Israeli Crackdown on Worship at Al-Aqsa and Power Cuts in Gaza Risk Major Escalation


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 21, 2017
Contact: Naomi Dann| media@jvp.org | 845-377-5745

Israeli Crackdown on Worship at Al-Aqsa and Power Cuts in Gaza Risk Major Escalation

Underlying issues of siege and occupation must be addressed in reporting on the current violence

 

UPDATE 4:30 PM EST: Since this was initially released this morning, a third Palestinian was pronounced dead in Jerusalem after being shot during the protests against Israeli restrictions at Al-Aqsa mosque. Over 300 Palestinians were injured today in East Jerusalem and West Bank. The latest reporting is that three Israelis were killed in the West Bank settlement of Halamish by a young Palestinian man. We are saddened and alarmed by the progressive worsening of the situation and by the loss of life today.

The Netanyahu government had the option to dial down tensions by removing the metal detectors at Al-Aqsa, but it chose to impose draconian restrictions on the entire Palestinian population due to the actions of a few. This pattern of collective punishment is familiar from Israel’s policy of siege in Gaza, and it has predictable and ugly results. We reiterate that Israel has the power not only to defuse this crisis, but to end the occupation and siege that make it possible. These are necessary and urgent steps towards true peace and safety for all people in Israel/Palestine.

 

(July 21, 2017) – Jewish Voice for Peace is deeply concerned about escalations of violence against Palestinian protesters and worshippers in Jerusalem, and the worsening power crisis in Gaza. The underlying causes at the heart of these escalations are the same – occupation and siege – and these factors should be addressed in reporting on the current crises.

Two Palestinians were killed today and over 190 injured during massive protests against Israeli restrictions on access to the Al Aqsa Mosque. The restrictions, a total closure last week and then the installation of metal detectors, are unprecedented in recent years. They follow an attack by three Palestinian citizens that killed two Israeli policemen near the compound last week. In Gaza this week, residents had an average of a mere 4 hours of electricity a day as a power crisis caused by Israel’s blockade and recent electricity cuts with support of the Palestinian Authority deepened. Together, these draconian Israeli measures are pushing the region alarmingly close to a full-scale confrontation – with Palestinian civilians already bearing the brunt of the violence.

For a decade now, Israel’s blockade and control over entries & exports into Gaza has pushed Gaza to the brink, punctuated by three brutal military assaults that killed thousands and destroyed much of the crowded Strip’s already-weak infrastructure. In recent weeks, the power crisis imposed by Israeli cuts, with the support of the Palestinian Authority, have made a bad situation even worse. The strip has neared a total collapse of electricity, water, and health services. Residents are averaging just 4 hours of electricity per day, and perhaps most alarmingly, hospitals are cutting all but the most urgent surgeries. Incubators for prematurely born babies and dialysis machines are running on unreliable generators with no back-up source of power.

As the situation escalates in Gaza, tensions have surged in Jerusalem and beyond centered on the Al-Aqsa Mosque/Temple Mount. The imposition of metal detectors there is seen as an imposition of Israel’s power over the holy site. Israel has occupied the area since 1967 (though the Jordanian Waqf retains nominal “administrative” control of the holy site), and there is a growing movement by right-wing Israeli activists and officials to take over the site more fully. Israeli actions at the site sparked an uprising in 2015-2016 that has still not entirely died out, as well as the second Palestinian Intifada (“uprising”) in 2000. A grassroots boycott and mass protests have grown over the course of this week, culminating in demonstrations in Jerusalem and across the West Bank today. The Al Asqa Mosque is a central holy site for Muslims around the world, and the issue of freedom of religion and access to the site is of deep concern to many.

While the escalation in Jerusalem has received attention today, far too little has been paid to the violence of the slow strangulation of Gaza. Israel’s military occupation and blockade are at the heart of the current crises, and this context must be part of any story on Israel/Palestine. Jewish Voice for Peace calls for an end to the occupation, full equal rights for all Palestinians living under Israeli sovereignty, and an immediate end to the siege of Gaza. Only when these issues are addressed can progress be made towards a lasting peace with justice and safety for all people in the region.

Jewish Voice for Peace representatives are available for interviews. 

Further background:

Jewish Voice for Peace: Al Aqsa / Temple Mount 101 (October 2015).

Haidar Eid and Ayah Abubasheer with Alaa Tartir: Gaza is Headed for a Deeper Political and Humanitarian Crisis (Al Shabaka, July 2017).

Tareq Baconi: How Israel’s 10-Year Blockade Brought Gaza to the Brink of Collapse” (The Nation, July 2017).

Amira Hass: How Gazans Manage to Keep Cool and Carry On (Ha’aretz, July 2017).

Institute for Middle East Understanding: The Crisis in Gaza (June 2017).

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