Back to the status quo or new directions?

PLEIS Al Walajah Tear gas container Patrone Tränengas
Tear gas container in Al-Walajah

A ceasefire between the Israeli government and Hamas in the Gaza Strip came into effect on 21 May 2021. It follows a massive escalation in the conflict over the occupied Palestinian territories. Eleven days of mutual firing with widespread protests and acts of violence, but also a variety of nonviolent actions.

Even in the weeks leading up to the war, the pending forced eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem, was observed by the world public. So were the restrictions and provocations against Palestinian people in Jerusalem's Old City, including the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

In addition, there are other current political circumstances that are pushing the conflict forward.

  • Here, the difficult and unstable formation of a government in Israel for two years should be mentioned.
  • The court case against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • Furthermore, the cancellation of the parliamentary elections in the occupied territories by President Mahmoud Abbas.

Neither the forced evictions in East Jerusalem nor the restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression are isolated incidents. Rather, they represent the symptomatic low point of what our partners in the entire occupied West Bank and in Israel have been reporting about the violent everyday life of the military occupation for decades. In recent weeks, the non-violent movement in Palestine and Israel has also experienced extremes.

Al-Walajah, a Palestinian village in the West Bank not far from Jerusalem, is encircled on three sides by Israeli settlements and the separation wall, which are illegal under international law. On several days, the Israeli military completely blocked the village with cement blocks and used tear gas and sound bombs, among other things. Settlers entered the village and fired live ammunition. Lubna, a member of our partner organisation RWEISAT for Wood Art, expressed her perplexity: "I don't understand why they come every night. We are a quiet village!"

Our partners in Hebron and the southern mountains of Hebron also reported escalating violence and attacks by settlers and the Israeli military.

  • After the ceasefire, settlers burned down the office of our partner organisation Youth of Sumud and beat up human rights defender Sami Hureini.
  • Before that, Sami was hit with a rubber bullet, other offices and places where our partners were staying were searched and stones were thrown at them.
  • Members of the nonviolent initiatives reported overall intimidation and threats to prevent them from documenting the human rights situation.
  • Not only in the occupied territories, but also in Israel, demonstrations calling for an end to violence were met with violence by the security forces, during which a colleague from our partner organisation Zochrot in Tel Aviv was injured.
  • And also for the digital space, our partner organisation 7amleh summarised a variety of legal violations in the past weeks.

In the past two weeks, the nonviolent movement has been confronted with a widespread escalation of violence in general and against itself in particular. At the same time, there was solidarity between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians in Israel as well as in the occupied territories and a variety of nonviolent actions for a just, peaceful end to the military occupation. The initiative for a general strike on 18 May was particularly noteworthy. Various Palestinian organisations in Israel as well as in the occupied territories had called for it. The breadth of the alliance points to a new quality of cooperation among the non-violent initiatives.

It remains open how the conflict over the military occupation will develop after the ceasefire. In line with the experience of the past years, it will probably return to the previous status quo:

  • Palestinian land is being defacto annexed through the construction of settlements in violation of international law,
  • Human rights violations occur regularly,Human rights defenders in the nonviolent movements remain threatened and
    the room for manoeuvre for civil society is massively restricted,
  • Protests are not exclusively carried out non-violently, and
  • constructive management of the conflict and an end to the military occupation seem illusory.

In contrast, the solidarisations between nonviolent movements in Israel and Palestine and within the Palestinian movement give hope.

These civil society efforts must continue to be strengthened and protected.

And the international community must finally invest seriously again in a just handling of the conflict and thus in prospects for peace for the people on the ground.