IT is unlikely that clashes at the Al Aqsa mosque between Palestinians and Israeli police will end soon. At the core of the violence lies the Jewish state’s greed for land. The clashes began on Friday, and continued on Saturday. The epicentre of the tension is located in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, where six Palestinian families are facing forceful eviction from their ancestral homes, with the supreme court expected to rule on the decades-old case today.
Unless solved peacefully, the problem could unleash greater Palestinian anger. At Al Aqsa, the presence of Israeli police was itself a provocation, because tens of thousands of Palestinians had gathered to offer prayers. As they fired on the worshippers, Israeli policemen entered the sacred precincts leading to a worsening of the situation. On Friday, many of the over 200 injured Palestinians had to be hospitalised because of their injuries they sustained at the hands of Israeli police who used rubber-coated metal bullets and stun grenades.
While calls for restraint came from many capitals, one can see an unfortunate difference between what the European Union said and what the reaction from the US was. While the EU declared that “potential evictions” were cause of concern since they were “illegal under international humanitarian law” and called upon the Israeli authorities to “cease these activities and provide adequate permits for legal construction and development of Palestinian communities”, the US State Department merely called for avoiding “steps that exacerbate tensions …” though it evinced concern at the looming eviction.
By avoiding a reference to the illegality of the action by Israel, the US was creating a false equivalence between the Palestinians and Israeli police. Regretfully, hopes for a more realistic US attitude on the Arab-Israeli conflict seem unrealistic. US policy remains wedded to blind support for the Jewish state. The reality is that unless the Democrat administration reverses some of the follies committed by the Trump administration — such moving the US embassy to Jerusalem — tensions will only grow.
Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2021