Jerusalem, the city sacred to millions of Christians, Muslims and Jews has gone up in flames with hundreds of Palestinian (original citizens now living under Israeli occupation for over 50 years) wounded in clashes with Israeli police. Over a hundred people, including children have been killed in yet ongoing violence.
The violence itself is an outgrowth of over a half century of Israeli military occupation of Palestine, its growing infringement of Palestinian rights and apartheid-like policies governing Palestinian citizens living under illegal Israeli occupation.
Long bottled-up anger exploded into violence after a series of events came to a head at the beginning of last week.
The groundwork for the present conflict was laid by ex-US President Trump. He backed Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and recognized Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its capital, thereby ending all hopes of a resolution of the decades-long conflict based on the UN’s two-state resolution with Jerusalem as capital of both states.
The trigger to the ongoing violence was, the attempts by Israeli police to stop customary gatherings at the Al-Aqsa Mosque following night time prayers during Ramadan. The aggressive tactics used by police to disperse the gathering led to retaliation by Palestinians.
Additionally a spate of intercommunal violence, where hundreds of far-right Israeli settlers marched down city streets chanting “death to Arabs” and plans to evict hundreds of Palestinians from homes they have lived in for decades in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, and giving them to Jewish settlers was the spark which ignited the explosion.
Under Israeli law, Jews who can prove a title from before the 1948 ‘war of independence’ can claim back properties in the city. However, Israel does not recognize Palestinian rights to their lands and homes.
BBC quoting Palestinian medical officials reported the clashes had led to at least 132 people having been killed in Gaza since Monday. The numbers included 32 children, 21 women, and 950 others wounded. Israel continues to claim that it is targeting members of Hamas, and Hamas are the elected representatives of the Gazan people. Civilian casualty figures however paint a different picture.
Unfortunately, the world remembers the Palestinian problem only when a major bloody conflict breaks out with a large loss of life and damage to property. The response has been the oft-repeated call for both parties to ‘step back’. Had it not such a sad situation, the position taken by the present US regime on the issue would appear to be hilarious.
US President Joe Biden condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian groups in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday. He also conveyed support for “Israel’s legitimate right” to defend itself, while Secretary of State Blinken demanded Palestine President Abbas make an unqualified apology to Israel!
Neither Biden nor his Secretary of State made any mention of Palestinians right to defend themselves from aggression by Israeli security forces or far-right Israeli settlers. Nor did the US President or his chief diplomat, fault Israel for escalating the conflict through unnecessary confrontation with the Palestinian population.
Be that as it may, since the United Nations set up Israel on Palestinian territory, millions of Palestinians have become refugees - Palestinian refugees are citizens of Mandatory Palestine, and their descendants, who fled or were expelled from their country over the course of the 1947–49 Palestine war (1948 Palestinian exodus) and the Six-Day War (1967 Palestinian exodus). Most Palestinian refugees live in or near 68 Palestinian refugee camps across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
As of 2019, more than 5.6 million Palestinians were registered with UNRWA as refugees, of which more than 1.5 million live in United Nations Relief and Works Agency run (UNRWA) camps. On December 11, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted Resolution 194, which affirmed the Palestinians right to return to their homes.
Yet, Israel continues to construct ‘Jews only’ settlements in the occupied territories. As of January 30, 2020, there were around 130 government-approved Jewish settlements, and 100 unofficial ones, which are now home to around 400,000 Israelis in the West Bank, with an additional 200,000 Israelis residing in 12 neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem.
Under the rules of warfare, the transfer by an occupying power of its civilian population into the territory it occupies is a war crime.
So whose rights are being violated?