Shannon McGarry | Middle East and North Africa Fellow
Beyond the festivities of the holy month of Ramadan, for Isaelis and Palestinians, the annual holiday has for years become trademarked with a theme of violence. The Israeli Government, led for fifteen years by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has persisted with a decades-long land dispute centred on the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes. Though 2021 has brought new leadership under Naftali Bennett, that violence has persisted in predictable fashion, with no clear end in sight.
Tensions have resurfaced through the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, a majority Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. Protests and subsequent Israeli crackdowns have followed in apprehension of the looming final court decision.
In May, Israeli police officers cut the cables to loudspeakers at al-Asqa mosque, Islam’s second holiest place, effectively preventing prayers from being broadcast. This was followed with the enforcement of stricter measures when Israeli security forces attempted to pre-empt large crowds by fencing off a popular plaza outside the Damascus gate.
Each of these events coincided with the storming of the al-Aqsa mosque by Israeli police and the annual ‘Jerusalem Day’ march by far-right activists celebrating Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967. All of these events represent a wider, ever-increasing discontent amongst Palestinians, owing to a feeling of being increasingly squeezed out of their homeland.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas have had their own interests in contributing to a state of ongoing violence. While earlier in the year Netanyahu struggled to maintain his grip on power, he persisted with a heavy-handed approach, a calculated decision undoubtedly made to serve his own political end.
For Hamas, the deterioration of relations also provided an opportunity to expand its role within the Palestinian movement. By firing rockets at Jerusalem in solidarity with Palestinians protesting at the Damascus Gate and Sheikh Jarrah, Hamas was able to reassert their commitment to the protection of Palestinians.
The conflict has even seen a Lebanese Palestinian refugee camp fire rockets toward Israel. This caused Jordanians to march in protest toward their border with Israel and briefly cross their border with Israel, triggering pro-Palestinian rallies around the globe.
Now under Naftali Bennett, the right wing politician and former head of the Yesha Council, the annexation and occupation of Palestine appears destined to continue. This can be seen in Silwan, a Palestinian-majority neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, which Israel has begun to demolish, despite the violence that resulted from the forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah.
Israel plans to demolish over one-hundred homes in Silwan’s Al-Bustan neighbourhood, leaving 1,500 Palestinians homeless, with the goal of establishing a large enough Jewish presence in East Jerusalem to ensure that it will never become the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Likewise Hamas appears unlikely to initiate much change, despite gaining favour over the Palestinian Authority (PA). Hamas’ calls for a third Intifada are unlikely to transpire.; despite having all the requisite ingredients, including increased Israeli oppression, which has spawned anger amongst Palestinians towards Israel. The fragmented Palestinian political scene, resulting from the PA’s inability to hold an election as well as ‘puppet authority’ accusations, has resulted in a lack of means to enable a sustained third intifada.
With yet another right-wing, pro-settlement Israeli Prime Minister, a lack of coordination between Palestinian groups, and lack of concrete support from international Arab states, an end to Israel-Palestine conflict remains distant. Israeli occupation and apartheid of Palestine is set to continue, and the next outbreak of violence looms on the horizon.
Shannon McGarry is the Middle East and North Africa Fellow for Young Australians in International Affairs.