Statement on the crisis in Israel/Palestine by AJDS

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24 May 2021

Once again, Israel and Hamas have been at loggerheads during the recent hostilities, but this time the Palestinian citizens of Israel are now involved in one of the most dangerous situations for many years. They are protesting both their own inequality and the situation of Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. There have been violent clashes between Israeli Jews and Israeli Palestinians. The effect of this changed political reality will have a significant long-term impact for Israel.

We are concerned for the human rights and well-being of both Jews and Palestinians, whether in Israel, or the Occupied Territories. We condemn the untoward violence and violations of human rights on both sides and express our solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza who have endured massive bombardment, Palestinian Israeli communities, and all civilians subject to Hamas rocket attacks.

The violence inflicted upon the two communities is however, not equivalent. Israelis are free people. Palestinians are not – particularly those in Gaza.

In 8 major actions against Gaza and Hamas between 2003 and 2019, Israel has stated it has broken the back of Hamas and its military wing. This was neither true then, nor is it true now.Israel’s bombing of civilian buildings, press facilities and basic infrastructure such as water plants, has been devastating. 242 people including 66 children were killed in Gaza and 12 in Israel. Those responsible for these deaths are to be condemned. IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman admitted (May 15) that Israel’s actions in Gaza are “as far from pinpoint accuracy as you can get. They’re making Gaza City shake.” But Hamas’ rocket attacks are also war crimes under international law.

Israel has one of the strongest armies in the region and an advanced, developed economy. Under Israel’s blockade, Gaza is poverty stricken due to the blockade, its moribund economy, its sky-high unemployment rate and crumbling infrastructure. The problem cannot be offloaded to Egypt or to any other country. The future of the Gazan people is inextricably linked to Israel’s actions.

The AJDS sees the origins of the most recent spate of violence as involving:

● On April 12 at the start of Ramadan, Israeli police erected exclusionary barriers at the Damascus Gate, which led to clashes between Palestinian protestors and the police.

● On the night of April 13, Israeli police officers entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif and cut the cables to the loudspeakers that broadcast prayers to the faithful. The purpose was to prevent the drowning out of the Memorial Day speech given by Israeli President Rivlin at the Western Wall below the Temple Mount. Memorial Day in Israel honours those who died fighting for the country.

● On April 21, a few hundred members of a far-right Jewish group, Lehava, marched through central Jerusalem, chanting “Death to Arabs” and attacking Palestinians they encountered.

● During April and early May there were clashes between Israeli security forces and people protesting the eviction of 6 Palestinian families from their East Jerusalem homes in Sheikh Jarrah. The evictions were seen as part of a push by Israeli settlers to change the demographic balance of East Jerusalem in favour of Jews. It needs to be remembered that many of the families in Sheikh Jarrah originally came from West Jerusalem—but have no right of claim over their original properties.

● Politicians, media and criminal gangs such as Lehava and La Familia, have incited attacks in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Israeli security forces have done little or nothing to constrain the radical right and settler extremists.

● The most serious escalation of all was at 8pm on Friday 7 May, the last Friday of Ramadan. The police conducted a raid on the Al-Aqsa Mosque using tear-gas and stun grenades. The insult to the sanctity of Al-Aqsa resulted in hours of clashes with stone-throwing protesters. Hundreds were injured. Police said the stone throwers started it, but the last Friday of Ramadan is one of its holiest nights and a time for celebration rather than protest. The Israeli acting Ambassador to Australia said the police were at Al-Aqsa because “that was a very tense situation, 85,000 worshippers came up to the Temple Mount and it got out of control. So Israeli police is (sic.) there to control law and order”.

● From May 10 there were clashes between Israelis, directly caused by decades of discrimination and reckless action by the Israeli authorities. There were pogrom-like attacks on Israeli Palestinian citizens, and revenge attacks against Jews and Jewish property.

● The outcome of all of this were the rocket barrages from Hamas beginning on May 10 and the return airstrikes by Israel. A ceasefire came into effect on 21 May.

It is clear that Israel cannot militarily defeat what is a popular political struggle by Palestinians for their rights. In recognising this we:

● urge Israel and all Palestinian parties to re-engage and negotiate with strong international support for a permanent resolution.● condemn incitement against Israel and Israeli Jews.

● condemn incitement and actions against Jews in other countries.

● urge Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to resume plans for Palestinian elections as soon as practicable.● urge the Israeli government to condemn hate speech and provocateurs who have fuelled violence on the streets, and to prosecute those involved.

● urge the Israeli government to defend the equal rights of Israeli Palestinian citizens.

● urge the Australian government to suspend defence ties with Israel.

● urge the Australian government to impose a selective boycott of Israeli settlement-related goods and services, particularly those of a military nature, until a permanent resolution is reached.

● urge the Australian government to condemn human rights violations by Israel in the way they already do in relation to countries they are not allied with.

● urge people from the Jewish community and Palestinian supporters in this country to actively avoid expressing racism towards either community.