Israel continues violence against Palestinians, but faces new reality

May 26, 2021
Protest against Israel's war on Palestine in Oakland, California. Photo: @AROCBayArea/Twitter

As the ceasefire entered its fourth day, Israel continued its drive against Palestinians in the West Bank and occupied territories.

On May 21, the first day of the ceasefire, Israeli settlers, backed by security forces, stormed the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem and attacked Palestinians there. Three days later, settlers again attacked Al Aqsa, backed by police, who used stun guns and rubber bullets. There were mass arrests.

Israeli attacks on Palestinians at the mosque in April and early May led to the war against Gaza.

The new attacks are meant to discourage Palestinians from attending the mosque, and are a deliberate demonstration by Israel, that the ceasefire does not apply to its continuing drive to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem of Palestinians.

The New York Times reported that in recent years far-right Jewish group, Torah Nucleus, has organised settlers to take over Palestinians’ homes in “Green Line” Israel, in cities with mixed Palestinian-Jewish populations.

The NYT said, “For decades, hard-line Israeli nationalists have sought to shift the demographics of the occupied West Bank by building Jewish settlements, undermining the prospect of a two-state solution…

“With far less attention and fanfare, the Torah Nucleus movement set out with an ideological mission to alter the balance of Israeli cities” in favour of Jews.

Since the ceasefire in Gaza, Torah Nucleus is again trying to send Jewish families, who fled these cities in the face of the Palestinian uprising, back into them.

The NYT leaves out the fact that the settler movement in the West Bank and “Green Line” Israel is deliberately organised by the Israeli government, in order to “undermine” the “two-state” solution, because Israel has never supported it. Far-right groups like the Torah Nucleus movement are Israel’s shock troops.

The ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem also sparked the recent war.

Sheikh Jarrah resident, Mohammad El-Kurd, a poet and activist told Democracy Now! that Sheikh Jarrah is a microcosm of Israeli settler colonialism in Palestine. An Israeli settler from Long Island in New York has been occupying part of El-Kurd’s own house for more than a decade. “It is absurd for people to hear that there’s a settler from Long Island that’s squatting in my house … and this is the situation in the entire neighborhood.

El Kurd said settler organisations registered in the United States are working with Israeli authorities “to fabricate documents to throw out Palestinians” from Sheikh Jarrah and other neighbourhoods.

“It’s happening in Silwan, where more than 800 Palestinians are about to be made homeless … It’s happening in the South Hebron Hills. It’s happening in Issawiya, where the Israeli authorities are building “national parks” as colonial borders, to prevent natural community growth in Palestinian communities…

“Sheikh Jarrah has been under an illegal blockade for the past three weeks. No Palestinians, not even medics, not even journalists, are allowed into the neighbourhood...

“Those of us who live there are still harassed and questioned and shoved around … Meanwhile, Israeli settlers can just walk in, no questions asked. And often, if not most of the time, they are armed with their rifles and pistols.”

Situation in Gaza

US President Joe Biden is trying to claim the role of peacemaker. It is true that he ordered Netanyahu to accept a ceasefire in the Israeli war against Gaza and its people, but only after he supported eleven days of lethal bombing and artillery barrages.

This was enough time for Israel to destroy residential buildings and homes, kill 248 Palestinian civilians (66 of them children), wound more than 1700 people, destroy medical facilities, assassinate doctors, and destroy water infrastructure, sewerage facilities, roads and much more.

As a result, the situation for Palestinians trapped in Gaza is even more desperate. The Palestinians were already suffering under the air, sea and land blockade imposed by Israel, which the Egyptian dictatorships of Hosni Mubarak and Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi enforced at the border with Egypt.

Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade when Hamas deposed the Palestinian Authority in Gaza in 2007. To punish the Palestinians in Gaza for supporting Hamas, Israel launched its devastating 2008 war.

Biden has also raised the idea that the US could provide funds to help rebuild Gaza. He makes only one precondition — that the Hamas resistance must be disarmed — which isn’t going to happen.

What prompted Biden to give the order to Netanyahu for a ceasefire?

One factor is the international condemnation of Israel’s war, expressed in large demonstrations across the world. Even US allies on the United Nations Security Council called for a ceasefire, leaving the US isolated.

There were also big demonstrations inside the US, and significant opposition from within the Democratic Party. Left-wing Democrats, such as Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez openly denounced Israel as an “apartheid state”.

Senator Bernie Sanders, while historically a supporter of Israel, called for the US to stop financially supporting the rightist Netanyahu government.

Some establishment Democrats also raised concerns.

New reality in Israel

The big demonstrations in many countries were spurred by new understanding of Israel as an oppressor and apartheid state and its brutality in Gaza, but also by the new response by Palestinians.

This time, Palestinians rose up from all parts of Israel, from Gaza to the West Bank and “Green Line” Israel. There were mass mobilisations everywhere against the war, in solidarity with Gaza, and against Israeli oppression. These were militant actions, against settler and other far-right violence, and against Israeli army violence aimed at suppressing the uprising.

These were led by a new generation that united in action. This unity was explicit in the one-day strike by Palestinians across the West Bank, Gaza and Israel on May 18. The Palestinian diaspora was also galvanised.

The new stage of Palestinian resistance caught the Israeli government by surprise. It also shocked the US.

This is a new force that Israel and the US must reckon with. Israel is attempting to continue business as usual, but will be met with new resistance. The US’s unconditional backing of Israel as its main base in the Middle East will be challenged, including in the US.

Yousef Munayyer, a writer and scholar at the Arab Center in Washington, DC, wrote in a NYT opinion piece that “with this movement, Palestinians have shown Israel that they cannot be ignored.

“For years, Israelis have made peace with the notion that they can manage, however brutally, their relationship with Palestinians instead of resolving it.

“This has been aided by walling off the ugliness of their rule: Gaza, caged and besieged might as well have been on another planet; Israelis could drive through the West Bank practically uninterrupted by the sight of Palestinians; Palestinian citizens of Israel have largely been relegated to neglected, concentrated areas.

“But as Palestinians took to the streets in recent weeks, defiantly raising their national flags and chanting against subjugation, Israelis woke to the realisation that for Palestinians, the divisions between Gazans, residents of the West Bank and Palestinian citizens of Israel do not exist.

“Palestine is not ‘over there’ but is everywhere around them…

“[Palestinians] have reasserted that they are Palestinians, with one flag and one struggle. That is precisely why, in the weeks and months to come, Palestinians should not be forced back to a paradigm that divides them with calls for a two-state solution.”

The NYT editorial on May 21 said: “Many young Palestinians say their parents’ dream of an independent state has morphed into a struggle for civil rights within the borders of land that Israel has controlled since 1967.”

The NYT hopes this struggle will lead Israel’s government to “grapple with what a one-state reality would really mean, which might motivate them to get back to the bargaining table to establish a Palestinian state.” But, this is a vain hope to somehow keep the US’s beachhead in the Middle East alive.

The really hopeful outcome for the struggle for civil rights would be a single, democratic and secular state with equal rights for all.

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