“If they [Palestinians] act like animals, shoot one in the head,” a young Israeli settler says directly into the camera of a journalist in the Israeli city of Lod, saying death is the only thing that will discourage Palestinians from protesting against Israel’s colonial occupation.
“Someone who’s throwing stones, and is trying to kill a Jew, he deserves a bullet in the head, and then things will calm down.”
The man had driven several hours from the Negev to join settler vigilante groups that are literally hunting Palestinians who unwittingly find themselves alone and isolated.
Videos of these attacks have been making their way onto social media. It was only two weeks ago that Israeli mobs attracted global condemnation for uploading videos onto TikTok showing themselves violently attacking Palestinian pedestrians throughout Jerusalem. The disturbing clips would turn out to be previews for more violent and even deadlier attacks.
A Palestinian man was lynched on the pavement after being pulled from his car in Jaffa by a mob of Israeli men and then beaten unconscious.
On May 11, an Israeli settler shot and killed a Palestinian protester in Jerusalem. The following night, a Palestinian man was lynched on the pavement after being pulled from his car in Jaffa by a mob of Israeli men and then beaten unconscious. As his crumpled body laid prone in the middle of the street, an Israeli Jew jumped on his chest and continued delivering punches to the victim’s head and face, as others savagely hit his motionless body with bats and clubs.
That same day, a mob of Israelis forced their way into a Palestinian family’s home in Haifa, terrorizing the occupants, before the Israeli police arrived—but only to participate in the terror and brutality. On May 13, an Israeli man attempted to carry out a stabbing attack against Palestinians in West Jerusalem. Other videos show Israeli settlers vandalizing Palestinian owned cars and ransacking and destroying Palestinian owned businesses.
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In the city of Lod, Palestinian youths fought back against flag-waving Israeli aggressors who attacked the Great Omari Mosque and attempted to burn it down on May 12. A member of the Popular Committee in Lod told a Palestinian news agency that Israeli nationalists had fired indiscriminately on crowds of Palestinian protesters.
Palestinians have pointed to evidence of heavily armed settlers being escorted by Israeli security forces in Lod and other cities.
These violent actions – by definition acts of terrorism – against Palestinians have reached a level of frequency and ferocity not seen since the Second Intifada (2005) and are representative of a society that has become wholly radicalized by its hate for those it occupies, colonizes, and separates.
Former Israeli Defense Minister, Naftali Bennet, called for the immediate release of those who have been arrested for carrying out vigilante violence against Palestinians.
Moreover, these attacks are not only the by-product of decades of dehumanization, delegitimization, and denationalization of Palestinians in mainstream political discourse, but they also enjoy the implicit support of the Netanyahu government and its right-wing allies. In fact, Yamina Party leader and former Israeli Defense Minister, Naftali Bennet, called for the immediate release of those who have been arrested for carrying out vigilante violence against Palestinians.
“The fact that, at the moment, they’re under arrest is morally unjust and sends a bad message to anybody trying to defend themselves,” Bennet wrote on May 12. “The Public Security Ministry and police must immediately assure the families besieged in their homes, for fear of the Arab rioters who should be brought to justice.”
It can’t be overlooked that allies of the government – specifically the far-right group Lehava, which opposes marriages between Jews and non-Jews – took over the streets in East Jerusalem on April 22 to “protect Jewish honor,” inciting hundreds of settlers to march in a rally chanting, “Death to Arabs.”
“Israel is on the verge of sliding into a lawless society with Netanyahu spearheading the nation into a chaotic dictatorship,” tweeted Israeli journalist Yossi Melman on May 12.
His warning comes hot on the heels of a United Nations report that found attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank have spiked in recent months, with “assaults and property destruction occurring within an atmosphere of impunity.”
The UN must be particularly concerned that violence by Israeli settlers and lynch mobs against Palestinian civilians is now surging.
The UN must be particularly concerned that violence by Israeli settlers and lynch mobs against Palestinian civilians is now surging within Israel’s 1948 borders, where the physical distance between Jews and Arabs is much closer.
“We are seeing a situation in the mixed [Jewish-Arab] cities that we have never seen before, including the incidents of October 2000,” said National Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, referencing the Second Intifada.
That said, this violence should not be seen as an isolated aberration but rather within the overall context of the establishment of the Israeli state, remembering that claims to Israeli statehood came only after Jewish militias, terrorist groups, and lynch mobs had eradicated more than 500 Arab villages and towns leading up to and during the Nakba of 1948.
As recent events have clearly demonstrated, Israel is a country built on racism, dispossession, and genocide. The alarming uptick in attacks by Israeli settlers, vigilante groups, and lynch mobs targeting Palestinians are a continuation of that history and must be addressed.