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Address root causes to end violence and bring justice in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory

Palestinians march with "No to the occupation" sign
Photo: / AFSC

As the number of dead and injured in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory grows, concerted efforts must be made to bring violence to an end. The immediate cessation of violence is a good step, but for peace to last, the roots of the conflict must be understood and the deep structural violence and systematic inequality faced by Palestinians must end.  

Accountability for Israel’s brutal and excessive use of force against Palestinians is also necessary. Actions to bring about this accountability include ending all U.S. military aid to Israel and support for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaigns against companies and institutions complicit in sustaining injustice and violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.   

Over the last several weeks violence has increased dramatically in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel. Between October 1st and 13th, at least 27 Palestinians were killed in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel by the Israeli military and police. Of those killed, at least eight were children.   

Protests have been violently repressed. Over 3,600 Palestinians have been injured, one third of these by live ammunition or rubber bullets. Attacks on Palestinians by Israeli civilians and settlers also have increased dramatically, in the first five days of October a total of 30 settler attacks resulting in the injury of Palestinians or destruction of property were documented.   

During the same period seven Israelis were killed and 65 injured in attacks by Palestinians. 

The violence started to rise in September, when groups of Israelis who advocate the destruction of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the building of a new Jewish Temple on its site escalated their visits to the Mosque compound with support from the Israeli government. Palestinians protested against these visits, the Israeli military and police violently repressed those protests, and Palestinian access to the Mosque, old city, and Jerusalem was restricted.   

The violent repression of protests included the use of live fire, beatings, and arrests. This excessive use of force led to more protests, which in turn led to more violence. The Israeli government facilitated the violence by relaxing open-fire regulations during September, allowing Israeli military and police units to use deadly force not as a last resort, but any time they perceive danger. The results can be seen not only in the killings of Palestinians during protests, but also in the shooting of Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Israel outside of protest situations. Those victims include Palestinians like Fadi Alloun, Hadil Al-Salamoni, and Asraa Abed, all of whom were shot in situations where videos and pictures clearly show that non-lethal force could have been used.   

Israeli police and military responses to Palestinian protests and alleged threats stand in clear contrast to their responses to violence perpetrated by Jewish Israeli individuals. Jewish Israelis who attack Palestinians or other Israelis are detained, not shot. Settlers attacking Palestinians and burning Palestinian property receive protection from the Israeli military. Police do not stop mobs of Israeli youth roaming Jerusalem streets while chanting “death to the Arabs” and attacking Palestinians. This disparity is one key contributor to the ongoing escalation of conflict.  

All victims of violence suffer regardless of nationality or ethnicity. But to create lasting peace with justice we must recognize that each act of violence, intimidation, or persecution is part of a broader historic and political context that does not spread responsibility equally.   

As we wrote last year in the lead up to Israel’s attack on Gaza, to create real security for Israelis and Palestinians, it is critical  to understand and address the roots of the conflict.  This means recognizing that inequality and violence permeate Israeli and Palestinian institutions, culture, and daily life through systems of power that privilege the rights of Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians.  If we limit our focus to current acts of physical violence, then we miss these deeper origins of violence.   

The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that has been present and working for peace in Israel-Palestine since 1948, joins others in calling for an end to all violence as well as accountability for the excessive use of force by the Israeli police and military.  We call for international action to hold the Israeli government accountable, including through cutting all military aid and support for public boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns. 

However, we also reiterate our previously stated position that if peace is to be realized, it is essential for Israelis and those supporting them to confront the deeper issues of injustice and discrimination done to Palestinians. Only then will a just and lasting peace based on equality, freedom, and justice be achieved for both Palestinians and Israelis.  

Note: the second sentence of the statement was revised on October 21, 2015, to clearly reflect our commitment to ending violence.

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