When hundreds of Israeli settlers took to the streets of Jerusalem on April 22, chanting, “Death to Arabs,” it wasn’t the spontaneous act of a radicalized few, but the emblematic expression of the humiliation Palestinians endure on a daily basis at the hands of Jewish supremacy and the product of decades-long colonial rule and apartheid regime.
“Death to Arabs” has not only become a chant heard at football games and a slogan spray painted on Palestinian homes and cars, but also the words muttered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and right-wing Israeli political parties when they think nobody is listening.
There was even an element of synchronicity between the settlers and the Israeli government, as evident in the way Netanyahu’s allies and other right-wing organizations responded. Lehava, a far-right group that opposes marriages between Jews and non-Jews, called on their supporters to take over the streets in East Jerusalem to “protect Jewish honor” in response to the government reversing its decision to ban Ramadan celebrations outside the Damascus Gate to the Old City.
Lehava, a far-right group that opposes marriages between Jews and non-Jews, called on their supporters to take over the streets in East Jerusalem to “protect Jewish honor.”
A social media page belonging to Levaha urged supporters to “break their faces, bury them alive,” while raising questions about how to obtain weapons, according to Haaretz. Even more troubling is a video footage showing coordination between the settlers and Israeli security forces while not one member of the Netanyahu government has offered a single word of condemnation.
“The question lurking in the background is to what extent has Netanyahu’s failure to form a coalition shaped the clashes and the government’s reaction,” observes Nadav Eyal for the Yediot Ahronot. “There are simply too many matches that might get lit.”
This silence is the Netanyahu equivalent of former US President Donald Trump describing neo-Nazis and white supremacists as “very fine people,” after they marched in the streets of Charlottesville, North Carolina in 2017 chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” and moments before Heather Heyer was murdered by a Nazi sympathizer.
Violence has also followed the week’s “Death to Arabs” rally in Jerusalem, with Israeli security forces using it as a pretense to crackdown on Palestinian counter protesters and those who protest against the array of international law and human rights violations by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people. It is important to remember that both Human Rights Watch and Israeli human rights group B’Tselm have accused Israel of operating a system of apartheid for the first time in their respective history.[Israel’s Latest Election Raises More Questions Than It Answers]
Israeli settlers carry out attacks against Palestinian homes and vandalize cars in the Old City, while uploading videos of themselves violently attacking Palestinian pedestrians throughout Jerusalem onto social media sites. Israeli security forces have not only turned a blind eye to their gang violence and terror, but they also launched their own campaign of terror by attacking worshippers at al-Aqsa mosque and protesters at Damascus Gate.
More than 100 Palestinians have been injured and dozens arrested in the days following the “Death to Arabs” rally, whereas the number of Jewish settlers who have been injured or detained by Israeli security forces is almost zero. The most amount of pushback they have taken was when Jerusalem police sprayed skunk water in their direction to disperse settlers away from the Damascus Gate, where hundreds of Palestinians were gathered.
“All we wanted to do is to be able to sit on the stairs of Damascus Gate at night to drink coffee or tea,” a 24-year-old resident named only as Rami told Associated Press. “It’s a tradition for Old City residents to go outside for refreshments. My father used to sit on the stairs of Damascus Gate before me. What police are trying to do is simply erase our identity.”
As is always the case, Palestinians are collectively punished whenever an individual or group of Palestinians responds to the violence thrust upon them by the state of Israel or its citizens.
This renewed violence against the Palestinian people in Jerusalem comes at the same time as the United Nations has reported a spike in attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank in recent months, with “assaults and property destruction occurring in an atmosphere of impunity.”
“Already, during the first three months of 2021, more than 210 settler violent incidents were recorded, with one Palestinian fatality.”
“Already, during the first three months of 2021, more than 210 settler violent incidents were recorded, with one Palestinian fatality. We call upon the Israeli military and police to investigate and prosecute these violent acts with vigor and resolve,” said the UN Special Rapporteur in a statement.
The UN says settler violence is “predominantly ideologically motivated and primarily designed to take over land but also to intimidate and terrorize” Palestinians, the indigenous occupants of the land. The aim being to create a coercive environment, one that will pressure Palestinians from staying away from certain areas or relocating to Palestinian enclaves.
Last week, when a young Israeli settler was asked by an Israeli television reporter whether she supports the “Death to Arabs” rally, she replied, “Maybe not in that way. I speak in a mannered and proper way. I don’t say let’s burn their villages, I just say that they should get out from them, and we take over the lands.”
Her words capture the way the Zionist settler movement has radicalized all layers of Israeli society. For decades, Israelis denied Israel is a racist ethno-state built on dispossession and ethnic cleansing but now they’re boastfully saying the quiet part out loud: “Death to Arabs.”