Palestinian Authority officials have told Middle East Eye that it is “Israeli propaganda” to suggest they are responsible for a wave of violence that has rocked Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories in recent weeks.
Naim Abu Hommus, Secretary General of PA Ministries, told MEE that the PA had done everything in its power to restore the status quo in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and create a pathway towards peace with Israel.
“This idea of PA incitement is Israeli propaganda,” Abu Hommus said. “Israel knows the Palestinian government is serious about making peace.” Instead of the PA, Abu Hommus said he believed it was the Israeli government who, through its occupation, had been “inciting” the violence gripping the territories.
“There is no initiative towards peace from the Israeli side at all,” Abu Hommus said. “Other [Israeli] prime ministers responded to the peace process in the past, I don’t know why this [Israeli] government is completely frozen and they are not at all serious about working towards peace. Every single part of this recent escalation has come from the Israeli occupation.”
Since the start of October, more than 60 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, half of whom were shot dead after alleged stabbing attacks, and at least eight Israelis have been killed by Palestinians.
Meanwhile, daily protests in the occupied territories mainly involving Palestinian youths nearly always result in clashes between protesters and Israeli forces.
Almost 2,000 Palestinians have been injured by live and rubber-coated steel bullets, sponge rounds, and tear gas during clashes since the beginning of October, according to the Red Crescent.
Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer told Palestinian news agency Maan News this week that Israel has detained nearly 1,000 Palestinians since the start of October, most of whom were detained in occupied East Jerusalem.
Many Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem have had Israeli checkpoints installed at the entrances, as well as blockades that resemble Israel’s separation wall.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a report on 23 October that stated at least 45 percent of the Palestinian population in occupied East Jerusalem had been affected by restrictions on freedom of movement in the area.
Hanin Zoabi, a member of the Knesset’s Joint Arab List told MEE that she believed Israel’s moves against the Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem were part of a larger plan to “Judaize” Jerusalem.
“None of this is new to Palestinians,” Zoabi said. “It is a form of ethnic cleansing, [Netanyahu] is trying to make Jerusalem more Jewish and erase Palestinians there.” Zoabi said it is moves by the Israeli government that have sparked the recent upheaval sweeping the region. She claimed that even if the PA wanted to push the Palestinian people a certain way, it lacked the capability of implementing any sort of action. Furthermore, she said the PA was actually working with Israel to quell protests, rather than inciting them.
“The PA is so weak that it can’t even utilise the anger of the people and invest it in the right way, it is impotent, and the Israeli government only makes the Palestinian government more impotent,” Zoabi said.
“The PA can’t even stop its security coordination with Israel. We know the PA has stopped popular, peaceful demonstrations, which is disempowering for the Palestinian people.”
‘Our problem is the occupation’
Muhammad Abu Sruour, a young Fateh supporter who is active within the youth community in Bethlehem’s Aida refugee camp, told MEE that he did not support the PA’s attempts to stop popular protests, but that he agreed that the occupation alone was responsible for the recent upsurge in violence.
“What’s happening in Jerusalem and everywhere here started because of all the pressure on the people. When you push people like that, they will respond. Each action has a reaction,” Abu Srour said.
“The people are frustrated, and when a group of people cannot see any solution in the political sphere, they will start demonstrating against the occupation, because our problem is the occupation. It’s not the land, it’s not the food or the water or what someone is telling us, it’s the occupation. That’s the main issue here.”
An advisor to a senior PLO official, who asked to remain anonymous, told MEE that Israel had done “everything possible to displace Palestinians in East Jerusalem” by using the guise of security to incite violence, and encouraging hate through language used by leaders.
“Israel always tries to use this card of incitement to deviate from the real issues, but if we talk about incitement from the Israeli side, our children are called little snakes by Israeli leaders. Their leaders have repeatedly said they are proud to kill Palestinians and look at what is happening,” he said. “That is the so-called incitement. No one has to remind Palestinians how bad the occupation is, they don’t need to find answers from Facebook or YouTube or anyone else.”
In recent weeks the PLO has compiled a list of “Inflammatory comments and incitements by Israeli officials”.
PLO plans UN motion
Last week, France drafted a UN Security Council resolution calling for the deployment of international observers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, where many speculate the current wave of violence sparked from. Palestinian leaders have generally supported the idea, while Netanyahu called the proposal “absurd.”
Instead Netanyahu supports a US-backed plan to install security cameras at the site, a move Palestinian leaders have criticised.
Majid Bamya, the advisor to the PA Minister of Foreign Affairs, who had met with with the French Foreign Minister days before the proposal, told MEE that, while international observers at the holy site could help the situation, it still ignored the root problem between Israelis and Palestinians.
“Having international observers at the site is potentially a good idea, but it won’t completely stop the what is happening,” Bamya said. “The occupation is the cause of this. In the end, the Israeli occupation is the incitement, and nothing more.”
On Monday, PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat, announced that the PLO and the Arab League were preparing a motion for the UN Security Council that set a deadline for ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. “Israel alone is to blame for the continuous aggression in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip,” Erekat was quoted as saying during a press conference.
“Israel’s crimes [against Palestinians] begin with the burning of children and babies sleeping in their homes in the West Bank and end with opening fire on Palestinian farmers and protecting settlers attacking Palestinians,” he said, referring to recent Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians.