The Guardian published an op-ed on Feb. 8 (“There’s no cycle of violence in Jerusalem – only Israel’s lethal oppression of my people”) by contributor Jalal Abukhater, a UK-educated Palestinian writer and activist from Jerusalem. The headline, as with the op-ed itself, is a response to the widespread condemnation of the murder of seven Israeli civilians, including a 14 year old boy, last month in Jerusalem’s Neve Ya’akov neighborhood, which he suggests is misguided because it obfuscates “the power imbalance of an occupier and occupied”.
His objective is to contextualise the attack by noting the “structural violence” perpetrated against Palestinains in Jerusalem on a “daily basis”. The “violence” against Palestinians in east Jerusalem he cites includes the demolition of illegally built homes and the dearth of new construction approved for Palestinian neighborhoods.
Though he doesn’t explicitly justify the murder of seven Jews in the Guardian piece, a similar op-ed he published the previous week at Mondoweiss, and at his own website, suggests he does view the lethal attack by Khairy Alqam as a legitimate act of resistance.
Here are the opening paragraphs:
The occupied Palestinian territory is going through some of the most violent, destructive, and lethal days in recent memory. The Israeli military occupation is metastasizing into a monster eating away at Palestinian life in all its shapes and forms. A sense of hopelessness, frustration, and despair hovers over us all like a dark cloud.
Then suddenly, one act of defiance pierces the dark, igniting a spark in the eyes of the people. A mourning tent in Jenin momentarily turns into a celebration. A street in Kufr Aqab is drowned in the sound of fireworks and beeping cars. Khairy Alqam’s fatal attack, where he shot and killed seven Israeli settlers in the Israeli settlement of Neve Yaakov, was one such moment.
It is hard to explain the fleeting spark people felt when they heard the news. I know for a fact that not one of us would delight in death. But to understand the events at Neve Yaakov and the Palestinian reaction to it, you need to understand its context — you need to understand the history of the place where it happened and the personal history of the person who carried it out.
The Israeli and international media, as well as political leaders, have attempted to turn the attack into a religiously-motivated crime because it took place on the eve of Shabbat in an area adjacent to a synagogue. But these same accounts ignore the fact that Neve Yaakov is also home to the Israeli military’s central command center for the occupation of the West Bank, and the settlement has been central to cementing Israeli control over occupied Jerusalem. Ignoring this context only works to dehumanize Palestinians.
When an attack like Khairy Alqam’s in Neve Yaakov occurs, you must understand that this violence does not occur in a vacuum.
So, in addition to referring to the muder of seven Jews as an “act of defiance”, he justifies the celebration of the act of mass murder, in part because the IDF’s Central Command headquarters is located on the edge of the impoverished neighbourhood where the civilians were attacked. He also condemns those calling it an antisemitic attack as “deumanizing” to Palestinains.
You can read the rest of his op-ed here.
Finally, just to do due dilliegence, we tweeted the writer to ask if, despite what he wrote, he would condemn the murder of seven Jews. Here’s his reply:
I never justify, nor have I ever, any sort of violence committed against innocent civilians. If my writings on contextualizing & helping bring understanding to the nature of violence, – bothers you, it is not my problem. I live here, I experience it directly & use my pen. Thanks.
— Jalal (@JalalAK_jojo) February 8, 2023
Though he appears, upon first glance, to condemn the attack, we noted that he merely said – in the abstract – that he never justified violence against “innocent civilians”. So, we followed up with a more specific question:
Thanks for your reply. But, just so we're 100% clear: Do you consider the seven Israelis who were killed to be "innocent civilians"?
— CAMERA UK (Formerly UK Media Watch and BBC Watch) (@CAMERAorgUK) February 8, 2023
At the time this post was published, there was no reply from the Guardian contributor.