There is a story about the Roman Emperor Nero, according to which he set Rome on fire just so that he could see the flames. The story may or may not be true, but when Palestine is in flames, history will remember who lit the match.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, will be remembered as the reckless politician who gave Itamar Ben-Gvir the green light to set a fire that will consume Palestine and cause death and destruction, the scale of which has never been seen before.
Thanks to Netanyahu, Ben-Gvir has attained authority and command over every Israeli agency that deals with the Palestinian people. Now it looks like Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir are about to see exactly what happens when you push Palestinians into a corner. The only question that remains to be answered is how Ben-Gvir, who is now at the helm of Israel’s entire internal defense apparatus, will deal with what could be the largest Palestinian uprising to date.
Known to be a coward, a madman and an opportunistic racist thug, Ben-Gvir has never in his life managed, much less commanded, so much as a small shop. A piece in The New Yorker describes him as an activist, recruiter and even a role model for the hate-filled racist movement he was eventually destined to lead.
Palestinian prisoners – a tinderbox
One issue that touches the heart of every Palestinian is the fate of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners suffering in Israeli jails. Israel has 26 facilities it uses to interrogate, detain and incarcerate Palestinians.
A map created by Addameer, a Palestinian organisation focused on prisoner support and human rights, lists them all, shows their locations and reveals other details obtained over the years.
As Minister of National Security, Ben-Gvir has total control over the agency that governs Palestinian prisons, giving him control over even the most minute aspect of the lives of people he regularly refers to as terrorists but, in fact, are legitimate political prisoners.
Intending to demonstrate the iron fist with which he treats “terrorists” under his jurisdiction, Ben-Gvir recently announced the closure of bakeries that supply bread to Palestinian prisoners. He followed that announcement with a proclamation that prisoners would be allowed only four minutes to shower moving forward, after which Israeli authorities would shut the water off.
Palestinian prisoners did not delay in their response to Ben-Gvir. In a letter published in Hebrew, the prisoners declared a “revolt” against Ben-Gvir, which, if past occurrences are any indication, could ignite the entirety of Palestine.
The prisoners’ letter, addressed to Israeli journalist Elior Levi, was written by the leadership of the Palestinian Prisoners movement. In it, they announce the beginning of a revolt in response to the harsh measures taken by Ben-Gvir. They also announced an all-out hunger strike at the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Ben-Gvir’s cruelty, the letter says, will not only lead to a revolt within prison walls but also threatens to ignite all of Palestine. As history has taught, this is no empty threat but an actual warning. Ramadan is around the corner, and it is a time when tensions between Palestanians and Israelis are already very high, particularly around Jerusalem.
Ben-Gvir’s crackdown also extends to Palestinian neighbourhoods in Jerusalem, pushing the embattled city’s Palestinian leadership to declare a general strike and campaign of civil disobedience. The results are roads being blocked with burning tires, the Jerusalem police raiding neighborhoods, arresting Palestinians and sometimes demolishing their family members’ homes and other structures.
Ramadan and Passover
The Muslim Holy month of Ramadan, which is based on the lunar calendar and therefore beings at varying times every year, is expected to begin around March 22 and last until April 21. The Jewish Passover holiday, also based upon the lunar calendar, takes place this year from April 5 to April 13, in other words, right in the middle of Ramadan. Under normal circumstances, this is of little consequence, but in Palestine, it is an explosion waiting to happen.
During Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims where prayer and worship are central, Israeli authorities ease some restrictions on Palestinians wishing to travel to Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa, the second holiest site for Muslims. Millions of Palestinians brave checkpoints and more to pray at Al-Aqsa during Ramadan, particularly on Fridays. But in the last few years, even before Ben-Gvir took power, tensions have risen as Jewish extremists, defended by heavily armed Israeli forces, have entered the Holy Sanctuary and Al-Aqsa, sometime defiling the holy site and almost always leading to clashes with Palestinians intent on defending their sacred place.
During the Jewish holidays, those same Israeli authorities impose a near-total lockdown on Palestinians. The ghettos of the West Bank are locked, and checkpoints are closed.
During this most sensitive time, when a major Jewish holiday falls at the same time as a major Muslim one, one would hope for a leader with intellect who is sensible and, perhaps more importantly, sensitive to the needs of all parties. Ben-Gvir, who is in charge of these complicated and potentially explosive arrangements, is definitely not that person. Yet, Netanyahu has placed him in charge.
So what are the odds that the palace will be set on fire to an extent which has yet to be seen? Very high. Take the prisoner issue, throw in Jerusalem, a checkpoint closure, and add the Jewish holidays and Ramadan altogether. Now put a racist madman who gets excited by the sight of Palestinian blood in charge of all of this, and what would you expect?
For years, people have wondered whether another Intifada will break out. And indeed, an ongoing low-level uprising has been occurring this entire time. However, considering the abovementioned elements, a massive, all-out uprising can be expected soon.
People of conscience worldwide need to get ready to throw their support behind the Palestinian people in unprecedented ways. It is not enough to march and demonstrate anymore. People need to push their local and national governments, the press and the business community to support the Palestinian struggle actively.
This volatile situation is just waiting to explode, so there is no reason to wait. We would do well to urgently demand guarantees for the safety and security of the Palestinian people. We must demonstrate to the communities in which we live and operate that a scenario in which Palestinian lives have no value cannot go on. Israel – and any governments supporting it or companies doing business with it – must be held accountable.
The international community must sanction Israel and hold it to account for every hair that falls from the head of a Palestinian child. The time is now because Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir delight at the prospect of seeing Palestine in flames.
[Reprinted from MintPress News. Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, and Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.]