Invading Ramallah, bursting the bubble

The raids in Ramallah are part of Israel’s systematic efforts to keep Palestinians in a state of uncertainty and siege.

Ramallah raid -AP photo
Israeli forces deployed during a raid in the West Bank City of Ramallah, January 9, 2019 [File: Majdi Mohammed/AP]

Over the last two weeks, the Israeli army has been invading the Palestinian city of Ramallah and conducting a series of military incursions which has almost entirely escaped international attention.

On Saturday, we saw this escalate when they took up position in front of the Ramallah municipality and various high-end establishments. In a scene reminiscent of the Second Intifada, clashes ensued when the shabab (the youth) responded to the invasion with rocks, taking cover behind the dozens of expensive cars lined up in this fancy part of the city. The soldiers reciprocated with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets. They also harassed and pushed around journalists, medics and bystanders. There were arrests, ransacking of establishments and dozens of tear gas-related injuries. This demonstration of collective punishment also left a rather bewildered population, with many pondering what the Israeli military was actually doing in Ramallah this time.

The official justification provided by the Israeli army is that they were confiscating private security cameras that would provide footage of the apparent Palestinian assailants. Meanwhile, others have speculated that this could be an attempt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to gain electoral points and show the Israeli public that he means business when it comes to the Palestinians. This justification does not hold up, as the Israeli media has not been reporting on the invasions. And, as usual, the majority of Jewish Israelis have no idea what’s going on in Ramallah. The army justification is also flimsy because it would not take them a week to confiscate all the cameras they need from the area. More so, because Israel has the occupied West Bank under intensive drone surveillance. 

What’s more likely is that Israel is flexing its muscles in order to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to yield further politically by reminding them that they can literally come into their backyard and do whatever they like. It is also part of a systematic effort to keep Palestinians in a state of uncertainty and siege, something which the Israeli regime has perfected in Gaza.

However, albeit unintentionally, these efforts also remind the Palestinian residents in Ramallah that every time the Israeli army sets foot in areas under the PA control, they do so under the security coordination mechanism. On paper, this coordination between Israel and the PA allows for the sharing of intel on security issues in order to thwart apparent “terrorism”. In reality, it allows Israel full sovereignty over the West Bank. The Israelis can simply inform the PA when any of its forces come into the West Bank and tell them to make sure they stay behind closed doors. It has also allowed for more sinister scenarios where the PA provides intelligence on the whereabouts of individuals to Israel, such as was the case with the activist Basel al Araj who was assassinated in 2017.

The scene, on Saturday night, of a group of soldiers taking cover in front of the Ramallah Municipality from incoming rocks offered an aesthetic reminder of the security coordination as well as the fact that the PA is not even able to offer the most basic protection to Palestinians. Most of all, however, it demonstrated par excellence the fallacy of Palestinian authority or statehood. The Oslo framework is complicit in this fallacy, while supposedly an apparatus that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state, it instead divided the West Bank into areas which would prevent Palestinian contiguity and would allow full de facto Israeli military control. Today, what exists in reality is one regime from the river to the sea which maintains an oppressive system of control based on racial segregation.

Complicity also lies in the hands of the international diplomatic community that has unsurprisingly, since the beginning of these latest invasions into Ramallah, not released any statements condemning the Israeli army. However, the invasion of Ramallah should not be exceptionalised. Indeed, dozens of Palestinian villages and towns suffer from Israeli incursions every week. Ramallah, the hub of the Palestinian bourgeoisie and political class, was reminded of something that is a common occurrence for many Palestinians. This was a good, albeit brutal, reminder that the fancy coffee shops and buildings and the expensive cars are all part of a delusional bubble – a bubble that is sure to burst sooner rather than later.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.