Naftali Bennett is the first Israeli Prime Minister to have lived as a settler in the occupied West Bank, and his rise to political power has been built on channeling the settler movement’s rhetorical substance and style. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he has unleashed – either directly or implicitly – the settler population against the Palestinians.
In mid-June, just two days after Bennett was sworn into office, hundreds of settlers marched through the streets of East Jerusalem chanting, “Death to Arabs,” “May your villages burn,” and “A second Nakba is coming.”
Every day since has seen Palestinian life in the occupied territories descend unimaginably further into a macabre routine of humiliation, dispossession, and loss. Towns are being ransacked, people have disappeared in mass arrest dragnets, and more land has been stolen. Not to mention the numerous homes, mosques, and property that have been demolished and vandalized, as settler mobs carry out increasingly brazen attacks.
An assault on a 14-year-old Palestinian boy by a mob of settlers on July 10, in a village south of Hebron, is just the tip of what is fast becoming a summer of unprecedented settler violence.
Videos posted on social media show Jewish settlers pepper spraying Palestinian kids directly in the face.
Videos posted on social media show Jewish settlers pepper spraying Palestinian kids directly in the face, as others show Palestinian protesters and pedestrians being kicked and spat upon. At the same time, home invasions in East Jerusalem have become commonplace, while Israeli police stand by as indifferent or supporting onlookers.
It’s sadistic cruelty by one name. It’s ethnic cleansing by another. And although news coverage of such incidents has been beamed into the living rooms of homes around the world, the international community couldn’t be less interested.
Seemingly, the only thing stopping Bennett back from carrying out unthinkable or unprecedented human rights violations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – remembering he once boasted to have “killed Arabs” – is the political coalition that holds his government together, one that includes the leftist Meretz and Islamic Ra’am parties.
Bennett walked this political tightrope when he stepped away from his earlier decision to authorize a new Jewish settlement in the Palestinian village of Beita, located in the occupied West Bank, after the move sparked daily protests by local Palestinians and prompted a rebuke from his coalition allies.
Knowing his government and leadership would collapse without the support of Meretz and Ra’am, Bennett backtracked by declaring the settlers will leave the site of the new settlement. Still, he made it clear that their homes will remain, as will soldiers to protect the outpost, which is located a stone’s throw away from the town of Duma. In 2015, a group of Israeli settlers set fire to a Palestinian home in Duma, killing three members of the Dawabsheh family.
Palestinians have been protesting vigorously against what is yet another violation of international law by the Israeli government.
It’s little wonder that Palestinians within the vicinity have been protesting so vigorously against what is yet another violation of international law by the Israeli government. Beyond the further theft of land and deeper entrenchment of the illegal settlements, Palestinians fear radicalized Jewish settlers will deliver upon them the same fate that befell the Dawabshehs.
Israeli forces have responded to the protests in typical fashion: using excessive and indiscriminate military power. This time, against those armed with only banners and flags. The heavy-handed approach has resulted in the death of four Palestinians and injuries to more than 1,000 others since the protests began in June.
Israeli forces have fired live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas canisters at not only the protesters, but also journalists and medics, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
Shockingly, while Palestinians are being shot, beaten, and arrested by Israeli Occupation Forces, they face the same brutal treatment at the hands of the Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces, which operate and serve the interests of both Israel and its primary benefactor – the United States.
The assassination of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat by the Palestinian Authority in June underscores the supportive role Ramallah plays towards the Israeli occupation and colonial rule.
“It is clear that we live under a corrupt system that is waging war against anyone who criticizes it,” Ammar Banat, 27, a cousin of Nizar Banat, told the New York Times. “Suffice it to say that we are not only living under an Israeli occupation but a Palestinian one, too.”
The point is this: the level of violence being mete upon Palestinians in the occupied territories has not only increased measurably at the hands of Israeli and PA forces but also the settlers, particularly since the swearing in of Israel’s new settler-in-chief Naftali Bennett.
The ultimate goal of the violence is always the same – to drive Palestinians from their homes and lands.
The ultimate goal of the violence is always the same – to drive Palestinians from their homes and lands in order to make way for more Jewish settlements. These attacks include raids on homes and villages, physical assaults, vehicular ramming, mosque fire bombings, shootings, throwing of rocks, Molotov cocktails and other projectiles, vandalization of property, and the destruction of crops. Among the agricultural damage, olive trees have been particularly targeted, as they are the life blood of the Palestinian economy.
“The settlers know that the olive trees connect us Palestinians to our land,” a farmer told Middle East Eye in May. “So, when they attack our land like they did yesterday, they are attempting to stop us from using the land so they can continue to expand their settlements and their control over the area.”
The latest news suggest that things are only getting worse. On July 8, settlers seized a large tract of Palestinian owned land on the outskirts of Nablus, moving in bulldozers to raze what local activists estimate to be 20 donums (5 acres) of property. A few days earlier, settlers seized more than 600 donums (148 acres) of agricultural land to expand the Jewish settlement of Esh Kodesh.
Settlers already carried out nearly 130 attacks against Palestinians in the first four months of the year, according to the United Nations Humanitarian Office. There’s little reason to doubt there has been an equal or greater number in the three months since—certainly if on-the-ground reporting by journalists, medics, and human rights activists is anything to go by.
Evidently, Bennett’s swearing in as Israel new head of government has unleashed and further emboldened the settlers. Without immediate pressure from the international community, there is little sign his coalition will take tangible steps to roll back the growing trend of violent strikes on Palestinians.