Imagine a foreign army – one backed and armed by a military superpower – invaded your country, and then established a system of colonial occupation and apartheid that persists more than 50 years, subjecting you and your loved ones to constant harassment, humiliation, and violence at the hands of soldiers and settlers who want nothing more than you dead or gone.
If you can imagine that, then you have imagined the Israeli occupied West Bank, where one can witness ethnic cleansing or settler colonialism in real time. A place where the disarmed indigenous population are dispossessed and dislocated on a daily basis, as American accented kids from New York and Los Angeles wander freely with semi-automatic weapons. Indeed, in 2015, a Pew Research Center study found that 60,000 American Jews live in West Bank settlements, or 15 percent of the settler population—even as native Palestinian refugees are prohibited from returning to their own homeland.
In many ways, the West Bank has become the forgotten theater in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the same time the international news media fixates on phony US-led “peace deals” or gives periodic coverage to Israel’s ongoing violence in Gaza, it largely ignores the day-to-day cruelties 2 million Palestinians endure in the land Zionist settlers roguishly proclaim to be Judea and Samaria—a slight of hand meant to convey the Jewish people have lived in the territory uninterrupted for thousands of years, which, of course, they have not.
When the West Bank invokes global attention, it’s only in the context of Israel’s stated desire to formally annex large parts of the territory, despite the fact it was informally annexed decades ago, as measured by the 800,000 illegal Jewish settlers that now call the West Bank including East Jerusalem home.
Conspicuously absent from mention, however, is the violence and humiliation Palestinians in the West Bank endure at the hands of Israeli soldiers and accompanying Jewish settler thugs. They roam the land with near total impunity, carrying out attacks and raids on Palestinian villages, with the aim of driving inhabitants from their land. It’s how all settler colonial land grabs have played out since forever.
On September 7, a gang of Jewish settlers raided the village of Huwwarah, located to the south of Nablus, vandalizing property and vehicles in what can only be described as an act of terrorism, with the Israeli military providing a lending hand by allowing the settlers to breach a security checkpoint, according to the news agency Wafa. And then on September 8, a gang of settlers fired gunshots and threw stones at Palestinian workmen at the entrance to the town of Burqa in northern Nablus.
Last week, the international community got a glimpse of the kind of brutality Palestinians face each day when a video showing an unarmed 65-year-old protester being viciously beaten by Israeli security forces went viral. After being flung to the ground, an Israeli soldier pressed his knee against the man’s neck, reminiscent of the manner in which George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis Police officer. That the soldier attacked him in front of a ring of local and international journalists demonstrates the level of perceived impunity Israeli security forces operate within.
Last month, Israeli soldiers assaulted Palestinian protesters on a road outside Ramallah, before tossing grenades in the direction of women and children who were watching on from a hill above. That same day, August 24, Israeli soldiers planted explosive devices on a road that wraps around the village of Qaddum, hiding them in stones, cloth, and crates, according to Haaretz.
Then there are the near-constant car ramming killings, in which settlers deliberately ram their vehicles into Palestinian pedestrians. On August 16, a Palestinian man in his thirties was killed on his way to work in one such attack in southern Tulkarm, according to Quds News. And then there are the constant attacks on the Palestinian people’s number one source of income: olive plantations.
Attacks on Palestinian farmlands are designed to cause economic hardship for farmers and their workers, leaving them with no choice but to be forcibly removed from their lands and pave the way for further illegal settlement construction. It’s ethnic cleansing by any other name and deemed a war crime by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
In the past month or so, Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers have destroyed and uprooted hundreds of olive trees in the West Bank, according to the International Middle East Media Center.
All the while, the Israeli government threatens to construct a further 5,000 new settlement units after an 18-month construction hiatus, but as the Palestinian home demolitions continue. The levelling has been ramped up in recent month, with 30 Palestinian homes in the West Bank demolished in June alone, leaving 100 Palestinians, including 53 children, homeless, according to Relief Web.
“The prevailing belief in Israel is that we can do anything we please to the Palestinians, and that somehow, an entire people struggling against a much stronger occupying force will be deterred if we only harm, intimidate, or abuse them enough,” observes Israeli journalist Sarit Michaeli for +972mag. “This is dehumanization not only because so many believe these acts to be reasonable, but also because we assume that the Palestinians’ response towards collective punishment will be different from ours.”
These human rights and international law violations have escalated in the past few years for one objective reason: that Israel feels it can get away with them, knowing there’s no crime the Trump administration won’t sanctify or ratify.