Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tensions Escalate

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have escalated in recent weeks after three Palestinian gunmen opened fire from the al Aqsa Mosque Compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, killing two Israeli policemen. In response, Israel increased its security measures, which alarmed Palestinians, who saw the installation of new security cameras as a move by Israel to expand its control at the Muslim-administered site. 

Over the weekend, thousands of Palestinians staged a mass prayer vigil in the streets surrounding the compound.

Israel responded to the predominantly peaceful demonstrations by firing rubber and live ammunition, tear gas, and stun grenades, wounding more than 900 of the protesters. 

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, though quick to condemn the violence against Israelis, has now declared that the Palestinian leadership will “freeze contacts” with Israel “on all levels.”

The escalating hostility and violence is perhaps predictable, given the lack of any recent movement toward the resolution of the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the brutal conditions in Israeli jails – highlighted by a 40-day hunger strike by 1500 Palestinian prisoners, many who had been detained without trial – and above all, the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Gaza is on the brink of "systemic collapse.”

Two million people live hemmed in by armed checkpoints, concrete walls, wired fences, and a blockade at sea. For years, passage out of Gaza has been severely restricted, even during times of military siege. 

Infrastructure and agricultural lands have been shattered by Israeli military attacks, and the rebuilding of homes, schools, hospitals, farms, and other facilities has been slow, due to Israel’s restrictions on the movement of supplies. 

Throughout Gaza, electricity is now limited to two hours a day. 

Ninety-seven percent of the aquafer has become unsafe for drinking. 

Over one million Gazans are moderately-to-severely food insecure, even if they are receiving food assistance. Unemployment has reached 42%. 

Fewer than two doctors serve every thousand people. And the population in Gaza is growing rapidly, increasing the pressure on living space, services, and opportunities for employment.

As in the worst days of the South African struggle, increasing the pressure on the occupying power through proven nonviolent methods such as boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) may eventually end the impasse and ease the suffering of the oppressed population. 

Ann Arbor Friends Meeting supports BDS, and in July, approved a Minute requesting Friends Fiduciary Corporation to exclude investment in companies that support or are complicit in Israel’s occupation, its economic exploitation and control of the Palestinian population, and/or violations of international law. 

Individual F/friends can also support UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency), which provides critical education, nutrition, and basic health services to five million Palestinian refugees.