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A single acknowledgement of Israeli settler ‘terror’ changes nothing

August 8, 2023 at 2:08 pm

Israel’s former Defense Minister Benny Gantz (C) in a meeting with army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi (L) and Shin Bet Chief Ronen Bar in southern Israel, on April 24, 2022 [Elad Malka/IIsraeli Defense Minister]

For the first time, the US State Department has described the murder of a Palestinian — 19-year-old Qusai Jamal Matan — in the occupied West Bank as a “terror attack” by “Israeli extremist settlers”. So far there has been no attempt by Washington to amend its statement. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller insisted yesterday that the statement clarified the US position on “extreme settler violence”. This, presumably, leaves out the many other forms of violence inflicted by Israelis on Palestinians, since the US is clearly stating that not all settler violence should be considered to be equally serious.

Within Israel, former Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Shin Bet Chief Ronen Bar have been warning of an increase in Jewish settler terrorism against Palestinians, even as National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir called for settlers who kill Palestinians to be given awards.

Israel's newly appointed National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir stormed the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Israel’s newly appointed National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir stormed the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

It is quite probable that the terror attack label used by the US State Department is meant to express partial opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government, rather than to illustrate the seriousness of Israeli settler-terror and Washington’s opposition to it. This is not a first step in any foreign policy change, but the way that the US can pretend to dissociate itself from one specific terror attack, while ignoring not only the entire history of settler-terror, but also Israel’s decades’ worth of colonial violence, all too often committed by state-employed terrorists in uniform.

US diplomats stated vaguely in June that they would not stand idly by in the face of Israeli settler violence. Yet it took until August to declare one single Israeli settler attack as terrorism. The pattern follows what the Israel Defence Forces usually do when there is a need to divert attention away from the institution: focus on a single violent act as pertaining solely to the individual concerned, thus shielding the Israeli state from accountability. The US is no different when it comes to Israel.

The Biden administration, for example, has not hinted that it will halt the $3.8 billion given to Israel annually in military “aid”. Neither has it called out Israel’s creation as inherently violent. The US is not linking the current colonial violence to the violence even prior to the Nakba, when Zionist paramilitary terror groups attacked Palestinian civilians and British Mandate officials, culminating in the massacres and expulsion of Palestinians during the 1948 Nakba. Neither does it consider the fact that Israel’s existence is dependent upon violence. State and settler terror are two sides of the same coin when it comes to colonial violence and colonial expansion over Palestinian territory.

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What the US ignores is of far greater significance than a statement which can be contradicted at any given moment and not necessarily within the current context. A single acknowledgement of Israeli settler ‘terror’ changes nothing.

If the US was truly honest in such matters, it would point out that it supports the ongoing Israeli colonial violence against Palestinians financially, politically and militarily. Washington is not particularly concerned about the far-right in Israel in terms of the colonial framework and its repercussions on Palestine. All the US is exhibiting is the mainstream and normalised reaction of other governments when the time is ripe for a statement that appears to oppose Israeli violence against Palestinians. However, settler-terror remains ongoing because it is part of Israel’s colonial DNA, so how about the US returning to the roots of how colonial entities and democracy became intertwined at the expense of the people who are colonised?

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