By Atharva Pandit:
Thomas Friedman was right after all, when, in February, he predicted of another Palestinian uprising. There can actually be a Third Intifada underway and it can have lasting effects on the Palestine-Israel relationship, which seemed to be, if not exactly flourishing, then at least on a path of progress. That hope can now fade away as circumstances lead towards more bloodshed, more violence in the West Bank. Those “circumstances” include Israel’s forceful penetration into the Arab territories in search of “our boys” since three Israeli teenagers were abducted on 12th of June this year. Thousands of Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers were deployed in order to search for the teenagers, and they began their job by, of course, breaking into houses at midnight and ransacking through suspected hiding places – their signature tactics. The Israeli extremist faction pins the blame entirely on Hamas, while the Palestinians, in Hamas’ defense point out that the Palestinian militant faction, whenever they have carried out such an operation, have been quick to take responsibility. There have been arguments that local factions might be responsible, although at this point of time it doesn’t seem to matter.
On July 2nd, almost a month after their disappearance, the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers were found buried in a field near the city of Hebron, not far from where they disappeared. This sparked pretty explosive reactions, with the Israelis promising retaliation. “Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay,” read a statement issued by the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel delivered on the promise, launching air strikes in the Hamas occupied territories, while promising more bombardment. Right-wing politicians have been calling for a re-occupation of the Gaza Strip, which can only mean more violence erupting inside the already shaken territory.
The three Israeli teenagers- Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaar, had become a part of the Israeli daily life for the past few days, with shopkeepers asking their buyers to pray for the return of their boys, and, in a parallel to the international campaign launched after kidnapping of the 200 teenage girls in Nigeria, placards read “Bring our Boys Back.” Shops were adorned with posters asking people to pray for the safe return of the teenagers. The Israelis were, evidently, emotionally tied in to the kidnapping, and, as the news of their deaths broke, daily shows were cancelled and news channels began to host debates on the ideal reaction to the killings. Radios played sad songs in memory of the dead boys. Their boys had been killed, and the Israelis wanted revenge. And why not, they asked. The teenagers in question were talented, with one of them having a talent for music while one other leading a religious youth movement. There was a feeling of being wronged in the Israeli society. Of bright futures being forced away by the age-long politics of hatred. On their part, the Palestinians rightly argue that killing of teenagers is a routine for them. Only three weeks back, after the abductions, the Israeli military carried out air strikes in both West Bank and Gaza, killing eight- three of which were teenagers. As Amjad Iraqi puts it in his article for +972 Magazine, “While everyone will remember the names of those three Israeli teenagers, no one will remember about these three Palestinian teenagers.” On Wednesday itself, another Palestinian youth’s body was discovered in Jerusalem, probably as a “revenge” for the murder of the Israeli youths. Iraqi is right in stating that there is nothing called “our boys” and “their boys”. Committing one ghastly act for another is as sick as it sounds.
The Wednesday killing sparked off clashes in Jerusalem, with Palestinians clashing with the Israeli forces. In West Bank, youngsters armed with rocks and bottles attacked the Israeli security forces, and heavy rioting was reported. Israel has been worried about a third Intifada, which means “shake-up” or “uprising” in Arabic, for a long time now. Intifada is not a term which both the Palestinians and Israelis have been comfortable with. While the First Intifada, which lasted from 1987 till 1993, was all rocks, slingshots and Molotov cocktails, and spurred the Oslo Peace Accord. The second one, from 2000-2005, carried with it the burden of advancement of weaponry, with rock-wielding youngsters now planning guerrilla operations on the Israeli security forces and bombing Jewish settlements, and it effectively resulted in the scrapping of Oslo. The reasons of both these uprisings are many, and varied. The First Intifada was, reportedly, sparked off by a road accident wherein an IDF tank collided with Palestinian vehicles, killing four. This, apparently, was a deliberate act on the part of IDF, and the rioting and violence began to take shape. The second, meanwhile, was sparked off by Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, one of the holiest places for Jews, in Jerusalem, which sparked off riots in the city. The Second Intifada was debatably more intense, what with suicide bombings and a siege to Yasser Arafat’s compound in Ramallah. Now, we are possibly staring right at a third one, which will arguably take form of the worst of the lot. There are parallels, of course, with the first two Intifadas, but is this really the long warned Third Intifada?
Hamas has been threatening a Third Intifada ever since IDF poured in thousands into the West Bank and Gaza Strip in search of the missing teenagers, and the rioting and retaliation are warnings enough of a third Palestinian uprising, to the Western media at least. However, Israel had been cautious all along, and they seemed like they genuinely wanted peace talks until they blew it up with the latest round of missile firing and breaking-ins. With Iraq tumbling towards an ethnic Civil War which Americans have been warning about for a long time now, and the Syrian massacres continuing to horrify the world, the Middle East is evidently explosive. It is to be seen whether the rioting and stray cases of violence will indeed culminate into a large-scale uprising, but if it does, the Middle Eastern geopolitics is sure to change for the worst.