Israelis are suffering through a wave of violent “lone wolf ” knifings and vehicle rammings in Israel and the occupied territories, followed by retaliations against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the West Bank. There have been many fatalities and injured. These attacks seem to be uncoordinated and perpetrated primarily by young Palestinians. However, Social Media, by disseminating videos of attacks, “how to” advice, and glorification of those young Palestinians who are killed, seems to be playing a role in spreading encouragement for copycat actions.
While these attacks don’t appear to be dictated from above, neither does it appear that Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, is having much success in stopping the violence and on a few occasions, has seemed to be stoking tensions.
Clearly, it is difficult for Israelis to go about their daily lives in such an environment. These attacks are succeeding in creating an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty in which Israelis need to be constantly on guard, never knowing where or when someone would approach with a knife, wishing to do harm. Indeed, this terror reached all the way to Boston when Ezra Schwartz a recent graduate of Maimonides, who was planning to spend a gap year in Israel, was gunned down last Thursday.
But, what then could be behind these Palestinian attacks? It is far too facile to characterize them as simply the result of “incitement,” or as the latest expression of allegedly perennial, anti-Semitic savagery; the situation is more complex.
Israeli security experts, according to Partners for Progressive Israel, diagnose the causes of the present violence “as the result of frustration, rage, and despair… Among others, Major General Nitzan Alon, chief of the General Staff Operations Directorate and former commander of IDF forces in the West Bank, and Brigadier General Guy Goldstein, deputy chief Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, have publicly stated that Palestinian rage and despair over the occupation and settler violence are primary causes of the current unrest.”
IDF Chief of Military Intelligence, Major General Herzl Halevi adds to this brew, tension over the Temple Mount and anger over the unsolved arson attack of the West Bank Palestinian Dawabsheh family as the main causes of the recent wave of terror.
It is folly to continue to deny the strong link between the occupation and the violence that it engenders. As Chemi Shalev concluded in a recent Haaretz column, “Recognizing the Occupation does not justify terror, but ignoring it completely is to ensure that it will persist for a long time to come.”The temperature must be lowered. Incitement from both Palestinian and Israeli leaders must cease, and both sides need to relax tensions over the Temple Mount.
Guaranteeing that the status quo on the Temple Mount will be retained, and working to dismantle the occupation, with its continued growth of settlements and Israel’s deepening control over Palestinians lives would go a long way toward relieving the tension. These are deleterious not only on the Palestinians, but to the soul and economy of Israel as well! For Israelis to live in security in a democratic homeland, and for Palestinians to live in dignity, both sides must find a way to restart negotiations toward a two-state solution that mutually respects the legitimacy of the other side.
(This article appeared previously in the Nov. 27 2015 Jewish Advocate)