Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during a press conference in Jerusalem on January 25, 2023.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during a press conference in Jerusalem on January 25, 2023.

(Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Netanyahu's Solution to Growing Violence? Give Israelis More Guns

We will see many more raids involving reckless disregard for human life in the West Bank now that Israeli extremists have been put in charge of 3 million Palestinians.

Although violence between Israelis and Palestinians only rose to the level of being covered by cable television news on Saturday, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned as prime minister in the company of the fascist Religious Zionism and Jewish Power blocs in late December there has been a low-intensity civil war. Some 32 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or squatters on Palestinian land since the beginning of January.

If this rate of deaths of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli forces and squatters continues, it will outstrip the already high death toll in 2022, when 220 were killed, including 48 children.

The U.S. television news remains impervious to the enormous crowds of Israeli protesters who have come out for four Saturdays in a row to denounce Netanyahu's plans to neuter the Israeli courts.

The thing that got the attention of the U.S press was not this remarkable Israeli social movement nor the steady drumbeat of the killing of Palestinians but the horrific shooting by Khairi Alkam, a Palestinian, of seven Israelis in the Neve Yakov squatter-settlement in Palestinian East Jerusalem. The shooting did not take place in a synagogue and it is not clear that worshipers were targeted. The significance of the place of the shooting was two-fold. First, it was in what Palestinians consider an illegal encroachment on their land in East Jerusalem.

Second, it was the place where Khairi Alkam's grandfather had been knifed to death by an Israeli squatter and serial killer in 1998, who was never apprehended. The grandfather, also named Khairi Alkam, was returning home from his construction job. The elder Khairi Alkam had been the breadwinner for a family of nine children.

Nothing justifies terrorism, i.e., the killing of innocent civilians for political purposes. But the way the U.S. press has covered this mass shooting, without any context, is not helpful to our understanding of it.

In contrast, there didn't seem to be any cable television of the Israeli raid into the Jenin refugee camp this week, apparently launched at three young men suspected of belonging to the 'Islamic Jihad' militant group. The raid left nine Palestinians dead, including a grandmother, and wounded 20. The Palestinian press accused the Israeli authorities of not allowing ambulances to come into the area where the raid took place, which further endangered lives. Al Jazeera called the operation a massacre.

People in the Jenin refugee camp are not from Jenin. They are from what is now Israel. They had houses and farms there before 1948, when the Israelis ethnically cleansed them, reducing them to camp dwellers, and stealing all their family property. Then in 1967 Israel conquered the Palestinian West Bank itself and began colonizing it. They can't really rule a refugee camp, but they time to time make incursions into it and shoot the place up, apparently somewhat indiscriminately.

If the Islamic Jihad cell had been planning an attack, as the Israelis maintained, then the raid was not illegal in itself. But it left so many dead bodies behind aside from those of the three militants, not to mention injured, that the commando tactics appear to have shown reckless disregard for civilian, noncombatant life, which is a war crime.

We will see many more raids involving reckless disregard for human life in the West Bank now that Israeli extremists have been put in charge of 3 million Palestinians. It is as though a grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in the U.S. had been made secretary of the interior with oversight of Native Americans.

PM Netanyahu announced that he would meet the challenge of increased violence by issuing Israelis (including the Israeli squatters on Palestinian private property in the West Bank) more guns. He said he would also try to collect "illegal weapons." That is, the Israelis are heavily armed but the Palestinians are helpless. Squatter attacks on Palestinians help account for the high death toll of the past 13 months.

Aside from the history of tit-for-tat violence, the other context for these attacks is the creeping colonization of the Palestinian West Bank by Israelis, backed by the Israeli government. Imagine if the Israelis declared that they actually owned your property and intended to build a subdivision for Israelis in your backyard.

Netanyahu also plans more collective punishment for Palestinians, so that even people who knew an attacker will be punished. This step is illegal in international law.

Netanyahu's Likud Party was founded on the Iron Fist policy toward Palestinians. It hasn't ever resolved anything, and it won't resolve anything now. As long as Netanyahu is committed to colonizing the Palestinian West Bank and keeping the Gaza Strip under siege, there will be violence.

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© 2023 Juan Cole