Bahbah: Ramadan Wedged Between Instability in Israel and a Possible Third Intifada
By: Bishara A Bahbah / Arab America Featured Columnist
During this holy month of Ramadan, Palestinians are struggling to survive amid dire economic hardships, severe declining support for the Palestinian Authority (PA), an anticipated third intifada, a sharp rise in settler attacks, and the irresponsible actions and threats of far-right Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, particularly in East Jerusalem.
Willy-nilly, Palestinians are wedged between Israel’s increasingly oppressive actions in the West Bank, the rise of Palestinian armed resistance in various parts of the West Bank, and the rise of unchecked vigilantism by Israeli settlers in the West Bank, which has targeted civilians and their property. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority cannot pay the total salaries to tens of thousands of its employees and is bent on holding to power without the legitimacy of elections, coupled with its paralysis vis-à-vis Israel, any hope for peace, and the perceived widespread corruption among Palestinian officials.
Israel views Ramadan as a month of heightened concern and threat over increased violence during the sundown daily prayers, especially the Friday prayers that witness tens of thousands of Palestinians converge on Haram Al-Sharif and Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Suppose the past is any indication of what will happen this month. In that case, Ramadan could be volatile and simply a month marked with violence, so Israel needs to learn to lessen its military or police presence in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel has announced the deployment of 2,400 Border Police this month in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel has not learned that the very presence of these troops is not only provocative and intimidating but is a cause of indignation and a reminder of the omnipresent Israeli occupation. Whether the Border Police stop Palestinians, demand to check identity cards, or search individuals is a sure way of Palestinian retaliatory acts. This year, Palestinians must live with the added provocations of a Kahana disciple, a proponent of violence against Palestinians, National Security Minister Ben Gvir.
Palestinians do not want violence during this holy month. Most non-disabled Muslims are commanded to fast from dawn to dusk to pursue spiritual growth. Muslims fast during Ramadan to commemorate the revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims believe that in AD 610, the angel Gabriel appeared to the Prophet Muhammad and revealed the Quran, the Islamic holy book. It is thought that the revelation occurred during the month of Ramadan.
With the dire economic conditions among Palestinians, the near bankruptcy of the Palestinian Authority, and its inability to pay the total salaries of tens of thousands of its employees, from teachers to healthcare workers, many Palestinians must do without the expected fresh daily meal and often are forced to do away with the custom of inviting family and friends to break the fast together. Much of the PA’s financial troubles stem from losing hundreds of millions of dollars annually of foreign aid and Israel’s practice of withholding funds collected on behalf of the PA for imported goods. Israel has weaponized those funds to punish the PA for ceasing military cooperation or for funds used to pay the families of prisoners in Israeli jails or Palestinians killed in confrontations with Israel.
A March 2023 Ramallah-based Center for Policy and Survey Research poll revealed alarming results regarding the Palestinian Authority’s standing among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The survey revealed that satisfaction with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has plummeted to a mere 4 percent while the demand for his resignation has increased by two percentage points. For the first time, most Palestinians support the dissolution of the PA and view its collapse as in the Palestinian people’s best interest. A majority of those surveyed believe that the continued existence of the PA serves the interests of Israel and that its dissolution or collapse would strengthen Palestinian armed groups fighting Israel’s occupation.
A whopping 70 percent of West Bankers expect the eruption of a third armed intifada, while two-thirds support forming armed groups in their quest for liberation. The message to Israelis who support harsh Israeli punitive measures such as house demolition, expulsion, or the imposition of the death penalty against Palestinians who resist the occupation, will only intensify Palestinian armed resistance. Unlike the West Bank, the Hamas leaders in Gaza have refrained from opening a second front to focus world attention on events in the West Bank.
Israel is going through a political upheaval that the country has never seen before. The Israeli government is being hijacked by ultra-right-wing politicians, including two ex-convicts and two other ministers who espouse using terror attacks against Palestinians and support the unfettered expansion of Jewish settlements in the heart of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, making the dream of a Palestinian state on 28% of the land that Israel occupied in 1967, virtually impossible. With the unabashed support of an indicted prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, this coalition government is bent on changing Israel’s judicial system to help him avoid a trip to jail following his three indictments on corruption charges and influence peddling. This matters to the Palestinians because the ruling coalition partners include die-hard supporters of settlements and violence against Palestinians.
With the convergence of Ramadan, Easter, and Passover, Israelis and Palestinians of all religions need to return to the basics of what their religions teach them – from the ten commandments to loving thy neighbor. As for the Palestinians, Israelis must know that peace can only be achieved by creating a Palestinian state that would live in peace with Israel. This solution is not a pipe dream but the only way to resolve the Palestine-Israel conflict. Any other remedy is a band-aid for gushing and untreatable wounds and injustices.
Dr. Bishara A Bahbah taught at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where he was also the associate director of its Middle East Institute. He was the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem-based Al-Fajr Palestinian newspaper. He served as a member of the Palestinian delegation on “Arms Control and Regional Security.” Dr. Bahbah is currently the vice president of the U.S. Palestinian Council (USPC), a Washington-based public advocacy and educational group.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Arab America.
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