Friday, 14 May 2021

Spiral of violence in the Holy Land

 Those of us old men have seen it all before. An extremist politician wants power so he commits an inflammatory act which provokes violent retaliation on the part of Muslim Palestinians which in turn gives licence to the Israel military to bomb the locations of terrorist leaders. FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) is a very fertile ground for nationalist and authoritarian political campaigning In 2000, it was Ariel Sharon who jumped up and down on the Temple Mount leading to what is known as the Second Intifada. It worked for Sharon, because in 2001 he was elected prime minister.

In 2021, prime minister Netanyahu is in trouble. He has been unable to form a new government following a hung election, and thus has lost his immunity from prosecution. The charges of bribery and corruption which have been hanging over him for years have finally come to court. President Rivlin has asked the leader of the opposition to Netanyahu, Yair Lapid, to form a government. Lapid seemed on the brink of succeeding, with the support of the Palestinian Arab party. It is not yet clear who authorised the attack by security forces on the worshippers breaking their Ramadan fast in the al-Aqsa moque, or whether there was a prompt from on high to extremists to demonstrate on the eve of "Jerusalem Day", but the resulting conflict certainly aids Netanyahu. The formation of a cross-cultural government has been inhibited and in this period of limbo "Bibi"  remains in de facto control of Israel. 

Israel rightly condemns Hamas's indiscriminate rocket fire into residential areas of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Tel Aviv. The rockets may be home-made, but they are lethal. However, Israel's more targeted sophisticated attacks, involving artillery, warplanes and gunboats, while taking out identified Hamas leaders, have caused collateral damage. Civilians, including children, have been killed and buildings destroyed. There may be a silent tail of deaths in the coming winter as a result of homelessness. The relatve death toll on both sides tells a story, though I recommend listening to and reading a wide variety of reputable sources to get something like balance.

The hopes of the 1990s for peaceful coexistence in the Middle East have been dealt another blow. Israel itself is increasingly a country ill at ease with herself. A respected Israeli writer, producer and journalist has Tweeted:

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