By Yanis Iqbal
Increased murders have been Israel’s New Year gift to Palestine. On January 6, 2022, Israeli forces killed Bakeer Hashash, 21, during a dawn raid in the Balata refugee camp, near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus. He is the first Palestinian to be killed by Israel in the occupied territory in 2022. Just hours later, an Israeli settler committed a car-ramming attack against a Palestinian man near a checkpoint west of Ramallah in the central West Bank, killing him. The man was identified as 25-year-old Mustafa Falaneh, a resident of the Ramallah-area village of Safa and father of an 18-month old girl. Hours after Falaneh was killed, another settler ran over and wounded 48-year old Shafiqa Bisharat from a Nablus-area village.
These tragic events came less than 24 hours after an incident in which an Israeli truck driver ran over 75-year-old Suleiman al-Hathalin in the village of Umm al-Kheir in the South Hebron Hills, during an Israeli police raid on the village. Considering this spate of attacks, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry released a statement, saying: “We consider the incidents of running over Palestinians, which have become a phenomenon that is repeated without any attention or follow-up by the occupation police or its various organs, crimes, whether intentional and deliberate or by negligence and indifference shown by the occupying police, even if they are ordinary traffic accidents involving a Palestinian”.
The Ministry remarked that if a Palestinians ran over an Israeli, soldiers or settlers in the area would have assumed that the incident was intentional and would have opened fire at the car involved before even checking the facts with an intention to kill those in it. “This situation confirms not only the racism of the occupying state in dealing with the Palestinians but also the absolute disregard for their lives as if they have no value”. A day after these happenings, Israeli soldiers fired rubber-coated rounds and stun grenades at Palestinians protesting Jewish settlement expansion in Beita, injuring at least 12 of them. Beita’s residents have been holding almost daily demonstrations for the past eight months; eight of them have been killed since May 2020.
In the village of Kafr Qaddum, in Qalqilia province, five Palestinians were injured from rubber-coated bullets during confrontations with the Israeli occupation army in the village. Cases of suffocation from teargas inhalation were also reported. In Hebron, south of the occupied West Bank, two Palestinians were injured by Israeli soldiers and others sustained suffocation from teargas in the neighborhood of Bab al-Zawiya in the city. These aggressions against Palestinians convey the fundamental reality of Zionist settler-colonialism: brutal disregard for the native population. Today, this subjugation of Palestinians is carried out primarily to facilitate Israel’s massive settlement drive.
More than 250 settlements – home to 750,000 Israeli settlers – have been constructed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). These separate settlements are being merged into seven major settlement blocs in order to create unified territories for the exercise of colonial power. This has entailed the expropriation of about 24% of the West Bank. Israel also considers 72% of the West Bank to be “state lands”, meaning they can be confiscated at any time. In 2017, the Knesset passes a law that enables Israel to retroactively seize private Palestinian land on which settlements have been illegally built. According to Jeff Halper, this “confines Palestinians to small and disconnected enclaves (de-Arabization) while expanding its settlements (Judaization).”
Settlement expansion has been accompanied by the ghettoization of Palestinians. Halper writes: “With the signing of Oslo II in 1995, the West Bank was fragmented into Areas A, B and C, locking 95% of the Palestinian population into 64 tiny enclaves. Almost all of Palestinian East Jerusalem is “open green space,” prohibiting Palestinian construction. Palestinians constitute 38% of Jerusalem’s population yet have access to only 7% of the urban land for residential and community purposes. Gaza, one of the most densely packed places on earth, has been under Israeli lockdown, siege and military attack since the late 1980s.”
The territorial expansion of Zionist settler-colonialism has led to increased Palestinian opposition. This, in turn, has unleashed horrific cycles of state cruelty, forcing the world to pay attention to the plight of the colonized people. Israeli strategists have crafted a new plan to contain this situation. In “Winning Counterinsurgency War: The Israeli Experience”, Yaakov Amidror – a former major general and National Security Advisor of Israel – outlines “two innovations” of “asymmetric warfare”. First, “civilians are part of the terrorist organizations’ strength and capabilities, and therefore friction with them cannot be avoided”. This is linked to his insistence that “it is not necessary for Israel to add “restraint” in the use of force as a principle of war…a small country like Israel can deal with terrorism and guerrilla organizations only if its response is not proportional and is carried out in such a way as to convince the other side that it too has something to lose.”
Second, “the media expose counterterrorist activities in a way which is liable to influence the way decision-makers respond, with little connection between the truth and what is reported.” This demands “that a new principle be added to the [Israel Defense Force] IDF’s list of war principles: “image and legitimization” …This means that at every level, whoever plans and carries out an action in war has to consider how it will be presented and appear in the media. He should, by commission or omission in planning and execution, reinforce both internal (inside the State of Israel) and external (by the world in general) legitimization for Israel’s actions in the war.” In normal parlance, Amidror’s dual points mean that Israel should unhesitatingly use sadistic force against Palestinians and then cover it up through propagandistic management of information.
While the exercise of colonial violence is clearly visible, what has remained partially hidden is the ideological war that Israel is waging to gain legitimacy. In 2005, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Israeli Ministry of Finance completed three years of discussion with USA’s marketing elite and launched Brand Israel. Ilan Pappe describes it as “a campaign to recast and rebrand the country’s image so as to appear relevant and modern instead of militaristic and religious.” “Huge sums of money…were allocated for marketing the idea of Israel abroad in order to combat what the political and academic élite in Israel regarded as a global campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state. It was to be a gigantic effort, and the team appointed to see it through was accordingly called BIG (the Brand Israel Group).”
This has involved, inter alia, advertising Israel as a young nation that has grown to become a tech giant and focusing on its ostensibly progressive policies regarding LGBTQ issues and veganism. The ultimate aim of these tactics is to cement Israel as “a villa in the jungle” – evident in the mythical framing of the country as the “only democracy in the Middle East”. These manipulative strategies, however, are now coming apart as the intensifying ferocity of Zionism makes the obscuration of the colonized people increasingly difficult. In addition, global civil society movements like Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) are also proving to be successful in highlighting the illegitimate nature of Israel’s regular assaults on Palestinians. These anti-colonial dynamics can be sustained only if we unflinchingly show solidarity with Palestine.