UN Official Rejects Recent Violence as ‘New Normal’

Miroslav Jenča, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefs the Security Council. (Rick Bajornas, UN)

A senior United Nations official on Wednesday rejected the potential for current violence in the occupied Palestinian territory to become the “new normal,” calling on Palestinian and Israeli leadership to let go of “immediate fears.”

“The current circumstances should not be accepted as ‘the new normal.’ Israelis and Palestinians should not be resigned to living under the threat of violence,” Miroslav Jenca, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said to the UN Security Council.

The UN official said that a comprehensive strategy necessary to reduce violence must not rely entirely on “enhanced security measures,” but “must also address the primary elements motivating Palestinian anger.”

Violence increased at the start of October and has continued full-fledged into December. At least 124 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers since, and 19 Israelis have been killed in attacks carried out by Palestinian individuals.

Jenca lamented the lack of voices among leadership on both sides urging for restraint. The official cautioned against the rise of “extremist” actors “that want to capitalize on the darkest of human emotions.”

While the majority of attacks have been carried out without the organization of political factions, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has not publicly condemned the recent attacks or upsurge in demonstrations.

Palestinian political factions have also remained markedly absent from the public domain in the wake of recent violence.

Israeli authorities meanwhile launched a crackdown following the escalation, promoting a “shoot-to-kill” policy against Palestinians as well as a series of harsh measures throughout the occupied territory that rights groups have termed “collective punishment.”

“The injustices associated with an occupation which shows no prospect of ending feed into a perspective — particularly among the youth — that they have nothing to lose by sacrificing their lives,” Jenca told the Security Council.

The UN official cited extensive movement restrictions on Palestinians which limit access to basic services and livelihoods, as well as Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in the Jordan Valley.

Jenca also said that punitive demolitions carried out by Israeli authorities on the family homes of Palestinians convicted or accused of attacks constitute a “clear violation of international law, aggravate an already tense environment and may be counterproductive.”

Urging Palestinian and Israeli leadership to take steps towards a semblance of lasting peace in the area, Jenca called on both sides “to let go of their immediate political fears and focus on the greater good of achieving a sustainable long-term peace for the Palestinian and Israeli people.”


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