11/10/2014, 00.00
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End occupation to avoid a new intifada

by Bernardo Cervellera
Settler provocations on the Esplanade of the Mosques are causing more violence, riots, and summary killings by police. Israel's security remains a constant feature as continued Palestinian frustration makes the situation explosive. Sympathy for Hamas and the Islamic state is growing among Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. The international community continues to neglect the issue. Pope Francis: "We need bridges, not walls!"

Rome (AsiaNews) - The situation in Jerusalem and the occupied territories is deteriorating by the day and the risk of a new intifada is ever greater.

Recent tensions began in Jerusalem, because of controversy and provocation on the Esplanade of the Mosques, which the Jews call "the Temple Mount." Ultra-nationalist rabbis and Zionist settler groups have demanded that Jews be allowed a place of prayer on the esplanade.

The status quo, which the State of Israel has recognised since its foundation, guarantees Muslims the right to pray in the holy place, but bans Jews, who can however visit it.Yet, every time Zionist Jews visit the esplanade, claiming the whole temple complex (and therefore also the mosques), as well as the whole of Jerusalem (west and east) as the "eternal capital of Israel", they make the possibility of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital an ever remote reality.

In recent weeks, visits by Zionist Jews provoked the wrath of those present and riots in the old city. Rabbi Yehuda Glick, a leader of the Temple Mount and Eretz Yisrael movement Faithful, was wounded during a demonstration in late October. The next day police killed the suspect, Mu'taz Hijazi.

Despite the tense situation, groups of Orthodox Jews sought again to "visit" and "pray" at the esplanade, which led to clashes in the holy place (the police even entered the al-Aqsa Mosque) and other parts of the city.

Two terrorist attacks followed in Jerusalem and Hebron, where two Arabs drove their car into innocent bystanders, and passengers waiting at a light rail station, killing some and wounded others. Here too, police acted with unusual determination, immediately killing the two attackers.

Such execution style precision was repeated in the village of Kafr Kanna, near Nazareth, where a young man. Kheir Hamdan, 22, tried to stop the cops from arresting a relative. Police claim he was brandishing a knife in front of police officers. Security cameras show instead the young man had turned his back and was moving away from the officers at the time he was shot. For Hamdan's parents, this was "cold-blooded murder."

Of course, police has been under pressure in recent weeks. When I was in Jerusalem a few days ago, I saw soldiers uneasily and nervously trying to protect settlers visiting the esplanade. However, the frustration among Palestinians and Israeli Arabs is infinitely greater.

At present, talks have stalled. Illegal settlements have instead expanded with Jewish fundamentalism growing, and the Israel's government giving its blessing every week to new settlements . . .

If we add to this the difficulties of communication imposed by the wall, the daily humiliations at border crossings, creeping racism among Israelis vis-à-vis Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, a justice system that is anti-Arab and manipulated, one realises how close Arabs are to exploding.

The new ways of "struggle" like the attacks against light rail stations show high levels of frustration. Israel calls these actions "terrorism". Arabs call them "patriotism" and for them, those killed by Israeli police without even being questioned are "martyrs."

Many people I met said that another Intifada is in the making, which Israel can certainly crush, but at a terrible cost in blood.

The Palestinian frustration is causing another problem, namely a radicalisation of positions that is increasingly favourable to Hamas and critical if not contemptuous of Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas, deemed "puppets" in Israel's hands.

After years of trying dialogue, Abbas has nothing to show, except a fragmented territory reduced to its smallest size and a desire to be recognised by the UN, which has however been blocked by a US veto.

Faced with a lack of results and the humiliation of occupation, some once moderate Palestinians are choosing the Islamic State, the most extreme and bloodiest fundamentalist group that exists to seek justice right away.

The increasing trend to fundamentalism should worry Israel as well as Europe and the international community, which is doing precious little to stop a war that has lasted almost a century.

According to secular Israelis and moderate Palestinians, it is time to think not only about continuing the dialogue, but also on how to end Israel's occupation of the territories.

As usual, Christians are in danger of being caught between the two fundamentalisms. Recently, the patriarchs issued a statement defending the status quo in Jerusalem and slamming acts of provocation designed to change it.

Yesterday Pope Francis, as he remembered 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, said at one point, "Let us pray so that, with the Lord's help and the cooperation of all men of good will, a culture of encounter will continue to spread, capable of bringing down all the walls that still divide the world, and so that no longer will innocent people be persecuted and even killed because of their beliefs and their religion. Where there is a wall there is closure of hearts. We need bridges, not walls".

He was probably thinking about the Holy Land, which he recently visited.

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