A state of pre-conflict

A third intifada has not yet broken out in the West Bank, but discontent, with Israel and the Palestinian Authority is rife

al-Aqsa gunmen at Arafat Jaradat funeral 521 (photo credit: DARREN WHITESIDE / REUTERS)
al-Aqsa gunmen at Arafat Jaradat funeral 521
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Much has been written of late about Arafat Jaradat, the 30-year-old Palestinian prisoner who died while in custody at Israel’s Megiddo Prison late in February.
However, one incident that took place during the funeral procession for Jaradat in his home village of Kfar Sa’ir, near Bethlehem, went unnoticed by the media.
At one point, after Jaradat’s body was taken from Hebron to Sa’ir, and as activists yelled anti-Israel epithets at the entrance of the village, five masked gunmen climbed up on top of the roof of the Jaradat family’s home. These were not Palestinian policemen, many of whom were busy escorting the body during the funeral procession. The five were apparently linked to the practically defunct al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terror group associated with Fatah, and wore paramilitary uniforms: One was outfitted in camouflage, another in a black shirt, military vest and a helmet. Some had their faces hidden behind black masks, others with keffiyehs.
It’s been years since armed men like these have been seen on the streets of the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority (PA) can be credited with the fact that since the end of 2007, and up until a few weeks ago, the streets have been free of gun-toting men who are not members of the Palestinian security forces. The frequent appearance of armed men shooting into the air during the second intifada had all but disappeared.
And then during the funeral procession for Jaradat, as Palestinian policemen kept order in the street, the five masked men on the roof began shooting into the air as if they had limitless ammunition. Following the show, the five got down off the roof and began distributing flyers boosting al-Aqsa Martyrs, a name that had all but disappeared.
According to the flyers, revenge for Jaradat’s death will soon be coming.
For now, groups associated with Fatah do not appear to be engaged in any real militant acts. However, the very presence of armed men operating in broad daylight right under the noses of the Palestinian Police indicates that there is motivation to renew armed activity.
After meeting with residents in Kfar Sa’ir, as well as in other refugee camps, such as Balata, near Nablus, I get the feeling that the Palestinians are frustrated with both Israel and the PA (the deteriorating economic situation and failure to pay salaries). Illegal weapons can still be found here – in the small alleyways of the villages and cities, even though the majority of Palestinians disapprove of their use – and some residents have decided that the time has come to take the guns and ammunition out of storage and start shooting.
A third intifada has not broken out, and things have quietened down a little since the funeral; but the discontent has remained.
Public resentment is growing and something is brewing out there. It is a complex process that is difficult to call either an intifada or an uprising. Some people are comparing the recent incidents to those of 1987, when the first intifada broke out, or to September 2000, when the second one began. The comparisons are valid, but we may, on the other hand, be experiencing a new phenomenon unlike any we have encountered in the past.
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