10/23/2015, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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Palestinian leader: "knife intifada" symptom of people’s despair, demands political solution

Bernard Sabella stresses the lack of "political will and leadership" that fuels ongoing violence. To resolve the crisis, we need a "political awakening" to overcome divisions and statesmen capable of "enforce an agreement" that guarantees security and dignity. The Palestinian leadership cannot accept killing "as a necessary evil".

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The recent attacks part of the so-called "knife intifada" as well as the killings on the streets of Israel are "the fruit of the desperation of a people" and a result of "lack of political will and leadership, particularly among the Israeli authorities".  Right now "it is difficult to send messages of hope", but "a political awakening” is needed to overcome the divisions, conflicts, mistrust between the two sides.

This is the call of Prof. Bernard Sabella, a Catholic representative of Fatah in Jerusalem and Executive Secretary of Service to the Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches, commenting to AsiaNews on the spiral of violence that has bloodied the Holy Land a month.

To overcome the crisis, he adds, "we need an Israeli [Charles] de Gaulle, a true statesman, who can impose an agreement on his country and ensure security for the Israelis and dignity to the Palestinians".

Even today there have been more knife attacks, with an Israeli soldier stabbed near the Gevaot settlement. The soldier and his assailant are injured, and both are hospitalized. The toll of the last month’s violence is eight deaths on the Israeli side, and at least 49 Palestinian casualties.

Meanwhile, Israeli police have removed the restrictions that prevented access to the Al-Aqsa mosque for men under 45. A small attempt at detente and openness, as is the special offer being promoted by a restaurant in the village of Kfar Vitkin, offering discounts of up to 50% to Jews and Arabs who share their meal at the same table. But the hope of dialogue is being swallowed up by a climate of fear, hatred and mutual distrust that affects not only the Palestinians, but has also enveloped Israeli Arabs (17.5% of the total population).

This has given rise to episodes such as the brutal death of a young illegal Eritrean immigrant wounded by Israeli soldiers and lynched by a mob, accused (wrongly) of a knife attack. The climate of mounting and mutual suspicion between the two communities, is confirmed by an entrepreneur in Tel Aviv who has laid off 18 Arab workers, out of fear they may target their two Jewish colleagues. It is eroding away at the principle of coexistence, which, however desirable, increasingly appears to be just a pipe dream.

For Professor Sabella the problem revolves around the "lack of a political process," in the context of a stagnant situation in which "nothing grows." In Israel there is no real leadership, while the present rulers "always blame the Palestinians for problems. They do not understand - he adds - that prohibiting the entrance to the mosque is a problem, that the activity of the settlers is a problem, that setting fire to olive trees is a problem”.

"I'm not saying that we should not try to achieve peace - said the Catholic Fatah representative - but Israel also needs to make more effort. However, if you look at the situation in Jerusalem, in Bethlehem, in the villages you will see concrete blocks everywhere. And this is not the right answer to the problem. " Violence is never justifiable, he adds, but it is equally necessary to "respect one’s neighbor."

He spares no criticism of the Palestinian leadership, which "cannot and must not accept the killings" as if they were a necessary evil. "What we need to do, we Palestinians - he explains - is implement a form of nonviolent resistance and develop a positive strategy even if Israel will not let us get out of the West Bank."

"The present government of Israel – he notes - does not want an independent Palestinian state, but a docile executive who cooperate with the military to ensure Israeli security. This is not a vision of peace, but occupation under another name, and we cannot accept this. With ì provocative statements and violence on a daily basis, as you can achieve peace in that way? We are very concerned ... ".

In this context it is difficult to send messages of hope, warns Professor Sabella, because "the Israelis look down upon the Palestinians as inferior and Palestinians consider Israeli soldiers enemies and, by extension, the entire Jewish people as the enemy." This requires "a real awakening in politics, although so far there has been a complete lack of will to take this step."

"We must be strong and united - said the Palestinian leader - and convince our people that non-violence is the best solution, otherwise everyone [Jews and Arabs] are destined to suffer. Today’s protest is not an organized revolt, but the despair of a people that has suffered for far too long". (DS)

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