Israel Escalates Punitive Measures Against Palestinians in Jerusalem
Economist Shir Hever says more repression will not subdue the anger stemming from decades of occupation, but resistance could potentially undermine Israel’s arms export industry and the state’s practice of managing conflict without political compromise
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
A renewed surge of violence between Israelis and Palestinians is reaching a boiling point. What seemed to set off this series of lethal attacks began October 1 when an Israeli couple was shot and killed in the West Bank. This soon set off a series of more killings and more violence on both sides, and on October 7 this video was captured during clashes in between Ramallah and Beit El settlement. You can see Israeli plainclothes undercover officers apparently shooting an unarmed Palestinian youth in the leg at point-blank range, while other undercover officers hold him down. Now Jerusalem’s mayor is urging Israelis to carry firearms at all times.
Joining us to put all of this in context is our guest, Shir Hever. He’s an economist studying the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories for the Alternative Information Center. Thanks for joining us, Shir.
SHIR HEVER: Thanks for having me, Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: So Shir, help us understand what we’re witnessing here. After seeing all of these images and hearing of all these news reports the question on everyone’s mind is whether there is another intifada coming. What’s your take, Shir?
HEVER: Well, this is really a question that you hear all over the news. And over the last couple of years there’s been a series of uprisings and demonstrations that many people were maybe too hasty to call this the third intifada, and then it turned, it fizzled out. And now I think people are concerned to make that statement so quickly. But I think we can say that extent of the clashes that we see now is much larger than we’ve seen in several years now, and it could easily deteriorate into a third intifada by the mere fact that the Israeli government is actually stoking the flames by using, by making no effort to address the causes, but just using punitive measures.
DESVARIEUX: I’m glad you mentioned the Israeli government. Where is the Israeli state leadership on this issue? I mentioned earlier the Jerusalem mayor is calling for Israelis to take up arms. Is their only strategy to weaponize?
HEVER: Yes. There was a press conference just the other day of the prime minister and the minister of defense. All they had to say to the public is that they’re going to use more arrests, more house demolitions, more shootings in order to attack Palestinians, to try to discourage them. The problem is that when a people lives under military occupation, when they live in unbearable conditions for decades, then these punitive measures, they lose their effectiveness. Because Palestinians just are so frustrated and furious at the way that they’ve been treated, and so despaired of the traumatic process that leads nowhere, and just–and they’re constantly told you have to endure and wait patiently, and their situation only gets worse. So to destroy more homes, arresting more people, is certainly not going to be the thing that stops the violence, it’s not going to deter people.
Now, the Israeli government is trying to push their technological solutions. They’re using drones, they’re using armored cars, and concentrated tear gas canisters and things like that, in the hope that that would somehow control the resistance and stop it. And the mayor, when he’s–and he’s actually the second mayor in Israel to make that call–calls on civilians to join in the fray by taking up arms, this is something that in a way shows the desperation of the Israeli authorities. They have no answer, really. And their only solution is to use violence with the hopes that somehow Palestinians will be cowed into submission.
DESVARIEUX: And let’s be honest, when he says calling for civilians to take up arms, he’s not talking about the Palestinians, I’m assuming. Let’s get a sense of what the open carry laws are in Israel, Shir. Could a Palestinian Israeli, for example, take up arms just as the mayor of Jerusalem is calling for? What are the laws on the books?
HEVER: Yeah. Well, unlike the United States Israel has very strict weapon-carrying laws. You have to have a license, and the license actually costs more money than the firearm itself, usually. So that means people would only go to the trouble to get the license if they’re very committed to carrying open their weapons. It’s not that they leave their weapons at home, usually. And the ministry of the interior–sorry, the ministry of public security can decide who will get the license and who will not. And there are criteria which are based on prior military service, and of course people who live in the colonies are very likely to get their license approved. And that, in a very subtle way, just marginalizes non-Jews, because usually they don’t go to the army.
So it is possible for some Palestinians to carry, to have a license to carry a weapon, but that’s quite rare. And the mayor, of course, was referring to the Jewish residents of Jerusalem. And when he took up an assault rifle and went to walk in a Palestinian neighborhood inside Jerusalem he was actually making a sort of statement that this is a war between people, an ethnic war, if you will. And as a mayor of Jerusalem he actually only considers himself to be the mayor of the Jewish residents of Jerusalem, and the Palestinians he considers to be his enemies.
DESVARIEUX: All right, Shir. Let’s turn the corner and talk about solutions. Let’s say you were there in Netanyahu’s ear and providing some guidance here, or even the mayor of Jerusalem. What should people be focusing on if they really want to quell this violence and the frustration of the Palestinian people? What needs to happen?
HEVER: Well, this is a question that’s very easy to answer, but also very hard to answer. Because the easy answer would be, well, the demands of the Palestinians are just to be free and equal, but can be simpler than that. They don’t want to live under occupation. They want to have political rights and freedom to move wherever they want, like any other person. And once they have that they have no reason to rebel, and no reason to cry out.
But that’s the easy answer. The more difficult answer is to understand that the whole regime of Israel is built on apartheid. It’s built on this idea of racial segregation. And on the concept of the Jewish state, which is a very specific idea of what a Jewish state means, an idea that it doesn’t give any room for equality for non-Jews. And I don’t see the Israeli government willing to give that up. I think what we see now is a very dangerous kind of test. Because the Israeli government is putting together the cutting edge of technology of repression. The most sophisticated security cameras. In fact, the old city of Jerusalem where a lot of this violence is now happening is maybe the most security monitored area in the world. It’s like a maximum security prison, basically, with cameras at every corner and police in all–and they’re not quite able to stop the violence. They’re not able to control it.
And so if that technology wins, if it’s possible to use technological means to repress people completely, like prisoners, that would be a very bad omen for the rest of the human race, because that is the kind of technology that Israel exports all over the world. However, if Palestinians are able to continue their resistance despite all this sophisticated technology, this is a big failing grade for the Israeli military technology. It would affect Israel’s arms exports, it would affect the whole model of the Israeli government that they can somehow manage the conflict without actually making political compromise.
So this is a very serious test that we’re seeing now. But of course I’m personally hoping for a third kind of solution to this sort of test, not to prove the technology effective or ineffective, but to prove the technology unnecessary if Palestinians find ways to put pressure on the Israeli government without resorting to violence, and that is actually up to the rest of the international community to make sure that there are means for Palestinians to use that kind of pressure. As long as Palestinians feel isolated diplomatically, as long as Israel receives international support, the conflict tends to become more and more physical and more and more violent.
But the more Palestinians know that they have international solidarity, and there’s pressure on Israel like in the form of the boycott movement, then the Israeli government feels the pressure much more strongly. They know they cannot answer this kind of international pressure with violence, house demolitions and so on. And that could bring a real change.
DESVARIEUX: All right. Shir Hever, joining us from Germany. Thank you so much for being with us.
HEVER: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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