Last year, the United Nations not only expressed alarm at the rising rate of violence directed by Jewish settlers toward Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories but also slammed the Israeli government and military for doing nothing to curb the aggressions and protect Palestinians under siege.
As was reported by the Anadolu Agency, a UN rapporteur and other human rights groups explained that security forces — both official police or military and private security companies — simply stand by.
“Instead, they [Israeli occupation forces] respond to settler-related violence by ordering Palestinians to leave the area, including Palestinian-owned land, or even actively support the settlers,” they said in November of last year. In the first 10 months of 2021, the UN had documented a record 410 attacks by settlers against Palestinians.
Settlers are organizing and joining armed militias groups in preparation for a campaign of terror against Palestinians.
More worrisome, recent reports suggest settlers are organizing and joining armed militias groups in preparation for a campaign of terror against Palestinians in the occupied Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. This has been the site of confrontations since the Israeli government began forcibly evicting Palestinians from their homes 12 months ago, leaving dozens of families homeless.
According to Israeli television network Kan 11, armed settler groups are preparing to do to Sheikh Jarrah residents what they did to Palestinians in the Israeli city of Lod last year, when the self-named “Guardians of Lod” stormed and attacked Palestinian homes and vandalized mosques and other properties under the protection of Israeli forces.
It goes without saying that were Palestinians to form into armed militias to protect a Palestinian minority in a Jewish majority neighbourhood, Israeli commandos would immediately be deployed to put down what the Israeli government would label an armed “insurgency,” using lethal and non-lethal force.
In contrast, Jewish militias are given a free hand to carry out the dirty work of the Israeli state. This includes efforts to ethnically cleanse neighbourhoods of their Palestinian residents under the pretext of protecting Jewish presence in occupied Jerusalem.
Jewish militias are given a free hand to carry out the dirty work of the Israeli state.
The Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din says the precipitous rise in settler violence is not simply the result of a few “bad apples” among the settler population but flows directly from the deep state support provided by Israel to the illegal settlement enterprise.
According to the Anadolu Agency, Yesh Din “found that 91 percent of investigations into settler violence against Palestinians were closed by Israeli authorities with no charges filed,” insuring total impunity for the perpetrators.
The fact that the same authorities are turning a blind eye to a visibly planned attack on Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah during Ramadan is a truly disturbing development. Especially since it was the protests over forced evictions there that sparked an Israeli military raid on al-Aqsa Mosque and a subsequent 11-day offensive on Gaza during the holy month last year, leaving 260 Palestinians dead, including 39 women and 67 children.
It’s not unreasonable, then, to speculate Israel is deliberately inciting an additional pretext to launch another military offensive during the Islamic holy month.
As I noted for Inside Arabia in 2021, Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip during Ramadan have reached the level of a predictable certainty, as illustrated in the headlines listed at the end of this article. Last month, Israeli newspaper Haaretzwarned confrontations in Sheikh Jarrah “could ignite the entire Middle East,” or incite another Intifada. The newspapercalled the Palestinian neighbourhood a “symbol of Palestinian resistance” and a site for deadly attacks by radicalized settlers.
Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip during Ramadan have reached the level of a predictable certainty.
“It’s hard to predict. But it’s also hard to ignore the fact that even if tempers calm in the coming days, Sheikh Jarrah provides all the same pretexts for violence that led to the last round – an almost certain eviction of Palestinians from their homes, Palestinian and international attention, threats by Hamas, and a far-right MK [members of Knesset] showing up to inflame the atmosphere,” observes Haaretz.
To that end, it’s no secret that Israel’s far-right political parties are intentionally pouring gasoline onto the fire that’s burning in Sheikh Jarrah as part of an ongoing effort to destabilize the government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
This means Palestinians are “paying the price twice,” according to Awad Abdelfattah, a former general secretary of the Balad party and current coordinator of the Haifa-based One Democratic State Campaign. “Firstly, from the ongoing and brutal settler-colonial, ethnic-cleansing project,” Abdelfattah writes. And, “secondly, from the infighting between the two camps over whoever can be more brutal in implementing the cleansing plans.”
On March 30, far-right Knesset member Miri Regev led a chanting mob of settlers, who called Palestinians and African Jewish migrants a “cancer,” along with other genocidal slogans, near the site where a Palestinian gunman murdered three Israeli police officers and two Ukrainian nationals a day earlier.
Mobs of settlers are indicative of a society that is teetering towards mass organized violence.
This is indicative of a society that is teetering towards mass organized violence. The formation of armed Jewish militia groups is a manifestation of this climate. Groups such as the “Guardians of Lod” are not just mimicking similarly styled and motivated armed militias in the West Bank. They are also imitating the Zionist terrorist groups that helped liquidate more than 500 Palestinian towns and villages during the 1948 Nakba while carrying out countless massacres.
And the explicit support these terrorist groups received under founding Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion more than seven decades ago is the same they’re receiving implicitly under Prime Minister Naftali Bennett today.
Palestinians are headed towards yet another violent Ramadan at the hands of these colonial thugs.
* Links to some of the headlines from past years:
“In Gaza, Air Strikes and Economic Stress Make an Anxious Ramadan” (2014); “Israel Report: Settlers Planning Attacks on Palestinians in Ramadan” (2017); “Four Palestinians Killed and 600 Injured in Protests Along the Border, Marking Last Weekend of Ramadan” (2018); “Israel’s Ramadan Blitz in Gaza Kills More than 20 Palestinians” (2019); and “On Last Friday of Ramadan, Israeli Soldiers Attack Palestinian Worshippers Near Al-Aqsa” (2020).