For Palestinians, the expansion of Israeli settlement of their land through a process of violence, suffering, and ethnic cleansing is part of their ongoing Nakba – the catastrophe that has been befalling them since the creation of Israel in 1948.
In the West Bank, Palestinians are experiencing the #OngoingNakba daily, it comes in many forms of Israeli policies, settler attacks and other violations. In this piece you will learn about different ways Israel implements the #OngoingNakba and how Palestinians in the West Bank resist it.
Huwwara: Settler attacks perpetuate the #OngoingNakba
Near the end of February 2023, settler attacks erupted in several villages, more prominently, Huwara. According to several eyewitnesses in Huwara, approximately 400 settlers carried out an attack on the village. The attackers burned houses, cars, and other properties, and used knives, iron poles, and firearms, resulting in serious injuries and widespread terror. That night, Sameh Aqtash, a 37-year-old rescuer who recently took part in the missions to rescue victims from the most recent earthquake in Syria and Turkey, was killed by an Israeli settler’s bullet.
Mohammed Odeh, a father of 4 children, aged between 4 months and 11 years, reported attacks on his house and wrecking yard, causing financial losses and trauma to the family. “Around 70 settlers surrounded our house, and started threatening us that if we don’t get out of the house, they will burn us and our children alive,” he said. “When we closed all the doors to the building and secured ourselves, they burned my car and wrecking yard” he added. “My middle child lost the ability to breathe because of the smoke and we couldn’t get the ambulance near enough to treat him.” Mohammed explained part of the pogrom’s effects on his children.
Israel’s settlement project in the West Bank is a direct continuation of the policies of ethnic cleansing. Since Israel’s foundation during the #OngoingNakba, the violent expulsion of the Palestinian people, and the settlement of the Jewish Israeli population, Palestinians face ongoing expulsion. The Nakba began with attacks by militias of settler groups, similar to those that Palestinians are subjected to today. Since that day, Israel has continued a dual policy of assaults by regular military units and attacks by paramilitary militias. The self called ‘fascist’, Israeli minister of finance, Smotrich proved that the settler attacks are directly connected to Israel’s policies of ethnic cleansing saying “I think Huwara needs to be erased. The state should be the one to do that.” Closely after the above mentioned settler attack on Huwara.
Paramilitary violence by Israeli settlers in organised groups such as ‘Price Tag’ attacks by ‘Hilltop Youth’ has recently reached an all-time high, not including events before and during the #OngoingNakba.They cause terror and harm to families and properties in villages and areas encroached upon by settlements. These groups are now to be organised by the Israeli state across all the territory it controls. The current government plans to establish and fund the “Israeli National Guard”, an armed group of Israeli Jewish settlers who are authorized to use their weapons against Palestinians, in both the OPT and areas ethnically cleansed in 1948.
The Hilltop Youth is a group of hundreds of settlers who aim to take over Palestinian lands by establishing settler outposts, especially on hilltops. Since its creation at the end of the 1990s and until 2020, the group built 170 settler outposts across the West Bank. The Hilltop Youth direct lynch mobs and other violence against Palestinians. For instance, in 2015, they burned down the home of the Dwabsheh family in the village of Duma, Nablus and killed three family members, the parents and their 1-year-old child.
The violence committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinians has been increasing in parallel with the expansion of settlement building in the West Bank. The recent Israeli pogroms against Palestinian villages and people have been shocking in their extent, which showed the level of organisation and an underlying strategy of the attacks. Till now, in 2023 Israeli settlers conducted more than approximately 320 attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank. In the past month alone, the settler attacks are more than 60.
Palestinians in all these villages resisted the attacks on their own with the limited means available to them. Protecting homes, documenting attacks, and renovating damaged properties. Showing a collective sense of steadfastness.
Palestinians’ Ongoing Nakba in Masafer Yatta.
Ali Awad, is a 25-year-old activist from Masafer Yatta. He tells the story of his own displacement in 1999, “While I was a one-year-old I witnessed the Nakba again.” he says. Ali and 700 other Palestinians faced ethnic cleansing and displacement that year, they were expelled from their homes in the middle of the winter and put in buses heading outside their village of Touba.
“The Nakba only started in 1948, but it is still ongoing to this day,” he says. “Today, especially after the 22-year-long legal battle, the people of Masafer Yatta’s destiny is in the hands of Israel and its settlers. If this is not Nakba, what is?” Ali explains. Indeed, the #OngoingNakba is the daily life of the people of Masafer Yatta, subjected to daily settler attacks, home demolitions, settlement expansions, ethnic cleansing, and now, Israeli military training in their own land subjecting Palestinians to danger by being surrounded with weaponry training.
In 1999, the Israeli government issued eviction orders against around 700 Palestinian residents of Masafer Yatta, considering them as “illegal residents” of a firing zone. Israeli forces then evicted them by force, destroying their property.
The story of Masafer Yatta is most commonly traced to the year 1980, when the Israeli military commander declared the area as a “closed military zone”. However, in a leaked document of minutes from a 1979 meeting by the World Zionist Organization’s settlement division, the agriculture minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, lays out the true aim of establishing firing zones: “land reserves for settlements”. Shortly after the above-mentioned meeting, in 1980, the area was declared as a firing zone for the Israeli forces. In this declaration the Israeli military also claimed that Masafer Yatta had no permanent residents, but only seasonal grazing by Palestinians from nearby villages. In a “Balfourian” manner, as they claim Masafer Yatta is a land without people, this claim comes to delude the military law that prohibits evictions of permanent residents to establish a military zone.
Keeping true to their claims that there are no permanent residents in the newly declared “firing zone”, after 1980 the Israeli military actively started to brutalize and deceive Palestinian residents in Masafer Yatta trying to create a “permanent resident” free area.
The people of Masafer Yatta now, suffer from daily settler attacks, military arrests, home and school demolitions and various other violations aiming to drive them away from their land. Regardless they remain steadfast.
Resisting the #OngoingNakba in Masafer Yatta is the Youth of Sumoud.
The Youth of Sumoud is an example of the Palestinians’ struggle and resilience. More specifically, it is an example of the Palestinian youth and their loyalty to the struggle in spite of the hardships that come with it. In light of the effects of neoliberal globalisation, and Israel’s policy of individualising the struggle, Israel expected to have the new generation to forget the fight. As policies such as home demolitions and land seizure create a sense that Israel is the problem of some and not all. However, youth are proving themselves resilient, loyal, and steadfast.
Youth of Sumoud is a movement based in Masafer Yatta that started in 2017 in the village of Saroura. Saroura was an ethnically cleansed village, and 15 youths from Masafer Yatta took it upon themselves to repopulate it. They started by renovating the ancient caves in the area. “Now, we are a much larger movement, consisting of around 50 volunteers not only from Masafer Yatta,” says Ameera Hureini, one of the earliest activists in this movement. “We work on multiple levels, telling the people of the world about our struggle, documenting attacks we are subjected to and informing on them locally and internationally.”
This movement has also assumed the responsibility to keep the people of Masafer Yatta safe. “We accompany children to and from their schools, especially the children in Touba as they have to walk by settler outposts,” Ameera says. “We also accompany shepherds while they are grazing their lands as they are in danger of brutal settler attacks.” She adds.
Israel’s policy to suppress any Palestinian resistance in their attempt to erase any form of struggle and break their steadfastness, reached also the Youth of Sumoud movement. Since their first activities in the village of Saroura, the Israeli military has attacked the activists, beating them up and arresting a number of them. Further, they face daily confrontations with settlers while ensuring the safety of the people of Masafer Yatta. Settlers target them online, identifying and threatening the activists by name.
Israel is paving the road to the future of the #OngoingNakba, and the Northern Jordan Valley resists.
“Israel is not only implementing one strategy to annex the region, it is creating various layers of pressure on the people of the Northern Jordan Valley,” says Abu Saqer, a shepherd from the Jordan Northern Valley. This is a coercive environment resulting in their displacement. “Israel is confiscating farms, farming machinery, and destroying lands, they demolished my home” Abu Saqer adds. Furthermore, Israel, similar to their strategy in Masafer Yatta, declared in the 80s that the areas are either firing zones or nature preserves, in order to reserve them for settlement expansion.
Israel is also currently paving the way for the annexation of the Northern Jordan Valley by paving a street that divides up the region while further militarising checkpoints around it, creating an open air prison. The abovementioned Alon street, named after the father of settlements, is another form of the apartheid wall. This besieged area of the OPT includes around 30 Israeli settlements, and has been subject to increasing pressure from Israel to –forcibly- evict the local Palestinian population, who have faced numerous settler attacks and harassment. The annexation of the Jordan Valley is seen by many as a clear attempt by Israel to broaden its control over the Occupied Palestinian territories and further the Zionist agenda.
The annexation of the Jordan Valley has been a key part of Israel’s larger strategy to pillage and control Palestinian land. The region is strategically vital as it constitutes half of agricultural lands that provide food to Palestinians living in the West Bank. Hence control over this region means control over the West Bank. As part of this effort, Israel has established numerous settlements in the region, which serve as a means of expanding its control over the land and depriving Palestinians of their homes and property. This has resulted in numerous settler attacks on both Palestinian residents and their properties, as well as harassment and violence directed at those who seek to resist Israel’s occupation.
The annexation of the Jordan Valley fits into a broader pattern of settler-colonialism and ethnic cleansing that has characterised Israeli policy towards the Palestinian people for decades. The ongoing forced eviction and displacement of Palestinian residents is a clear example of the ways in which Israeli authorities seek to displace and erase the presence of Palestinians in their own land. This process goes hand in hand with the #OngoingNakba, which has seen the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and the destruction of entire communities. The annexation of the Jordan Valley is just one aspect of this broader process of dispossession, violence and ethnic cleansing that all those who seek justice and human rights for the Palestinian people must oppose.
Israel’s crimes in the West Bank are not random, they are a the systematic #OngoingNakba.
In 1967, the Zionist settler colonial project of Israel extended its control into the rest of Palestine: The West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Immediately after that, members of the Israeli government met to discuss the destiny of the 1 ½ million Palestinians living in the newly occupied territories. They contemplated the possibility of ethnically cleansing them similar to what the Zionist militias did in 1948 when they forcibly expelled around 750, 000 Palestinians during the violent coming into being of Israel. However, Israel held back from doing so due to fears off the reaction of the international community. Instead, the Israeli government has decided to implement its ethnic cleansing plans gradually.
Within three months-between June and August 1967- the Israeli government made a set of decisions that successive Israeli governments have adhered to: To take over Palestinian land in favour of Jewish settlers while ghettoising Palestinians in ever-smaller enclaves.
In the occupied West Bank, the implementation of such plans is manifested in the construction of illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land. Israeli takeover of Palestinian lands takes place through announcing them as state land, nature reserves or closed military areas, where the presence of Palestinians in these areas is deemed illegal by the unjust Israeli legal system. Further, it is manifested in Israel’s apartheid wall, that cherry picked which areas shall be inside and which shall not based on Israel’s needs of annexation and expansion, as the apartheid wall further ghettoised the West Bank, dispossessed and separated many Palestinians.
Currently, there are between 600, 000 to 750, 000 illegal Israeli settlers living in at least 250 settlements and settler outposts in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank (and East Jerusalem) is set to increase as part of the new Israeli far-right government’s plans to expand illegal settlements. Simultaneously, senior Israeli leaders in the most racist and fascist government ever like Bezalel Smotrich, are promoting long-standing Israeli/Zionist propaganda to justify and legitimise the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in favour of illegal settlers. On March 19th, 2023 during a lectern in Paris, he stated that ‘there is no such thing as a Palestinian nation.’
Take action against the #OngoingNakba.
The #OngoingNakba in the West Bank and Palestine will continue as long as international complicity offers a lifeline to Israeli apartheid. Take action to end Israeli apartheid and support the Palestinian sumud.
Participate in our #EndEthnicCleansing campaign , and during May join the commemorations and protests to end the #OngoingNakba. Share information about the continuing ethnic cleansing in Palestine. Participate in the BDS campaigns, such as:
- The campaign to end Hyundai’s complicity in Israel’s ethnic cleansing as well as the complicity of other corporations, such as JCB, Volvo and Caterpillar.
- Support the call for a comprehensive and immediate military embargo on Israel, as the apartheid regime relies heavily on imported weapons as well as the money coming in through the export of its own military technology to sustain the continuous oppression of Palestinians.
- Pressure your local or national government to ban Israeli settler goods and services and settlement trade.