Palestinian lives matter

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Thursday 2 Feb 2023

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Egypt, Palestine and Israel this week was mainly aimed at “de-escalating tensions” and to “restore calm” following one of the deadliest weeks in recent years, in which more a dozen Palestinians and seven Israelis were killed.


Probably the sense of urgency was heightened in the Western media because of the number of Israelis killed in the same week. The fact that the victims had just finished their prayers ahead of the Jewish Sabbath, and that the attack coincided with the “World Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust,” allowed Israel to cover up the atrocities it has been committing daily against Palestinians, killing them in cold blood and denying them their basic rights, showing more clearly than ever how they have been living under racist occupation for decades.

Only a day before the Friday attack in Jerusalem, Israeli occupation soldiers raided the West Bank town of Jenin, killing 10 Palestinians, mostly civilians and bystanders. Yet this was not met with a similar world uproar, seen as business as usual: yet another routine Israeli incursion into Palestinian territories that might have got slightly out of hand, killing more than the average two to five Palestinians reported daily in the news.

In January alone, and since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office heading a coalition dominated by right-wing, fundamentalist ministers who won their posts on a platform of calls to deport Palestinians, more than 30 Palestinians were killed in attacks similar to that in Jenin a week ago. Even before Netanyahu became prime minister, the UN described 2022 as the deadliest in terms of Palestinian deaths since 2005, with more than 170 killed, and this happened when a supposedly “moderate” Israeli government was in office.

The fact that Palestinian suffering under occupation has accumulated while all hope of even restarting the long ignored peace process has faded led to increasing calls for a new intifada. In an extremely volatile regional and international scene, this is happening away from the Palestinian Authority that has been pressured, and even subjected to sanctions for restoring to the International Court of Justice in an attempt to provide protection for its people and condemn Israeli crimes.

It was indeed worth noting that the Palestinian who carried out the attack in Jerusalem was a young 21-year-old man moved by the funerals of the 10 Palestinians massacred in Jenin a day earlier, the tears of their mothers and loved ones. On the second day, a 13-year-old Palestinian attempted to shoot two Israeli settlers with a hand-gun, also reflecting the sense of desperation and pain among Palestinians regardless of age. The fact that the two attacks were carried out by lone youngsters who have no political affiliation with any of the Palestinian movements should be a clear warning sign that Palestinians will not accept being killed and humiliated under occupation while the world remains indifferent to their plight.

Now with an Israeli prime minister who has intentionally avoided even the mere mention of rising tension and bloodshed in his introductory remarks with Blinken following his arrival in Israel on Monday, talking instead on the Iranian threat and hopes to continue normalising ties with Arab nations, along with his partners in government such the ministers of national security and finance who have been pressing for increasing settlements, demolishing Palestinian homes and providing more personal weapons to Israelis to be able to arbitrarily kill Palestinians, the US and world reaction should definitely go beyond calls for de-escalation or restoring calm.

As stated by Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri in his joint conference with Blinken on Monday, “we need to work not only to calm things down and de-escalate tensions, but also to find an appropriate political path in accordance with the rules of international legitimacy and in accordance with international consensus on the need to reach a permanent and comprehensive solution through a negotiation process, a political path based on the principle of a two-state solution.”

Indeed it is a positive development that Secretary Blinken and the current US administration have affirmed their commitment to the “two state solution” in official statements, at a time when Netanyahu and his coalition government do not consider talks with Palestinians even a priority. Yet what matters is action on the ground, whether in terms of effort to support the Palestinian Authority, or of speaking out publicly against Israeli practices that only increase Palestinian anger and the sense that Palestinian blood, death and suffering do not matter.

The current Israeli government is raising the alarm even among some of Israel’s close supporters because of its right-wing, fundamentalist rhetoric, as well as among the Israeli public who have obviously been divided in recent years over the kind of government they want. However, Palestinians living under occupation should not pay the price for internal Israeli division, or be Netanyahu’s scapegoat as he attempts to wriggle out of legal and political trouble.

Netanyahu, and the United States, will also soon need to recognise that it is delusional to request normalising ties with more Arab countries if Israel continues killing Palestinians with impunity, while providing no sense of hope that a process will restart to gain their long-delayed, basic rights as equal human beings. 

* A version of this article appears in print in the 2 February, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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