West must oppose new Israeli reign of terror

Issue 
About half the Palestinians killed in October have been protesters killed by the Israeli military.

Some things are recurring in the Israel-Palestine conflict. One is that the Israeli version of events is generally the direct opposite of reality. Another is that Western politicians and media uncritically accept the Israeli narrative.

A third recurring feature of the conflict is that the most compelling evidence contradicting the Israeli version events is the body count.

The rise of camera phones and social media has meant that photographic and video evidence contradicting the official narrative has become an increasingly important factor. And so it is in the latest upsurge in violence in the region.

The mainstream media frames the story as Israelis under threat from a spate of “lone wolf” terrorist attacks from Palestinians, usually involving knives, and that some Palestinians have been injured or killed by the Israeli response.

Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state and frontrunner in the Democrats presidential race, summed up the Western narrative on October 12: “I am alarmed by the recent wave of attacks against Israelis, including more than a dozen separate attacks since last Saturday.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Men and women living in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and elsewhere cannot carry groceries or travel to prayer without looking over their shoulder.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on October 13: “The US condemns in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attacks, the recent terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians which resulted in the murder of three Israelis and left numerous others wounded.”

However, the body counts show that the victims are mostly Palestinians, not Israelis: 32 Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed since the start of October. Hundreds of Palestinians have also been injured.

Many videos, pictures and eyewitness accounts have emerged on social media suggesting that what is actually occurring is a spate of extra-judicial executions of Palestinians by Israeli police and army - often cheered on by civilians.

Israeli politicians are encouraging Israeli civilians to carry arms — already far more normalised among Israelis than in most societies. The implication is that Israeli civilians killing Palestinians are acting in legitimate self-defence, regardless of the circumstances.

About half the Palestinians killed in October have been protesters killed by the Israeli military. Use of live ammunition against unarmed protests has become routine.

Protesters sometimes resist by throwing stones or molotov cocktails – a fact used by Israeli authorities, and its Western media echo-chamber, to portray these violently suppressed protests as two-sided military clashes. But they are not.

Two of the seven Israelis killed were shot in a drive-by shooting. The rest were knifed.

Growing numbers of Palestinians are responding to the hardship and humiliation of life under Israeli rule, the growing racism in Israel and the failure of Palestinian leaders to meaningfully challenge the Israelis, by individual, spontaneous acts of violent resistance.

This should not be overstated, however. Evidence continues to emerge suggesting that many of the supposed knife attacks on Israeli civilians or security forces never actually took place and are just cover stories to justify extra-judicial executions.

The precedent was set with the September 22 shooting by soldiers of 18-year-old Hadeel Hashlamon at a checkpoint in Hebron. The official story was that she attacked the soldiers with a knife, but a series of photos have emerged suggesting a cold-blooded execution.

On October 2, 19-year-old Fadi Alloun was shot dead by police in Jerusalem. There been no evidence to back up claims that he tried to stab a settler, or even had a knife. A video has emerged showing him being chased by a Jewish mob chanting “Death to Arabs!” before being apprehended by police.

The mob then shouts for the police to kill him. One police officer refused, to the fury of the mob, but another stepped in and shot Alloun.

“When it was all over, the police officer who refused to shoot Alloun became the target of verbal abuse by those same teenagers,” +972 Magazine said.

Video also emerged after the October 9 killing of Muhammad Faris Abdullah al-Jabari in the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba. It also shows Israeli Jewish civilians egging on police on to kill him. In the video, after his execution, the crowd desecrated his corpse, throwing pork on it.

The mayor of Kiryat Arba, Israel Bramson, defended this.

“I do not denounce what happened,” he told Israeli media, Electronic Intifada reported on October 14. “They should not get their cadavers back, they should be tossed into the sea in the best case.”

On October 11, two cousins, 15-year-old Hasan Khalid Manasra and 13-year-old Ahmad Salih Manasra, were shot by police in the Israeli settlement of Pisgat Zeev in East Jerusalem. Hasan died as a result.

A video shows a Jewish-Israeli crowd shouting “Die, son of a whore!” at the dying boy. Ma'an News Agency reported on October 12 that witnesses contradicted police claims that the boys had knives and had attacked a settler.

The background to this horror is the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The current spike in violence includes some disturbing trends. But violence by the state of Israel, and sometimes violent resistance to it, have been constant since the state was created in 1948 through a war of conquest and ethnic cleansing.

The intractability of the conflict stems from the fact that Israel and Palestine are the same country - and the Israeli nation-state is based on expelling Palestinians from their land and defining itself as an exclusively Jewish state.

The whole of what was Palestine until 1948 – including the territories of the West Bank and Gaza that were occupied by Israel since 1967 - is now under Israeli rule. On most Israeli maps, the whole area is marked simply as “Israel”.

However, most non-Israeli maps reflect historical reality and legal fictions, whereby the 78% of Palestine that became Israel in 1948 is “Israel proper” while the remainder — the West Bank and Gaza Strip — are the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”.

Under international law the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” are not part of Israel.

In reality, the settlement of more than half-a-million Israeli Jews in the West Bank has made the pre-1967 border meaningless. Far more meaningful on the ground than international law is the “Apartheid Wall”, whose twisting route is entirely within in the West Bank.

Also crucial are the Israeli military zones and the Jewish-only roads, which integrate large parts of the West Bank into Israel while separating Palestinian communities from each other.

The population under the whole area under Israeli rule is about half Israeli Jewish and half Palestinian. There is also a Palestinian diaspora about equal in size to the Palestinian population still in historic Palestine.

Most Palestinians in historic Palestine are not Israeli citizens, despite being subjected to Israeli rule. They live in what are effectively reservations or ghettos. In the West Bank, freedom of movement is severely restricted by walls, fences and checkpoints.

Even short journeys between and within Palestinian communities have long, and unpredictable, durations and frequently cannot be made at all. Despite this, many West Bank Palestinians are dependent on work in the Israeli settlements, or in Israel's official borders.

In Gaza, the situation is even more extreme. The entire enclave, and its 1.5 million inhabitants, is surrounded by a wall and full-scale military siege.

Access to the outside world — for people and goods — used to be mainly through tunnels under the border into Egypt. However, since Abdel Fattah al-Sisi became Egyptian ruler in July 2013, this lifeline has been largely closed.

The situation of besieged Gaza is compounded by Israeli military attacks. Small-scale aggression is constant and full-scale aerial blitzkriegs happen every few years, most recently in July-August last year, the fourth such blitzkrieg since 2006.

About 20% of the Palestinian population under Israeli rule have Israeli citizenship. These are the descendants of the minority of Palestinians who were not driven out in the ethnic cleansing of “Israel proper” when it was created in 1948.

They face fewer restrictions than West Bank and Gaza Palestinians. But the laws and policies of Israel designed to make it a specifically Jewish state mean that Palestinian citizens of Israel face institutional discrimination in education, employment, healthcare and other public services and even where they are able to live.

Home demolitions as a form of collective punishment are used against Palestinian citizens of Israel - although to a lesser extent than against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

Finally, there is the Palestinian population of Jerusalem. Before 1967, the city was divided. Israel, however, administers both halves as a single entity.

Palestinian residents have residency permits, but not Israeli citizenship. These permits can be revoked and Israel's response to the spike in violent incidents includes accelerating the revoking of Jerusalem residency permits.

Jerusalem is at the front line of Israeli ethnic cleansing. Home demolitions and the takeover of Palestinian homes by Israeli Jews happen at a faster rate in the city than elsewhere in the West Bank. The recent spike in violence is connected to this.

Much of the violence has taken place in Jerusalem. Security forces use live ammunition against Palestinian protesters, but Israeli Jewish crowds have been allowed to march through Palestinian neighbourhoods chanting “Death to the Arabs!” and other racist slogans.

The latest violence has affected Palestinians in all parts of the country. In Gaza, protesters have been killed by Israeli forces shooting over the wall. An October 10 air strike on Gaza killed Nour Rasmi Hassan and her baby daughter Rahaf. Hassan was pregnant at the time of her murder.

Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are not immune. On October 9, Israa Abed was shot at a bus station in Alufa, near Nazareth, while surrounded by police and a crowd of hostile Jewish civilians. As with other cases, the video disproves the official story, which claims she was shot while trying to stab a security guard.

The video shows that what was claimed to be knife was actually a pair of sunglasses.

It also shows that many of the civilians were armed. Since the spike in violence, Israeli politicians have been urging Jewish citizens to carry weapons - and use them.

The tone of comments by former government minister and leader of the Yesh Atid party, Yair Lapid, was typical: “Don't hesitate, even when an incident just starts, shooting to kill is the right thing to do.

“The directives should specify shooting to kill when anyone pulls out a knife or screwdriver or whatever.”

The October 12 Haaretz reported that he “clarified that authorities will give full legal backing to such actions”.

Increasingly the debate within Jewish Israeli politics is between those who wish to further institutionalise apartheid and those who wish to go further and totally ethnically cleanse the country. The disturbing undercurrent in the violence of the past few weeks is that the second, genocidal, option is becoming the favoured one.

The escalating cycle of violence playing out right now will continue as long as Western powers continue to back Israel.

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