Palestinian-Israeli conflict at risk of turning into a religious war

What the Arabic-language press has to say about events in Jerusalem, featuring
Palestinians hang national flag from the demolished apartment of Abdel Rahman Al Shaludi, who attacked a  Jerusalem railway station last month. (AP /Mahmoud Illean)
Palestinians hang national flag from the demolished apartment of Abdel Rahman Al Shaludi, who attacked a Jerusalem railway station last month. (AP /Mahmoud Illean)

The attack by two Palestinian men on a West Jerusalem synagogue that left five dead and 13 injured points to the perilous path the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has recently taken, following a string of attacks and counter­attacks that have claimed the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis, said Randa Haidar in the West Bank-based daily newspaper Al Quds.

There are mounting fears that the recent escalation will plunge the Palestinian-Israeli conflict into a religious confrontation between Jews and Muslims, as violence and turmoil engulf many parts of the wider region, the writer noted.

The recent attack came against a backdrop of incitement against Palestinians by right-wing and nationalist Israelis, following the abduction and killing of three Israeli teen­agers in the West Bank in June, the murder of a Palestinian boy buried alive by Jewish settlers in revenge, the Israeli right-wing MPs demanding that Jews be allowed to pray in the Holy Sanctuary, and the Israeli police shutting Muslim worshippers’ access to the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

It also came after Jewish extremists set on fire mosques in the West Bank. Israeli authorities show no seriousness about punishing the assailants, but they are quick to inflict harsh punishment on any Arab who commits even a minor misdemeanour, the writer said.

This, coupled with Israel’s racist policies against Arabs in East Jerusalem, the depths of despair to which many Palestinians have sunk since Israel’s military attack on Gaza earlier this year, and the ensuing economic woes, have deepened hostilities and hatred between Jews and Muslims and helped give the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a religious dimension.

The recent wave of Palestinian attacks in East Jerusalem portends the emergence of a new generation of Palestinian militants who are not part of any organisation nor do they follow the orders of any Palestinian leadership. Acting as individuals driven only by outrage and a lack of hope, they launch attacks on Israeli targets with whatever means available to them, unfazed by the fact they will be killed in the process.

The recent tensions have fuelled speculation about a third intifada following the 2000 Al Aqsa intifada and the first intifada in 1987. Some commentators warn that this looming intifada is going to be more violent than its predecessors as the conflict risks turning into a religious confrontation.

Writing for the Jordanian daily newspaper Addustoor, Oraib Al Rantawi said that the clashes between Israelis and Palestinians are likely to spiral out of control and trigger a massive explosion in Palestine and beyond.

Israel is pushing ahead with settlement building and expansionist policies as Israel’s extremist figures dominate the country’s political and security institutions. Israeli politicians continue to renege on their agreements with Palestinians and Jordanians, whether those brokered by the US or by Egypt. This is because Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main concern is staying in government, not making peace with the Palestinians. It is also because the extremist lobbies have become too powerful to be contained.

This explains why the promises made early this month by Mr Netanyahu – during talks in Amman with US secretary of state John Kerry and Jordan’s King Abdullah of Jordan – never came to fruition.

Instead, Israel has tightened its stifling security grip on the Palestinians of Jerusalem. The Al Aqsa mosque has been repeatedly raided by police officers, and Palestinian women have been denied access to the mosque compound irrespective of their age.

Despite Israel’s promises in Amman, Tel Aviv has continued to inflict collective punishment upon Palestinians.

All of this was seen happening before the attack on the West Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday, which came in retaliation for the murder of a Palestinian bus driver.

The writer argued that all signs suggest that the clashes in and around Jerusalem could spark a third intifada. Such a possibility is strengthened by the fact that there exist Palestinian forces, Hamas in particular, that are willing to expand confrontation with the Israeli occupation.

Translated by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni

AEzzouitni@thenational.ae

Published: November 20, 2014 04:00 AM

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