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‘Death to the Arabs’: Racialised violence has always defined Israel

May 3, 2021 at 11:37 am

Israeli security forces detain a Palestinian protester outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on 29 April 2021. [AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images]

During the racist anti-Palestinian riots that ensued in Jerusalem last week, a protester was interviewed by a journalist concerning the approach, specifically, the language used by the enraged crowds.

The journalist asked the young protester if the phrases employed by the demonstrators, phrases like “Burn the Arab villages” and “Death to Arabs” represented them and their presence at the protest.

She responded: “I say it in a mannered and proper way. I don’t say ‘let’s burn their villages,’ I say that ‘they should get out and we take over their lands,’” she smirks, “exactly what we do in the Old City.”

There is a great deal to unpack in this telling response – primarily, the colonial attitudes that exist within all sects of Israeli society, not simply the government or military. But also, the ways in which settler communities have normalised racial violence and the perpetual ethnic cleansing – what some call the ongoing Nakba – that their ever-growing settlements have required.

Settler violence is just as old as Israel and acts as an imminent threat to Palestinians on a daily basis, rooted in European settler entitlement to Palestinian land. In fact, during the Nakba, the original mass expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians to create room for the Jewish state was materialised not only by the Zionist forces, but by settlers who promptly replaced the native population. Homes were built on the ruins of the exiled, protected by the developing Zionist regime and the British government before them.

Currently, there are at least 600,000 Israeli settlers living in illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, as well as in East Jerusalem, in direct contravention with international law.

READ: Israel is attacking Palestinians in order to displace them from their own land 

Regardless of their unlawful presence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the rogue and extremist violence that many of these settlers produce is not only heavily protected by the state and Israeli security forces, but the state relies on the presence of these settlers to indirectly consume more land in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem without consequence.

Many reports have documented that army or police personnel protect and assist settlers in their attacks against Palestinians. Many Palestinians, including children at play, have been arrested and imprisoned by Israeli forces in order to meet the needs of those residing in these illegal outposts.

The Israeli human rights organisation, Yish Den, recorded 1,293 cases of settler violence between 2005 and 2019. Of these incidents, a mere 8 per cent of investigations resulted in criminal charges against the offending settler.

Just days after extremist mobs rioted in Jerusalem, a group of three extremist Jewish settlers attacked and hospitalised 66-year-old shepherd Ibrahim Hamdoun while he grazed his stock on his land in Jenin, West Bank.

If this should teach us anything, it is that colonial settler violence, and that of the state, is part and parcel of the collective Israeli society. These connections between all sects of Zionist violence are verified in a 2019 public opinion poll conducted by the Institute for National Security Studies concluding that 70 per cent of Israelis surveyed believe that the values of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) do indeed align with the values of Israeli society as a whole.

Even if Israelis choose to sugar-coat their approach to settlement expansion and annexation, they will continue partaking in and benefiting from the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem, and the rest of historical Palestine, through evictions, home demolitions, the racist denial of building permits, and as we have witnessed in the last week, physical violence and intimidation.

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