Last month, a Palestinian sheikh and member of the Hamas movement launched an armed attack against Israeli settlers and soldiers in Jerusalem’s old city. The attack, hailed by local Palestinians as a heroic act of resistance, has encouraged an escalation in anti-occupation activities, such as protests, at a time when Israel is ethnically cleansing thousands of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.
An armed attack in Jerusalem’s old city, using the Carlo submachine gun, killed one Israeli and injured four others. The attack, carried out by Sheikh Fadi Abu Shkhaydam, a Jerusalemite from Shuafat refugee camp, who was killed at the scene, has now resulted in a large amount of anxiety from Israel’s occupation forces. The situation has even led to the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem urging its citizens not to travel to the old city for fear of violence in the area.
Israel considers the armed attack as a terrorist incident, carried out against civilians. Yet for Palestinians, they see it as a legitimate attack on serving members of Israel’s military (an act of ‘armed rebellion’ against an occupying force is protected under international law) and settlers who live in illegal settlements. Whatever you think of the incident, one thing is completely clear, the attack was announced by Jerusalem’s Hamas representative to have been in direct response to Israeli attacks on the Palestinian people and only arose out of a desperate situation.
The people of Shuafat refugee camp filled the streets on Sunday night, in full support of Fadi Abu Shkhaydam’s operation, and the reasoning behind this is also clear. It also signaled that this action had sparked a change in the mentality of many Palestinians who had remained patient and silent in the face of repeated Israeli violations against their people and Holy sites.
Hamas spokesperson, Mohammed Hamadeh, told Palestinian news outlet Shehab Agency that the operation came “in response to the incursions and malicious schemes carried out by the occupation against the Al-Aqsa Mosque…and the assault on our people in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and the desecration of the al-Yusofiya cemetery.”
Israel is currently seeking to have 7,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem pushed out of their homes, including those living in Sheikh Jarrah and Batn al-Hawa where Israeli settlers are seeking to steal their homes. Tens of thousands of Israeli settlers have also continued to run incursions into the al-Aqsa mosque site during the past months and to top this off Israel has dug out the graves of Palestinians in the al-Yusofiya cemetery, one of the oldest burial sites in Jerusalem, just to make way for Jewish pathways for illegal settlers.
Israel’s actions in East Jerusalem constitute some of the most serious breaches of international law and yet the international community has refused to act. The attacks on Holy Sites, including Mosques and Churches, by illegal settlers is concerning enough, but on top of this, there are the issues of home demolitions, settler home invasions, and takeovers, all backed by an illegally occupying force.
The reason for the attack is very simple; Palestinians are fed up and are refusing to wait for the cowardly politicians in Western capitals to stand up for the principles they claim to embody. The Palestinians of Jerusalem will not wait around and watch as their people are killed, made homeless, and humiliated, all so that some Western Liberals can give them a sympathy shower. It is the failure of the UN, and the governments of the UK, EU, US and beyond, that have led to this current predicament. Yet what do we see these governments and institutions do when Palestinians need them to uphold their own laws? Complete capitulation to an Israeli government so far from following the international consensus that they embarrass their Western allies.
Now we are witnessing a renewed round of demonstrations surrounding Jerusalem’s old city, as Palestinians demand their rights by any means necessary. If you are reasonable in your analysis and don’t value Israeli life more than Palestinian life, it is simple to see why Palestinians are forced into using the most extreme measures, and this is because it is the only action that works to achieve anything with such an enemy.
The Israeli government is so incredibly irrational, so dogmatic and obsessed with stealing more from Palestinians, that the only language they will even respond to in any sort of meaningful way is violence. This is not something that is written with glee, it is simply a recognizable reality made clear by the actions of Israel. It is not just the Israeli government that act in this way, this also goes for Western governments that choose not to respond until Palestinians are firing rockets or bullets in response to Israeli aggression.