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Palestinians Caught in the Middle--As Usual--A Crackdown by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority

posted on: Oct 5, 2022

Recent crackdown on Palestinians by Israel seen as sign of a more enforced occupation — Photo New York Times

By: John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer

Israeli military forces have carried out more and more killings and arrests in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Critics have warned that the Israeli crackdown would fuel more violence. A more subtle take on Israel’s suppression of Palestinians is its version of Sesame Street. It is aimed at preschoolers to erase vestiges of Palestine or Palestinians. Almost as if joining the IDF in quelling the violence in the Occupied Territories, the Palestinian Authority security forces acted against its opposing parties.

Expanding Crackdown on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories takes its Toll

Recent violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has seen an increase. Adding to this violence was the last Israeli-Gaza flareup, with its death of several dozen Palestinians. Continuing skirmishes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters in East Jerusalem have exacerbated the situation. It’s not all a one-sided problem, however. Palestinian insurgents attacked and killed Israeli citizens last Spring.

All of this violence, according to a recent Middle East Institute webinar, led the Israeli military to carry out “hundreds of nightly incursions into Palestinian cities and towns, arresting more than 1,500 Palestinians, and killing scores, including many civilians.” That webinar addressed several critical questions. What is underlying Israel’s mounting violence against Palestinians? How is it affecting the everyday life of Palestinians? Will it increase or diminish the chances of another uprising or intifada? What can the international community, especially the U.S., do to prevent an escalation?

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) had already warned that the Israeli crackdown would fuel more violence. As early as last April, the UNHCR requested the international community to immediately initiate steps to address the escalating violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel. Special UN rapporteur Michael Link noted, “The past few weeks have seen a rising level of violence associated with Israel’s 55-year-old occupation of Palestine.” Link further said, “International inaction in the face of these new levels of violence will only encourage more of the same.”

Michael Link of UNHCR speaks forcefully in support of a violence-free West Bank — Photo OpEdNews

The UNCHR report continued to describe Israel’s crackdown in no uncertain terms: “This entrenched Israeli occupation, which has become indistinguishable from practices of apartheid, is based on the institutional discrimination of one racial-national-ethnic group over another.” Not holding back, Link added, “Violence and large-scale human rights abuses are inherent in such an unequal relationship. History teaches us the bitter lesson that prolonged and unwanted alien rule is invariably enforced by violence and resisted by violence.”

The intensity of Israel’s crackdown means a marked increase in the degree of its occupation. And that means only one thing—higher numbers of Palestinian deaths, including Palestinian children. Incidents of Jewish settler violence against Palestinians and their property have also grown significantly. 300 new settlements in the occupied area represent a bizarre punishment, in addition to being in violation of international law. In the same breath, Israel has demolished untold numbers of Palestinian homes.

Erasure of Palestinians through Israel’s Preschool version of Sesame Street

Israel’s version of Sesame Street aimed at preschoolers erases any vestiges of Palestine or Palestinians. American children will come away from this version knowing almost nothing about Palestinian children. These are just children. Israeli indoctrination of their youngest hides Palestinian children backstage. A report from Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) reports that most Israel-supported children’s books erase Palestinians from the narrative.

Palestinians in these children’s books “dissolve them into Israel’s ‘diverse cultures.’” Mind you, Palestinians are 20% of the citizens of Israel. Almost 50% of the people living under occupation are Palestinians. One might expect to see some of them in stories for children. In a 12-page story for ages 1-4, called Rah! Rah! Mujadara! (a soup that is lentil-based), mention is made of hummus. The story describes hummus as, “Everybody likes hummus, but that’s just one of the great variety of foods found in Israel among its diverse cultures.” Some of us may see this as ‘cultural appropriation.’

Another example of cultural appropriation is a children’s book that indicates “B is for Bedouins.” Bedouins are then depicted as people “who come from Israel’s deserts.” We all know that Bedawin have existed for centuries, if not millennia, before the birth of Israel. We also know that Israel has discriminated against the Bedawin from their first encounter.

“Where in the world is Palestine? Nowhere, according to Sesame Street‘s map.”Photo FAIR

The trick of these children’s books is to present “both sides” of the Palestine-Israel picture. It is “a device used to appear neutral, which conjures a sense of objectivity and truth.” Teaching children to say hello in both Hebrew and Arabic is a ruse. Israelis have disrespected Arabic and Arabic speakers from the outset. Arabic was “officially downgraded” in the 2018 Jewish Nation-State Law.

And on and on go the children’s stories. Palestinians are presented only as a national group. This is a way of dehumanizing them, making them ‘the other.’ These stories, FAIR reports, “enshrine[s] Jewish supremacy over non-Jews by saying only the Jews have the right to self-determination.”

Finally, but not surprisingly, when the question arises of “Where in the world is Palestine? Nowhere, according to Sesame Street‘s map.”

The Other Side of the Story—The Palestinian Authority Cracks Down on Its Opposition

Almost as if joining the IDF in quelling the violence in the Occupied Territories, the Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces joined the Israeli crackdown. This resulted in some deaths of Palestinians. That act raised questions about the legitimacy of the PA’s domestic role.

The PA has been clamping down on its opponents, reported in Al-Jazeera, by “violently obstructing prisoner release celebrations and funeral processions for Palestinians killed by Israel.” The PA, controlled by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, has obstructed events celebrating the release of Palestinian prisoners from other parties. Targets were Gaza-based resistance groups from other parties. These included Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Many of these activities have involved violence, including tear gas firings on crowds.

Palestinian Authority security forces firing tear gas at mourners during the funeral of a PA opponent — Photo Al-Jazeera

The PA’s apparent joining of arms with the IDF is intended to thwart the “soaring popularity for Hamas and PIJ in the occupied West Bank.” It’s all about politics. President Abbas is frightened that he would lose in an election against the Hamas leader, Ismael Haniyeh, as polls have suggested. None of this is helpful to the national cause for Palestinian rights.


“The Widening Crackdown on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and its Humanitarian and Political Implications,” Middle East Institute, 9/29/2022
“UN expert warns Israeli crackdown will fuel more violence, urges international response,” UNHRC, 4/25/2022
“Palestinian Erasure Starts in Preschool—With Sesame Street’s Endorsement,” Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, 9/30/2022e
“Why is the Palestinian Authority cracking down on opposition?” Al-Jazeera, 1/25/2002

John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID and the World Bank in 65 countries.

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