Video: Israeli occupation, colonization at root of violence

On Friday, I appeared on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story, to debate the developments surrounding Wednesday’s Tel Aviv attack that killed four Israeli civilians.

The other guests were two former Israeli officials: Daniel Levy, of the European Council on Foreign Relations who worked as an advisor to one-time Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, and Mitchell Barak, who was a spokesperson for Shimon Peres when he was Israel’s president.

As Israeli leaders vowed revenge and began to impose collective punishment on the occupied Palestinian civilian population, Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai was the most high profile figure pointing squarely back at Israel’s occupation as the root cause of violence.

Israel is “maybe the only country in which another people is under occupation and in which these people have no rights,” Huldai told army radio.

“We can’t keep these people in a reality in which they are occupied and [expect] them to reach the conclusion that everything is alright and that they can continue living this way,” Huldai added, in reference to the Palestinians.

In an even more extraordinary statement, the father of Ido Ben Ari, one of the four victims of the shooting attack allegedly carried out by two Palestinian cousins at a Tel Aviv cafe, accused the Israeli government of making the situation worse.

“Last night, after the attack, the prime minister and two of his ministers arrived and yet another security cabinet issued decrees – not to return corpses, to put up barriers, to destroy houses, and to make lives harder,” the father said at his son’s funeral.

“These solutions create suffering, hatred, despair and [lead] to more people joining the circle of terror,” he added. “What’s needed is a solution rather than saying all the time that there’s nobody to make peace with.”

Israeli impunity

During the discussion, Daniel Levy agreed that “the basic dynamic is dictated by the fact that you have an occupying power and an occupied people … Israel controls the lives of the Palestinians in the territories.”

In such conditions, Levy said, spikes in violence would remain inevitable.

He also pointed out that Palestinian citizens of Israel “live in a nominal democracy, but [their] rights are increasingly squeezed.”

Levy argued that Israel’s actions, particularly its ongoing colonization of Palestinian land, were enabled by international powers that did nothing to stop it.

“Why would you expect Israel to behave any differently as long as Israel is treated with impunity?” Levy asked.

Resorting to standard Israeli government talking points, Mitchell Barak, by contrast, attempted to lay all responsibility on Palestinians.

I argued that the conditions Levy described amounted to apartheid and that Palestinians were therefore justified in calling for Israel’s total isolation and accountability through boycott, divestment and sanctions.

I also pointed out that Al Jazeera’s own framing of the discussion appeared to downplay Israeli violence against Palestinians.

In the host’s introduction and the correspondent’s report setting up the discussion, there was no mention of the fact that as four Israeli families were mourning, so was yet another Palestinian family.

On Wednesday morning, before the Tel Aviv attack, thousands attended the funeral of 20-year-old Jamal Dweikat in Balata refugee camp near Nablus in the occupied West Bank.

The youth was shot in the head last Friday by Israeli occupation forces in Nablus and later died of his injuries.

Dweikat’s father told the Ma’an News Agency that “Jamal was welcomed as a hero two times, once when he was released from Israeli prison and today as a martyr,” adding that he had last seen his son an hour before he was shot.

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I have great respect for you Ali Abunimah to not let the Israeli mouthpiece spread their propaganda! BDS works and that is why the Israeli government is working hard against it. Let this be clear the Isreali government is the occupier and the Palestinians are supposed to love being occupied and sing kumbaya with them. The root cause of all the violence is Israel's genocidal and oppressive killing machine that seeks to occupy more and more of the Palestinian's land! Long live Palestine!

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Isolated attacks on Israelis are the natural response of retaliation by Palestinians whom they continue to brutalize. Israeli brutality must end. The major step for protection of Jews is to move the illegal state of Israel off stolen Palestinian land to a location where Jews could safely thrive. - George Beres

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Israel and Palestine: How do you stop the violence? that a weird, naive question of Inside Story !
Iside Story could better ask the question what's the source of these increased violance?
Decades of brutal Israeli occupation, land theft of Palestine, daily increasing oppression ,no freedom, no basic rights, apartheid, mass detentions and deportations of Palestinians. Is that not enough reason for violance? How is living possible under these harsh, onbeareable, misery circustances?
The answer to Inside Story to stop the violence: End Israeli occupation of Palestine, execute the right of return for all Palestinain refugees. End the rasist apartheid system, Equal rights for all citizents of Israel wether they are jew, christian or muslem.

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As Daniel Levy and so many always contend, when describing what should be the focal point of struggle against injustice and oppression, “it’s about challenging the status quo”. I know that I’ve spat out the same platitude for decades from my comfortable little corner. And I’m sure to have been just as blindly hypocritical on many an occasion.
Daniel’s blindness here is seen in his contention that a real challenge can be made abstractly. While he asks “Why would you expect Israel to behave any differently as long as Israel is treated with impunity?” he urges that Israel’s increasingly hard line will offend the powers, which created the status quo, to the extent that they will finally make “the hard choices” that will (somehow) stop Israel’s bad behavior. He says we should remain focused on relying on what got us here to get us somewhere else when the oppression of the Palestinian people becomes just a little more obvious.
At first I was taken aback by Ali’s seemingly hostile reply to Levy’s apparently reasonable position but after some thought, I see Ali’s point and the fact that Levy, although he is clearly a very good man, follows a well-worn path that has led many a liberal into tacit support of the very status quo they condemn. In this particular instance Levy stands against altering the status quo by opposing a historically proven, democratically congruent and clearly effective and growing movement that concretely challenges Israel’s impunity.
I don’t see anything but BDS doing that. Maybe Daniel can explain more fully what he expects to happen.

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I think AA missed a really smart and important point made by DL, that the current internal chaos inside Israeli society and their crisis with the diaspora due to their increasingly psychotic, sadistic and reckless right wing policies, constitutes a great OPPORTUNITY to make big advancements on the diplomatic front for Palestinians and for raising awareness on the reality of Israel's crimes.

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I think that when Levy talks about spikes in violence and Israeli control he drives toward what should be his own conclusion; that the decision of whether to end the occupation is completely Israel's to make. He talks about this rare opportunity Palestinians have with the extreme direction Israel has gone in but he suspends logic, I think, when he fails to connect the spikes in violence - Israel's control of them and importantly, the commitment of not just Likud but the vast majority of powerful champions of Zionism in Israel and the diaspora, to the establishment of a "Greater Israel".
Who can believe that any western, liberal incarnation of "the Peace Process" can stand against that?
Just look at what's transpired here in the US this past week. Last week the Dem nominee and sitting VP had the evil Trump up against a wall that was crumbling behind him and had him falling dramatically in the polls. This week has Trump rebounding triumphantly with our own "spike in violence".
Just put that kind of power to turn the public into the hands of a government that largely controls events, or can whenever it will.
No! Unless Israel itself is subjected to whatever unaligned, unbeholden democratic force the world can generate, it will continue on it's present course. Could it be more clear that International Law is more in the way of an emblem and convenience for those with the power to ignore it?
So would a Palestinian Kristallnacht finally lead to independence. I don't know. I only know what it led to in the past and what the world does to prevent Israeli massacres today.

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This is unfair. When dozens of Palestinians are killed by the Israeli military, there is no mention of it in the news. However, when a Palestinian kills four Israelis, the news explodes with coverage. How come the Palestinian side is never mentioned!
"Truth is in the side of the oppressed" - Malcolm X

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.