An increase in Palestinian violence against Israel Defense Forces soldiers and Jewish civilians throughout the West Bank, following the death of a Palestinian prisoner in an Israeli jail, is evoking similarities to the start of the second intifada.
“There is a serious increase in the number of attacks against Jews,” Marc Provisor, Director of Security Projects at the One Israel Fund nonprofit, told JNS.org. “Massive stoning attacks are occurring everyday. In addition to the stonings, Palestinians are throwing Molotov cocktails and even improvised grenades.”
Multiple clashes have been reported, including violence near the Tomb of Rachel in the Biblical city of Bethlehem, in which Palestinians were shot after throwing explosives in the direction of Jewish worshippers.
Additionally, it was reported this past week that multiple attempts have been made to kidnap IDF soldiers in the past several months, and a sophisticated Grad Rocket was fired from Gaza at the Israeli town of Ashkelon, the first time a rocket was fired since Operation Pillar of Defense in November.
“It is too early to say whether this violence is escalating into an intifada, but things can quickly get out of hand. The situation is extremely sensitive right now,” Provisor said.
Palestinian rioters have used the death of Arafat Jaradat in Israeli prison as a pre-text for the violence. Jaradat, 30, was arrested last week for throwing stones at Israeli vehicles traveling near the Jewish community of Kiryat Arba. Jaradat died in Israel’s Megiddo prison four days later.
Jaradat had previously been arrested on multiple occasions.
Palestinians accuse Israel of torturing Jaradat to death in prison. Israeli Prison Services spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said that Jaradat died of a heart attack. An autopsy performed in the presence of Palestinian officials was inconclusive as to the cause of death, but confirmed bruises and two broken ribs, which Israelis say may have been suffered during efforts to resuscitate Jaradat following his cardiac arrest.
Israel’s Army Radio reported that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas stated in response, “The death of young Arafat Jadarat shall not pass easily.” Abbas also reportedly accused Israel of intentionally killing Palestinian children to “sow anger” among Palestinian Arabs.
Years earlier, on September 28, 2000, then leader of the opposition Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount along with a large delegation of the Likud party. Though Jews are legally allowed to visit the site in Jerusalem’s Old City—the holiest site in the world according to Jewish faith—the Palestinians used Sharon’s controversial visit as a pretext to launch a five-year intifada that resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 Jews and 3,000 Palestinians.
Since the launch of that intifada, it has been well documented that the deadly round of violence was planned and coordinated by Yasser Arafat, in advance of Sharon’s visit.
Similar to the events of 2000, it is also believed that the uptick in violence is well coordinated to take advantage of a number of circumstances, including ongoing Palestinian power struggles between rival factions Fatah and Hamas, and Israel essentially operating without a government—between recent elections and the formation of a governing coalition.
Furthermore, U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to arrive in the region in late March, possibly in an attempt to jumpstart peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinian leaders may be using the unique combination of events as an opportunity to draw Israel’s military into an unwanted conflict.
“The Palestinian violence is being fully orchestrated,” Provisor told JNS.org. “This began before the prisoner issue emerged. They are trying to kill people on the roads. How else would they expect Israel to act than to respond?
“Today the media is reporting that Arabs are getting hurt in clashes with the IDF throughout Judea and Samaria. But who is instigating the violence? Who is starting it?” Provisor said.
Prior to his work at One Israel Fund, Provisor served as director of security for the town of Shiloh, a Jewish community in the heart of Samaria that housed the Biblical Tabernacle for 369 years prior to the building of the first Jewish Temple. Today, Shiloh and other Jewish communities in the Shomron are pocketed by numerous Palestinian villages. While there are numerous attempted incidents, they are often not reported unless there are fatalities, or unless the IDF makes arrests.
“By reporting a one-sided version of events that does not report Palestinian violence, the media is not giving Israeli citizens an accurate picture. Worse yet, they actually inciting the violence to continue, which is against the law,” Provisor said.
“The Israeli media want Israelis to believe that the Palestinians want peace, but there are not mass calls for non-violence,” Provisor said. “These kids are endangering the lives of soldiers, trying to illicit a response. Why doesn’t the Palestinian Authority educate kids not to incite armed soldiers?”
When Israel counters violence and Palestinians are arrested or killed, the international community often responds with calls for Israel to temper its response.
“International pressure on Israel gives the Palestinian Authority a free hand to continue violent activity,” Provisor said.
“Today, the Palestinians gain popularity when people are killed, and not by making overtures toward peace. We need to understand and respect that this is a different culture from our own,” he said.
The IDF “should be doing a lot more,” according to Provisor.
“They have the information and they have the talent,” he said. “If they don’t act to secure Jewish lives, what is going to happen? Somebody is going to get killed.”
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