain their “mediator” jobs and to keep silent.
Let this not be a third intifada in which our hopes are thus dashed. Let this be a final Palestinian revolution that ends the occupation. Let all decent Palestinians, and their supporters internationally, do what it takes to ensure the survival of our birds of freedom. We must maintain the collective agency and the moral zeal of our revolution in the face of all oppressors, from within and without, for the ultimate liberation of our people and our land.
– Samah Jabr is a Jerusalemite psychiatrist and psychotherapist who cares about the wellbeing of her community – beyond issues of mental illness. (This article was first published in Middle East Monitor)