Member of the Israeli Knesset, Itamar Ben Gvir, brandished a gun yesterday in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied Jerusalem. Wielding his own loaded gun, the head of the Otzma Yehudit party was seen urging Israeli settlers to shoot Palestinians resisting occupation by throwing stones.
"We're the landlords here, remember that, I am your landlord," Ben Gvir, one of the most popular politicians in Israel, is reported saying. "If [Palestinians] throw stones, shoot them." A night before, the 46-year-old, who could be part of a new coalition government, threatened to "mow down" a group of Palestinians during a visit to the same area amid a rise in settler violence against local communities.
Ben Gvir later defended his provocative behaviour. "The politicians are tying the hands of our cops," he said in a tweet that included a picture of him with the pistol. "It cannot be that Arabs throw stones next to cops and the cops don't respond with fire."
The past few days have seen a rise in settler attacks against Palestinians. In scenes reminiscent of the April 2021 assault by armed far-right Jewish supremacist settler groups, the courtyard of Al-Aqsa Mosque was stormed under the protection of the Israeli occupation police. Ben Gvir and dozens of Israeli extremists were among the rioters that stormed the courtyard. Two days prior to the assault, Jordan Peterson, a controversial Canadian author and clinical psychologist, joined over 1,032 Israeli settlers in a provocative tour around the holy sanctuary.
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Though described as a far-right extremist, Ben Gvir represents a dominant current within Zionism. His influence and that of the racist ideology of Kahanism, which he subscribes to, has been mainstreamed in Israeli society. This presents a major dilemma for pro-Israeli groups in the US and the West in general. For decades governments in Washington and European capitals have played down the inherent racism of Zionism to maintain their unquestioned support for the Apartheid State.
Aware of the threat Ben Gvir presents to Israel's image, pro-Israel members of Congress are desperately issuing stark warnings that bringing the Occupation State's far right into a governing coalition would be disastrous for US-Israel relations.
During a trip to Israel last month, US Senator Bob Menendez is reported to have warned former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that if he forms a government after the 1 November elections that includes right-wing extremists, it could harm US-Israel bilateral relations.
Advocates of Israel are sweating over the prospect of a Netanyahu government. The Likud leader is Israel's longest serving prime minister and hails from a Zionist tradition that has much in common with the anti-Palestinian far-right extremist, Ben Gvir.
READ: The PA condemns Israel's attacks on Palestinians, then attacks them itself