By Anees Teladia
The holy month of Ramadan is one of the most important periods for Muslims. However, not all Muslims are fortunate enough to enjoy the month of Ramadan in peace. This has been of particular concern and note in the Palestinian case. Since the 2014 Gaza conflict with Israel which saw the Palestinian people lose 2251 lives, of which 1462 were civilian, more attention has been placed on the timing of these conflicts and attacks. Is there a correlation between increased attacks on Palestine by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and the month of Ramadan? If so, who is to blame?
Different media outlets report on the issue in different ways. There are some who draw a direct link between the month of Ramadan and increased violence but attribute that violence to Muslims themselves.
Such claims cite historical links between Islam, Ramadan and war, as is seen in a written analysis piece, titled Ramadan: A Holy and Violent Month.
Many, however, feel that attacking the Palestinian territories at the beginning of and during Ramadan is a strategic move by the IDF to unsettle the Palestinian people and cause them even more emotional grief and hardship.
According to Kamran Bokhari the author of Ramadan: A Holy and Violent Month, Ramadan is a month which often serves as a catalyst to violence.
“Ramadan is viewed as more than a religious holiday; it has always had a geopolitical dimension. Groups like the Islamic State, al-Qaida, the Taliban and others invoke this history to further their agendas. Having accused the Muslim regimes and most Muslims of abandoning Islam, the jihadists claim to be the rightful heirs to this legacy. Their narrative is infused with historical references, which the jihadists use to galvanize their fighters during the holy month. This explains why, since 9/11, jihadist attacks during Ramadan have spiked,” says Bokhari.
“…Ultimately, the Middle East — and the Muslim world more broadly — is a religiously charged region that is sparked every year during the month of Ramadan. It is an environment that jihadists benefit from immensely…”
This then, to some degree, might serve to support the claim of the Israeli state in saying that they battle increased militarisation during the month of Ramadan.
“On the eve of the month of Ramadan terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip operate to escalate tensions, destroy the calmness, and worsen the situation of Gaza residents,” said IDF spokesperson for Arab media, Avichay Adraee.
However, this is far from conclusive evidence. Apparent correlation does not necessarily indicate causation.
It is a peculiar coincidence that many of the serious conflicts in Palestine occur during the month of Ramadan, a month of attack in which only the Israeli forces stand to gain. The Israeli Defence Force is larger, stronger and better equipped than the Palestinian resistance movement.
There have been cases of Israeli settlers in Palestinian territory planning and carrying out attacks on Palestinians during the month of Ramadan, repeatedly provoking a Palestinian response.
An article by the Middle East Monitor indicates that 53 mosques and holy sites in the occupied West Bank were attacked and/or burned by settlers during the period 2009 to 2017, according to Israeli reports.
In 2016, Al-Aqsa Mosque was raided and experienced break-ins during the last 10 days of Ramadan by Zionist settlers. This is a period of increased holiness within the holiest of months for Muslims.
Some sources say, however, that rather than there having been break-ins or raids, “Jewish visitors” entered Al-Aqsa during the last 10 days of Ramadan. The visitation, however, was understood as a breach of tradition that sees only Islamic worshippers having entrance into the compound during that period.
Furthermore, just days ago at the beginning of the month of Ramadan this year, the Al-Aqsa Mosque was raided by Israeli settlers while Israeli police made it their mission to prevent Palestinians from entering.
According to the Palestine Information Network, Palestinian activist, Mohammed Matter addressed the repetitive attacks on Palestine during the month of Ramadan. Per the network, Matter wrote “Gaza was under attack in Ramadan 2014, Gaza was under attack in Ramadan 2016, Gaza was under attack in Ramadan 2018, Gaza is under attack in Ramadan 2019.”
If anyone denies the clear and consistent provocation of Palestinian Muslims and claims that only Palestinians are to blame for the military and security escalations we often see near and during the month of Ramadan, they are either misinformed or uninformed.
The question then remains: why would fasting Palestinians seek to exacerbate their conditions during the month of Ramadan in particular, when they understand that Israeli forces will use it as an immediate excuse to worsen the Palestinian condition?
Even if Palestinians are annually reinvigorated with a spirit of rebellion and determination to resist occupation and arguable state terrorism perpetrated by Israel during the month of Ramadan, it would certainly not be an unprovoked and unexpected outcome.
Is Ramadan being used as a convenient excuse for imperialism?