By Danny Weller
Image Source Hisham KK Abu Shaqra/Anadolu Agency via Al Jazeera
Following the violent rampage of Israeli Zionist settlers through the Palestinian town of Huwara, attacks on Palestinian citizens in the West Bank show no sign of stopping. This attack was committed on February 26 as Israeli troops stood by and even danced with the rampaging settlers. Top Israeli General, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, described it as a “pogrom”.
Mobs roamed through the town, attacking inhabitants with metal bars and rocks and setting homes, shops and vehicles ablaze. One person was killed while 400 more were left injured, during the assault that lasted almost five hours.
Similar groups also attacked the towns of Burin and Einbus in the northern West Bank. These three towns are nominally under Israeli security control and are mere minutes from an army headquarters, yet no move was made to protect the residents of these towns. As of this writing, 10 of the vigilantes were arrested, and all but one had been released. There has been no condemnation of this violence from any government ministers.
The only issue raised with the attack was by Itamar Ben-Gvir, National Security Minister and leader of Jewish Power, who spoke against not the attack itself, but the manner in which it was conducted: “The government of Israel, the state of Israel, the IDF, the security forces—they are the ones who have to crush our enemies,” not the settlers.
Echoing this statement, Bezalel Smotrich, Finance Minister and Religious Zionism leader, who is responsible for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, said that Israel should “wipe out” Huwara. Although Smotrich has since retracted this statement it suggests this recent attack on Huwara is part of a much wider campaign.
This is unsurprising considering the declared aim of the ultra-nationalist and ultra-religious coalition government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is to annex the remaining Palestinian territories, “the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation” and implement apartheid rule, as laid out in the“Nation-State Law”, which states that “national self-determination” is the unique right of the Jewish people.
On March 6th Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) assaulted the area of Umm Said to carry out the destruction of a Palestinian mosque, which was supposedly built without an Israeli building permit. In 2023, Israel has demolished 254 Palestinian buildings in 38 West Bank communities, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
With Ramadan set to begin on March 23, Ben-Gvir has commanded a continued demolition of Palestinian homes and buildings during the holy month. This is an inflammatory move that Israel has previously refrained from making. A similar attempt to remove families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem during Ramadan in 2021, provoked months of bloody conflict between Hamas and the IDF, as well as riots in Israel’s mixed Palestinian-Jewish cities.
The conflict has claimed 12 Israeli and 67 Palestinian lives so far in 2023. This is at an increased rate from last year when at least 171 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem areas. This threatens growing levels of violence during the months of Ramadan and Passover when tensions are notoriously high.
In response to this threat of violence, there has been an outpouring of public anger, with thousands of Israeli citizens marching in protest. On March 5, over 160,000 protestors marched in Tel-Aviv, while almost 400,000 took part in demonstrations across the country including Jerusalem, Herzliya, Netanya, Beersheba, Haifa and Ashdod.
Organisers have attempted to focus the demonstrations on Netanyahu’s plans to curtail the powers of Israel’s supreme courts, yet homemade placards expressed the danger of “fascism,” a “coup d’état,” a “criminal government,” and “the end of democracy.” Anger was also expressed at the occupation of the West Bank, with many Jewish people carrying Palestinian flags in solidarity with Israeli Arabs, in defiance of the police crackdown on Palestinian flags.
Ben-Gvir labelled these protestors as “anarchists,” and commanded that police chiefs in Tel-Aviv and across Israel prevent protestors from “disturbing the order.” While Zionist settlers were allowed a free hand to rampage through Huwara, 1,000 police officers were deployed by Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai in response to the demonstrations. The Ayalon Highway, the city’s main artery, was a particular priority as occupying it has become a symbol of resistance for protestors in recent years.
As a result, mounted police, special forces and water cannons were deployed against protestors who had breached police cordons on the Ayalon Highway and stopped traffic. According to reports, protestors chanted “Where were you in Hawara?” at police officers arresting demonstrators.
Organisers have announced that there would be another “day of disruption” throughout Israel on Thursday, March 9.
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