On Friday, I appeared on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story, to debate the developments surrounding Wednesday’s Tel Aviv attack that killed four Israeli civilians.
The other guests were two former Israeli officials: Daniel Levy, of the European Council on Foreign Relationswho worked as an advisor to one-time Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, and Mitchell Barak, who was a spokesperson for Shimon Peres when he was Israel’s president.
As Israeli leaders vowed revenge and began to impose collective punishment on the occupied Palestinian civilian population, Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai was the most high profile figure pointing squarely back at Israel’s occupation as the root cause of violence.
Israel is “maybe the only country in which another people is under occupation and in which these people have no rights,” Huldai told army radio.
“We can’t keep these people in a reality in which they are occupied and [expect] them to reach the conclusion that everything is alright and that they can continue living this way,” Huldai added, in reference to the Palestinians.
In an even more extraordinary statement, the father of Ido Ben Ari, one of the four victims of the shooting attack allegedly carried out by two Palestinian cousins at a Tel Aviv cafe, accused the Israeli government of making the situation worse.
“Last night, after the attack, the prime minister and two of his ministers arrived and yet another security cabinet issued decrees – not to return corpses, to put up barriers, to destroy houses, and to make lives harder,” the father said at his son’s funeral.
“These solutions create suffering, hatred, despair and [lead] to more people joining the circle of terror,” he added. “What’s needed is a solution rather than saying all the time that there’s nobody to make peace with.”
During the discussion, Daniel Levy agreed that “the basic dynamic is dictated by the fact that you have an occupying power and an occupied people … Israel controls the lives of the Palestinians in the territories.”
In such conditions, Levy said, spikes in violence would remain inevitable.
He also pointed out that Palestinian citizens of Israel “live in a nominal democracy, but [their] rights are increasingly squeezed.”
Levy argued that Israel’s actions, particularly its ongoing colonization of Palestinian land, were enabled by international powers that did nothing to stop it.
“Why would you expect Israel to behave any differently as long as Israel is treated with impunity?” Levy asked.
Resorting to standard Israeli government talking points, Mitchell Barak, by contrast, attempted to lay all responsibility on Palestinians.
I argued that the conditions Levy described amounted to apartheid and that Palestinians were therefore justified in calling for Israel’s total isolation and accountability through boycott, divestment and sanctions.
I also pointed out that Al Jazeera’s own framing of the discussion appeared to downplay Israeli violence against Palestinians.
In the host’s introduction and the correspondent’s report setting up the discussion, there was no mention of the fact that as four Israeli families were mourning, so was yet another Palestinian family.
On Wednesday morning, before the Tel Aviv attack, thousands attended the funeral of 20-year-old Jamal Dweikat in Balata refugee camp near Nablus in the occupied West Bank.
The youth was shot in the head last Friday by Israeli occupation forces in Nablus and later died of his injuries.
Dweikat’s father told the Ma’an News Agency that “Jamal was welcomed as a hero two times, once when he was released from Israeli prison and today as a martyr,” adding that he had last seen his son an hour before he was shot.