COMMENTARY / Marina G. Reina
After weeks of rockets being fired from Gaza and the West Bank to Israel and Israeli air strikes, Israel and Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire in a no less heated environment. The conflict of the last days between Israel and Palestine has spread like powder in a spiral of violence whose origin and direct reasons are difficult to draw. As a result, hundreds have been killed or injured in both sides.
What at first sight seemed like a Palestinian protest against the eviction of Palestinian families in the Jerusalem’s neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, is connected to the pro-Hamas demonstrations held days before at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. And even before that, at the beginning of Ramadan, Lehava, a Jewish far-right extremist organization, carried out inflammatory anti-Arab protests at the same Damascus Gate. Additionally, the upcoming Palestinian legislative elections that Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas indefinitely postponed must be added to this cocktail of factors. To add fuel to the flames, social media have played a significant role in catapulting the conflict to the international arena—especially due to the attack in Al-Aqsa mosque that shocked Muslims worldwide—, and Hamas’ campaign encouraging Palestinian youth to throw into the streets at point of rocks and makeshift bombs.
Sheikh Jarrah was just the last straw
At this point in the story, it has become clear that the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah have been just another drop of water in a glass that has been overflowing for decades. The Palestinian side attributes this to an Israeli state strategy to expand Jewish control over East Jerusalem and includes claims of ethnic cleansing. However, the issue is actually a private matter between Jews who have property documents over those lands dating the 1800s, substantiated in a 1970 law that enables Jews to reclaim Jewish-owned property in East Jerusalem from before 1948, and a group of Palestinians, not favored by that same law.
The sentence ruled in favor of the right-wing Jewish Israeli association that was claiming the property. This is not new, as such nationalist Jews have been working for years to expand Jewish presence in East Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods. Far from being individuals acting for purely private purposes, they are radical Zionist Jews who see their ambitions protected by the law. This is clearly portrayed by the presence of the leader of the Jewish supremacist Lehava group—also defined as opposed to the Christian presence in Israel—during the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah. This same group marched through Jerusalem’s downtown to the cry of “Death to Arabs” and looking for attacking Palestinians. The fact is that Israel does not condemn or repress the movements of the extreme Jewish right as it does the Islamic extremist movements. Sheikh Jarrah is one, among other examples, of how, rather, he gives them legal space.
Clashes in the streets of Israel between Jews and Palestinians
Real pitched battles were fought in the streets of different cities of Israel between Jewish and Palestinians youth. This is the case in places such as Jerusalem, Acre, Lod and Ashkelon —where the sky was filled with the missiles coming from Gaza, that were blocked by the Israeli antimissile “Iron Dome” system. Palestinian neighbors were harassed and even killed, synagogues were attacked, and endless fights between Palestinians and Israeli Jews happened in every moment on the streets, blinded by ethnic and religious hatred. This is shifting dramatically the narrative of the conflict, as it is taking place in two planes: one militarized, starring Hamas and the Israeli military; and the other one held in the streets by the youth of both factions. Nonetheless, it cannot be omitted the fact that all Israeli Jews receive military training and are conscripted from the age of 18, a reality that sets the distance in such street fights between Palestinians and Israelis.
Tiktok, Instagram and Telegram groups have served as political loudspeakers of the conflict, bombarding images and videos and minute-by-minute updates of the situation. On many occasions accused of being fake news, the truth is that they have achieved an unprecedented mobilization, both within Israel and Palestine, and throughout the world. So much so that pro-Palestinian demonstrations have already been held and will continue in the coming days in different European and US cities. Here, then, there is another factor, which, while informative and necessary, also stokes the flames of fire by promoting even more hatred. Something that has also been denounced in social networks is the removal by the service of review of the videos in favor of the Palestinian cause which, far from serving anything, increases the majority argument that they want to silence the voice of the Palestinians and hide what is happening.
Hamas propaganda, with videos circulating on social media about the launch of the missiles and the bloodthirsty speeches of its leader, added to the Friday’s sermons in mosques encouraging young Muslims to fight, and to sacrifice their lives as martyrs protecting the land stolen from them, do nothing but promote hatred and radicalization. In fact,
It may be rash to say that this is a lost war for the Palestinians, but the facts suggest that it is. The only militarized Palestinian faction is Hamas, the only possible opposition to Israel, and Israel has already hinted to Qatari and Egyptian mediators that it will not stop military deployment and attacks until the military wing of Hamas surrenders its weapons. The US President denied the idea of Israel being overreacting.
Hamas’ political upside in violence and Israel’s catastrophic counter-offensive
Experts declare that it seems like Hamas was seeking to overload or saturate Israel’s interception system, which can only stand a certain number of attacks at once. Indeed, the group has significantly increased the rate of fire, meaning that it has not only replenished its arsenal in spite of the blockade imposed by Israel, but that it has also improved its capabilities. Iran has played a major role in this, supplying technology in order to boost Palestinian self-production of weapons, extend the range of rockets and improve their accuracy. A reality that has been recognized by both Hamas and Iran, as Hamas attributes to the Persian country its success.
This translates into the bloodshed of unarmed civilians to be continued. If we start from the basis that Israeli action is defensive, it must also be said that air strikes do not discriminate against targets. Although the IDF has declared that the targets are bases of Hamas, it has been documented how buildings of civilians have been destroyed in Gaza, as already counted by 243 the numbers of dead and those of injured are more than 1,700 then the ceasefire entered into effect. On the Israeli side, the wounded reported were 200 and the dead were counted as 12. In an attempt to wipe out senior Hamas officials, the Israeli army was taking over residential buildings, shops and the lives of Palestinian civilians. In the last movement, Israel was focusing on destroying Hamas’ tunnels and entering Gaza with a large military deployment of tanks and military to do so.
Blood has been shed from whatever ethnical and religious background, because Hamas has seen a political upside in violence, and because Israel has failed to punish extremist Jewish movements as it does with Islamist terrorism and uses disproportionated defensive action against any Palestinian uprising. A sea of factors that converge in hatred and violence because both sides obstinately and collectively refuse to recognize and legitimate the existence of the other.