Israel's security doctrine is at the root of all violence in Palestine

Israel's security doctrine is at the root of all violence in Palestine
Israel has constructed an entire security doctrine on the basis that Palestinians are terrorists for fighting against their land being stolen, but this purposely ignores that the root of the violence is the occupation, writes Emad Moussa.
6 min read
15 Apr, 2022
Israeli PM Naftali Bennett gave security forces 'full freedom' following the recent shooting in Tel-Aviv. [GETTY]

Soon after the shooting in Dizengoff Street at the heart of Tel-Aviv last week, Israeli PM Naftali Bennett granted the security bodies “full freedom”. This was preceded by the deployment of 12 additional army battalions to the occupied West Bank. Two more were also sent to the Gaza border.

There was also a significant increase in IDF raids of Palestinian towns, more roadblocks, restrictions on Palestinian movement, and tougher security measures around the illegal settlements. 

Taken at face value, Israel’s right to defend itself is indeed understandable. In fact, if I were a Jewish-Israeli, I would probably react with anger and frustration, I would also lash out at the government for failing to stop the attackers. I might even call for revenge.

But this is all good talk until a context has been provided. And that context is the occupation and its comprehensive system of oppression.

All of these questions should therefore be debated within the framework a people under military occupation, the guarantee of their legal and moral right to resist, and the violations of international law and human rights.

''The answer to every perceived threat continues to be the same: collective punishment, incursions, home demolitions, arrests, and killings; thus consolidating the Israeli culture of fear and the security dilemma that the Israeli state has been trying to resolve.''

However, for many Jewish-Israelis, the occupation is not - and must not - be framed in plain colonial terms, definitely not literally within the crude parameters of international norms.

Unlike European colonialism, Zionist settler-colonialism is substitutive; it was achieved through the displacement and replacement of the indigenous population. Almost from day one, the early Yishuvists - pre-state settlers who came to Palestine mainly from Europe in the late 19th century - saw the local population as a threat and themselves as their victims. As such, they labelled the opposition to the usurpation of Palestinian land, as terror. 

This dynamic, among other things, has become a driving psychological and ideological makeup of Israel’s security doctrine and, thereafter, the definition of terrorism.

Within this mindset, the occupation does not really exist, or at least not as negatively and in the clear-cut colonial form that Palestinians see it. It is merely a land dispute, and Israel’s willingness to abdicate its control over the territories is simply “concessions,” or a “peaceful” gesture.

And since this is the case, Palestinian resistance is non-contextual, deranged, and nothing more than blind anti-Jewish terror - a continuation of European anti-Semitism. It does not matter whether it is violent or otherwise.

For this same reason, the attacks in Tel-Aviv are yet to trigger a meaningful public reassessment of Israel’s role in the plight of Palestinians. It thus far only triggered righteous posturing and victimhood claims.

In the run-up to the current escalation, Israeli security bodies and media warned repeatedly of pending threats in Israel and the West Bank. A central theme was that the Muslim holy month of Ramadan was a ground for increased Palestinian violence against Israel, leading to large-scale deployments of Israeli forces in occupied Jerusalem and tighter measures on who can and cannot enter Al-Aqsa Mosque for prayer.

The Israeli “offer” that came later to allow men over-50 from the West Bank to travel to Jerusalem in Ramadan to pray, accompanied by some easing in security measures in the West Bank, was a half-hearted attempt to stop the imminent explosion. And for that Palestinians were supposed to be grateful and shower the occupier with praise for being slightly less oppressive. 

Yet, with all this ramping up of tension, not once did the Israeli security officials discuss why Palestinians are angry and frustrated. It was all about preventing a meltdown without addressing the elephant in the room: the occupation and the absence of a political horizon for Palestinians. 

Following the Dezingoff shooting, not many asked, why did the attacker, Ra’ad Hazem, a computer engineer from Jenin, venture on a mission he knew would be his last? What motivates an educated young man to give it all up? In fact, the question applies to almost all the Palestinian attackers whose profiles did not suggest socio-economic desperation- a common explanation amongst Israelis who attempt to depoliticise and dehumanise them.

The majority of Israelis have been shielded from the effect of the occupation altogether. The occupation’s economic and civil administration overhead that once burdened  the Israeli society has now been outsourced to the Palestinian Authority, thus obscuring it further from the public eye.

Life in Israel and the West Bank settlements is one of freedom and socio-economic accomplishments, almost completely untouched by the occupation.

Palestinians have none of this, not even the minimal requirements guaranteed for any people under military occupation to establish a semblance of sustainable livelihood. As Israeli journalist Gideon Levy says: “every delay in a solution to the conflict only extends [Palestinians’] suffering, humiliation and tribulations.” 

The Tel-Aviv attack, however, forced oblivious Israelis to see the occupation. Indeed, the events served to remind everyone that Palestinians are still here and they are not going to sit quietly waiting for the occupier to have a change of heart.

Some Israelis reacted to this on social media. For example, Israeli journalist Haim Har-Zahav, tweeted that ‘[the terrorist] was 8 years old this week 20 years ago, when I, then a 24-year-old student, fired missiles at the refugee camp where he lived, and broke into the homes of the residents of that camp, and slept in their living room. And that did not solve the war.’

Most replies to the tweet were unsupportive, many condescending and outright racist.

In those past 20 years, much like the five decades prior, Palestinian forms of dissidence changed. Yet, Israel’s reaction to them remained the same.

The answer to every perceived threat continues to be the same: collective punishment, incursions, home demolitions, arrests, and killings; thus consolidating the Israeli culture of fear and the security dilemma that the Israeli state has been trying to resolve.

Not many in Israel’s decision-making circles are willing to pause and contemplate the insanity of doing the same thing time and again, and expecting different results. 

Dr Emad Moussa is a researcher and writer who specialises in the politics and political psychology of Palestine/Israel.

Follow him on Twitter: @emadmoussa

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.