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War of the settlers

Dr. Abdel Sattar Qassem

The apparent impasse over Israeli settlements – is their construction going to be halted or not? – makes Palestinians wonder what the Jewish state and its American sponsors have in store for them, given that the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League appear to be working in the best interests of the Zionist government. History suggests that we may be looking at a scenario where Jewish colonists-settlers will wage a “war of liberation” against the rightful owners of the occupied land, in a similar way to the Zionists who claimed that their terrorism against the British mandate power was also a “liberation” struggle.


What is beyond doubt for any reasonably intelligent person is that Israel will continue to encourage settlements in the occupied West Bank, increasing the “facts on the ground” while talks are held about talks. It doesn’t matter which party is at the helm, for they are all Zionists and Zionism is a colonialist ideology that demands ever more territory. The pace of settlement construction may vary, but it will continue as part of the Judaisation process, especially in occupied Jerusalem.

Two distinct communities exist across the West Bank: Palestinians live in population centres split by the apartheid wall and settler-only roads, military zones and the Jewish settlements which are placed strategically to control surrounding land and water resources. These colonies – for that is what they are – are serviced by a modern infrastructure that allows the settlers to live their lives entirely separated from the Palestinians on whose land their homes are built. They are protected by a military occupation that is oppressive and entirely illegal in international law. For the Israelis, though, morality and legality is irrelevant; they claim that their title deed is the Old Testament (even though the majority of Israelis call themselves “secular” Jews). That is why it is impossible to envisage any Israeli government dismantling these colonies and withdrawing to the 1967 borders.

Attacks on Palestinian farmers by settlers are commonplace already, and what is happening on a small but regular scale could easily turn into full-scale war in the West Bank. The settlers are well-armed and well-trained; and they have the Israeli armed forces (with their Palestinian Authority surrogates) to give them indirect support by suppressing Palestinian resistance. Of course, the excuses will be “self-defence” and “fighting terrorism”, but an impartial examination of the conflict reveals that armed attacks by settlers are much more frequent than attacks by Palestinians. One of the aims of this will be to “encourage” Palestinians to leave their land “voluntarily” (albeit under extreme provocation – Zionists call this “silent transfer”; normal people call it ethnic cleansing), thus giving Zionist colonists free-rein over the occupied territory. Those Palestinians who choose to remain and struggle on in the hope that the international community will one day wake up to the danger of Zionism and Israeli expansionism will be doing so in a land over which they will have minimal, if any, sovereignty. In short, they will become like the Palestinians who stayed in their homes during the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, when Israel was created; second-class citizens in their own land.

The experience of Galilee will be repeated. This is historically an Arab region, but an Israeli Prime Minister once commented that she thought she was in Syria such was the number of Arab towns and villages. This prompted the campaign of Judaisation, which is ongoing to this day.

The United States will condone Israel’s settlement activities as it has done for decades, with the occasional condemnation and weasel words to placate the Arab leaders. Backed up by US foreign aid, the embarrassment and indignation of America’s Arab and Palestinian allies will be lessened miraculously.

As the settlers attack Palestinians with more regularity and severity, the Israeli armed forces will step in to try to keep the two groups apart, so much so that they will claim to be defending the Palestinians and, eventually, there will be a demand from the Palestinian and Arab leadership for official Israel Defence Forces’ intervention and protection of Palestinians in the West Bank, casting a veil of legitimacy over the illegal military occupation. We should not be surprised if a future Arab summit has such a plea on the agenda.

The US will retain a phoney role as an “honest broker” seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The West Bank will become an autonomous settler colony connected to Israel, with the latter becoming part of the international effort to dismantle the settlements that will be just as ineffective as previous and current efforts have been.

Is this an unrealistic scenario and is it inevitable that we will reach that stage? Things are moving in this direction and the region is on the verge of significant changes due to the shift in the balance of power, for which Israel will pay a high price. This will be at the cost of the settlements, not in their favour, and so the stage will be set. Only time will tell.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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