The Israelis and their backers shouldn’t be so surprised that the Palestinians remain determined to resist
By Abdel Bari Atwan
The shock and astonishment being voiced by Israeli government leaders and settlers at the attack staged by 37-year-old Palestinian Nimr al-Jamal against Israeli security forces at a settlement north of Jerusalem – killing three and injuring a fourth – is not surprising. The Israelis had convinced themselves that the Palestinian people had surrendered, that the road to normalization with the Arab world was wide open to them and most of its ruling regimes had become loyal allies, and that security coordination with the Palestinian Authority (PA) would guarantee protection to their soldiers and settlers alike.
Just days before the operation, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir had declared that there was no need for the Palestinian-Israeli ‘dispute’ to continue. King Hamad of Bahrain had expressed his conviction that any boycotts of Israel should be ended (without His Majesty explaining why it is fine for him and his allies to boycott neighbouring Qatar, but impermissible for Palestinians and Arabs to boycott an oppressor that occupies their land).
Anyone who listened to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’ imploring speech at the UN General Assembly will appreciate the extent of the dejection felt by Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. For the umpteenth time, Abbas reiterated longstanding grievances: that the Authority he leads is bereft of any power; that Israel is not serious about negotiating a two-state solution; that its accelerating settlement expansion continues to eat into Palestinian territory. That is why Palestinians were quick to applaud the attack on the settlement guards. Palestinians political groups also hailed the operation, with Hamas and Islamic Jihad describing it as heroic, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) calling for a continuing campaign of attacks on settlements in order to make their presence costly for the occupation to maintain and impossible to protect.
The strange thing about the various statements made by the Israeli occupation authorities about the attack is that they express surprise that Nimr was not politically active, did not belong to any organization and had not been imprisoned, and that he had undergone security vetting before being granted a permit to do low-paid work in a settlement. It’s as though Israelis expect ordinary Palestinians – who suffer daily humiliation and insults at checkpoints and see their friends shot down by Israeli soldiers, homes destroyed and families made destitute, and settlements sprouting like mushrooms over the land of their forebears – to turn into obedient slaves of the occupation merely for having been humiliatingly granted a permit without which they would be unable feed their families.
The Israelis and their American and European backers are making a big mistake by supposing that once a few Arab rulers shake hands with Israeli leaders, that means the Question of Palestine has been resolved. These rulers do not represent their peoples. They do not even represent themselves: they are bereft of free will. Their decisions are taken for them, and are neither independent nor free. More importantly, the popular will to resist by all legitimate means remains powerful and potent, even if it can be suppressed for brief periods.
The Israelis were given many valuable opportunities to achieve peace. But they squandered them due to their arrogance and greed. They felt they were too powerful to need to compromise, and opted instead to impose an apartheid regime. These opportunities will not, in my opinion, be available again. Having scuppered a two-state solution, the Israelis now face a Palestinian people who believe in establishing an independent state in the entirety of the territory of Palestine based on coexistence and equality.
Nimr al-Jamal was an outwardly calm and tranquil person, but seething with anger and dignity within. He will certainly not be the last to take the path he did so long as Israel continues its occupation and rejects a just peace, with all the humiliations and deprivations that imposes.
For all their power and sophistication, Israel’s security agencies cannot prevent attacks like these, even if security cooperation with the PA is stapped-up 20-fold. What can they do to deter someone who is prepared to die in order to make the occupation pay a price? Shoot him?
The Israelis continue to demonstrate astonishing ignorance about the people they have forced to live under the yoke of their occupation for so long.