Benjamin Netanyahu's policies are justifiably driving Palestinians toward violence

President Obama has recently condemned the outbursts of violence between Israel and Palestine, asking leaders on both sides to tone down the rhetoric. But Obama’s plea seems to be disconnected with the reality of how Israel’s oppression against the Palestinians doesn’t need rhetoric in order to incite violence.

The Netanyahu government has only sought peace in name. putting aside the Al-Aqsa Mosque controversy and the Duma arson attack, Israeli policies have been driven by a continued insistence on settlement expansion. Sacrificing peace for Palestinian land at every opportunity.

Palestinian homes are demolished by the Israeli government to create new settlements. And instead of toning down their aggressiveness when resistance is met, the Israeli government has enacted harsher measures by loosening up rules of engagement between armed soldiers and stone throwing teenagers.

For Palestinians who are Israeli citizens, the situation is just as bad, as there have been continued assaults by the Israeli government on the rights of the Israeli-Palestinian community. The latest assaults include the denial of benefits to residents of Jerusalem who are relatives of knife attackers, and the Israeli government’s failed attempt to cut funding from private Christian schools, which mostly serve Israeli-Palestinians and Muslims.

Any effort to solve the conflict is met by the arrogant demands of Israel, which is backed by the United States, the biggest kid on the block. In face of all of these injustices, what methods are the Palestinians left to use?

When an oppressed people have been stripped of their rights, and the peaceful alternatives have broken down, what else can you ask from them? How can you take a beating with people watching while telling you to talk nicely to the assailant? Wouldn’t most people fight back in any condition of despair? Now that Palestinians are resisting the repressive regime of Israel, their resistance is once again seen as unnecessary, out of proportion, and condemnable.

Those who condemn Palestinian resistance ignore that there exists precedents to justify the use of violence by the oppressed. At the height of the struggle against apartheid, repressive measures against peaceful protests, such as the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960, led Nelson Mandela to create a militant arm for the African National Congress (ANC), Umkhonto we Sizwe, which was involved in bombings of civilian areas and other acts of domestic terrorism that proved influential – along with international pressure – in bringing the South African government to negotiate with Mandela the end of apartheid.

I can’t think of a single person with a decent moral compass who would look back at the struggle of the ANC and simply dismiss their actions as terrorist without having perspective of the oppression which the indigenous Africans were under. Likewise, the Palestinians violent resistance is born out of a frustration that there seems to be no end to their current state of oppression and 48 year occupation.

Justifying resistance by the Palestinians does not diminish the weight of tragedy behind the loss of innocent human life. Especially when we consider that Israeli children are some of the victims of this violence. But the innocent Palestinian lives that have been destroyed is far greater, and it is hard to absolve Israelis from complete fault when they knowingly continue to build settlements that couldn’t have existed without the destruction of Palestinian communities.

Of course, violence should not be the continuous go-to method for Palestinians. Even the ANC stopped using violence when negotiations started between Mandela and the South African government. But with the constant cycle of violence and failed negotiations, this latest wave of violence is a sign for our world leaders that a new paradigm is needed to break out of the failed peace process.

Perhaps the first step in reaching a new peace process is for the international community to denounce the fanatical stance of the Israeli government and their continued settlement expansions. The vilification of Palestinians as being responsible for the Holocaust, is one of the many signs that Israel’s right wing government is at fault for many of today’s obstacles in reaching peace.

“It is a sad day in history when the leader of the Israeli government hates his neighbour so much that he is willing to absolve the most notorious war criminal in history, Adolf Hitler, of the murder of six million Jews.” – Saeb Erekat, PLO Secretary General

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