Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing in the shadow of the genocide in Gaza
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Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing in the shadow of the genocide in Gaza

Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing in the shadow of the genocide in Gaza

On October 8, Israel declared the start of the current accelerated and planned genocide in Gaza. The atrocities we are witnessing in Gaza are beyond everything Israel perpetrated against the Palestinian people so far. It is the logical outcome of Israel’s relentlessly and systematically escalating policy of ethnic cleansing and annihilation of the Palestinian people and the glaring impunity that the international community has granted Israel over 75 years of apartheid, colonialism, and occupation. 

In the shadow of the genocide in Gaza, Israel is accelerating these policies in the occupied West Bank and against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Like in Gaza, Israel is rapidly advancing long-standing plans and strategies. 

A three-tiered plan of genocide and ethnic cleansing 

The genocide in Gaza was looming already when in 1992, Israel’s prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who negotiated the Oslo Accords wished “Gaza to sink into the sea. But since that is not going to happen, a solution must be found to the problem of the Gaza Strip.” The solution was first publicly outlined in 2014 when Moshe Feiglin, deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament presented his plan for Gaza. He proposed that Palestinians in Gaza be ordered to leave the area and then requested “The supply of electricity and water to the formerly populated areas will be disconnected”. He then called for the “formerly populated areas” to be “shelled with maximum firepower. So, “[Gaza] will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel. The coastal train line will be extended, as soon as possible, to reach the entire length of Gaza.” The current minister with multiple portfolios Bezalel Smotrich published in 2017 the so-called “Decisive Plan” to destroy any hope of the Palestinian people, in which he further details what Feighlin had already proposed. All the while Gaza was for 15 years under siege and suffered repeated massacres and bombardments as a prelude to genocide. 

Now these plans have been updated outlining three – not mutually exclusive – alternatives for the future of Gaza: Importing Palestinian Authority governance, fostering “local Arab governance,” and/or the “evacuation of the civilian population from Gaza to Sinai.” This is now being implemented. 

Similarly, Israel’s plans for the current accelerated ethnic cleansing happening in the West Bank date back to the same Oslo Accords, which divided the territory into 3 different zones and left “Area C”, which makes up 60% of the West Bank, ‘temporarily’ under full Israeli control. The building of the apartheid Wall in 2002, roughly along the lines of Area C was another step to implement the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and reduce it to isolated ghettos. The 2020 Deal of the Century between then-US President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aimed to officialize the de facto annexation of Area C. The same “deal” also included the plans to displace the population of the Gaza Strip to Egypt. Since the beginning of the year, Israel has been working relentlessly to further expand and arm the settler population it uses as a paramilitary force to perpetrate crimes in bright daylight. This has been reinforced during the last month. 

The complete elimination of rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, who always have been third-class citizens in the apartheid regime, has also been rapidly advancing over the last month. This strategy has been planned and has since long in the making. In fact, Palestinian citizens of Israel were until 1967 forced to live under military rule, a rule that applied only to them and not to Jewish-Israeli citizens. Ever since the second intifada, and more specifically, after the 2021 Dignity Intifada, Israel has accelerated the onslaught on the Palestinians who resisted the ethnic cleansing in 1948 and stayed in the land. The “Nation-State Law” of 2018 for the first time de jure explicitly mandates the discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, streamlining what hitherto was a de facto built-up through a complex web of interlocked laws and regulations. Today, Palestinians are being literally chased from the universities, workplaces, and public spaces and attacked by mobs in this way. 

The burden of this onslaught against the Palestinian people, their annihilation and displacement is supposed to be carried by the Arab regimes. Egypt is asked to receive the refugees and the rest to pay the damages. The Palestinian Authority as a perfect stooge is to reign over the ruins of Gaza.  

The genocide in the Gaza Strip is not only part of a project that targets the entire Palestinian people but it has implications far beyond the borders of Palestine. It aims to consolidate again the crumbling foundations of  imperialist American-European dominance in the region and to counter the expansion of Chinese and Russian influence. It is therefore no wonder that the US and Western states fully endorse and actively support the genocide, including by deploying their fleets in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

Yet, thanks to Palestinian and Arab resistance as well as global solidarity, this plan seems not to be coming to fruition. While the Palestinian Authority is ready to enact the US-Israeli playbook faithfully, the Arab regimes are still refusing to play their part. On the contrary, out of fear of the pressure coming from the streets, some regimes have even taken steps to reverse their normalization. European countries are slowly distancing themselves and governments across the globe have started to cut diplomatic ties with Israel. 

The ethnic cleansing in the West Bank

The Israeli ethnic cleansing project does not stop at the Gaza Strip. The policies of forced displacement and ethnic cleansing are the foundations of the Israeli apartheid system and  Israel exploits focus on the genocide in Gaza to expand its military and paramilitary operations in the West Bank. Since the first day of the bombing of Gaza, Jerusalem has been closed off and imposed a comprehensive siege on the West Bank by activating military checkpoints between cities and closing the entrances to many villages with iron gates. It deployed large numbers of its soldiers in the streets of the West Bank, making movement between cities extremely difficult. 

Israel’s apartheid forces have already killed over 196 Palestinians in the West Bank since October 7, including children. 

Mass arrests

Israel has also launched a widespread and brutal campaign of arrests in all areas and introduced new laws and regulations to deprive Palestinian prisoners of the last rights they had and ensure inhumane conditions in prison. 

Israel has detained over 3260 Palestinians, including released prisoners, since October 7, 2023. They have also arrested more than thousands of Palestinian workers from Gaza out of 18,000 who were working in Israel with permits. Their permits were revoked on October 10, transforming them into “illegal aliens” without the possibility to return to Gaza. Many were exiled to the West Bank while others were arrested by Israeli police and are being held in atrocious conditions. The Israeli authorities have also issued an order to consider Palestinian detainees from the Gaza Strip — who were workers in 1948 Palestine — as “unlawful combatants.” Based on the 2002 “Unlawful Combatants Law,” this order allows the Israeli authorities to hold Palestinians from the Gaza Strip for an unlimited period without effective judicial review. Another emergency regulation has extended the period during which detainees can be held without access to a lawyer to up to 30 days. The number of Palestinians in “administrative detention”, held without charge or trial, total number of Palestinians held in administrative detention, without charge or trial, rose in one month from 1,319 to 2,070.  

Israel has expelled and sent 3,200 workers from Gaza back to the besieged Strip. Where the genocide is raging, after they were arrested and stranded following the October 7 attacks. Thousands of Palestinians from Gaza, previously working in Israel and the occupied West Bank and then detained by Israel, are being pushed into the brutalized enclave, according to media reports.

Daily raids on cities and refugee camps

As part of the campaigns of mass arrests, the occupation forces have also conducted daily raids in the West Bank, especially in the city of Jenin. 

The Jenin camp has been subjected to siege and isolation from the outside world to tighten the noose around the camp’s residents. Most of the camp’s infrastructure was destroyed, and all roads leading to the camp were blocked. The camp’s statue, a horse, erected 20 years ago and built from the wreckage of buildings and cars, including an ambulance that was used during an attempt to rescue the wounded during the massacre Israel committed in the camp during the Second Intifada in 2002, was confiscated. The camp arch, which stood at the entrance to the camp since its inception, was destroyed as a clear attack on symbols of resistance and Palestinian steadfastness. The arch bore witness to the camp’s uprising and the displacement of Palestinians from their land. 

The camp is also subjected to daily raids by the occupation forces using military vehicles and bulldozers to carry out a series of arrests and demolitions of homes, shops, and infrastructure. 131  Palestinians have been killed in the city of Jenin alone since the beginning of 2023.

The cities of Nablus and Tulkarem are also suffering from daily invasions and nightly shootings in an attempt to kill the largest number of Palestinian youth. Since October 7, 235 Palestinians have been murdered in the West Bank. 

The settler militias

Outside the cities, in Area C, the attacks are relentless. Israeli apartheid forces and their settler militias employ the same tactics of intimidation, terror, and massacres committed during the 1948 Palestinian Nakba and mass expulsion of Palestinians from their lands. 

Settlers launched an organized campaign of displacement and ethnic cleansing against Bedouin and pastoral communities in Area C, giving people two options:  “Leave or Die.”

Israel has targeted Area C, isolated the Jordan Valley with 5 military checkpoints, isolated Masafer Yatta and Bedouin communities, and closed agricultural roads with earth barriers. 

Under this suffocating blockade, settler militias are often under the protection of the Israeli army, or they may come disguised in Israeli military uniforms and begin spreading a state of terror in the streets of the West Bank and agricultural lands, coinciding with the olive harvest season. 

Among the systematic policies of the Israeli military and settlers to tighten the noose on Palestinians in those areas, are the destruction of agricultural land and the closure of roads leading to Palestinian villages or communities isolating them from the outside world. Israeli forces use military barriers or close the roads using bulldozers, rocks, soil, or even cement barriers. Palestinians find themselves isolated in their villages and under daily brutal attacks. 

Settlers are smashing and setting fire to vehicles and agricultural machinery to restrict freedom of movement and make it impossible for farmers to harvest and gain their livelihoods. Settlers also systematically kill, and steal livestock animals, and prevent Palestinian farmers from accessing water sources for irrigation. They also graze their herds in Palestinian farmers’ lands, armed with weapons, leaving the land devoid of vegetation to starve the livestock of Palestinians.  

In the area of Khirbet al-Ratheem, south of Hebron, settlers spoiled 100 tons of fodder. In Khirbet al-Tayyiba, 11 agricultural and residential structures were destroyed, and agricultural equipment was stolen. We also documented several attacks by settlers, who, under the threat of weapons, stole farmers’ crops, especially olives, which were scheduled for harvesting between October 10-20. In other areas, settlers uprooted and cut more than 60 mature olive trees ready for harvest. Settlers also burned crops belonging to Palestinians in several areas across the West Bank. Israeli occupation forces have also declared more water sources and grazing areas as ‘shooting zones’ and military zones to prevent farmers from accessing them.

The attacks on Palestinians also include armed settler militias, often under the protection of the Israeli military, conducting daily raids on their homes, searching and vandalizing them, and brutally assaulting members of the local families. They damage the furniture and any electronic devices. In some cases, Palestinians are abducted, kidnapped, and tortured in isolated areas away from Palestinian communities. In Al-Hamra, Wadi al-Siq, and Khirbet Ein al-Rashash 276 Palestinians, including 70 children, were forcibly displaced at gunpoint from their homes and lands. Settlers also terrorize communities by firing shots at their homes or at the ground near Palestinians. 

These attacks also serve as psychological warfare aimed at intimidating and frightening Palestinians to compel them to evacuate their lands to preserve their lives. 

In the end, they are forced to leave their homes and land to protect the safety of their families. Both Palestinian farmers and Bedouin communities, and even villages located in Area C, have been daily subjected to this terror without any deterrent or accountability for the perpetrators.

According to a report from B’Tselem organization issued on October 19, this campaign has so far led to the complete displacement of 15 communities in Area C and partial displacement of 6 communities in Area C, with 19 communities facing intensive attacks to displace them.

The main objective of the different attacks on Palestinians in Area C is their forced displacement and the annexation of their land to further advance the ghettoization of Palestinians in small residential pockets surrounded by Israeli settlers and the army. 

This ethnic cleansing is implemented to a large extent by a strengthened settler militia that has been systematically strengthened since the current Israeli far-right government took power. 

Already at the end of last year, a new law was enacted that grants the Israeli Minister of National Security, Ben Gvir, dominant powers, particularly over the policies and general principles of the Israeli police. On October 15, new regulations came into force, which according to Ben-Gvir will ensure that an additional 400,000 settlers will be armed under this law. Already in the first months of the year, Ben Gvir had armed settlers with 27,000 American Colt machine guns. This type of automatic weapon is normally reserved for the Israeli army, not civilians. While attention is focused on the ongoing genocide in the Gaza Strip, Ben Gvir is accelerating his effort to create a paramilitary army of settler militias, which is intensifying the programs in  Palestinian villages and communities across the West Bank.

Palestinians in Jerusalem and citizens of Israel

Despite a deep rift and bitter infight inside Israeli society regarding its current government and policies, the genocidal hatred against Palestinians unites all sections of Israeli society. The fear of Palestinian citizens of Israel – their existence, let alone resistance – has been growing ever since the inspiring mobilization of Palestinians across all of their historic homeland during the Dignity Uprising in 2021. 

Hence Israel has ordered repression of any form of Palestinian dissent since the very first day. Palestinians residing in Israel are enduring severe crackdowns and suppression of dissent, including frequent arrests, interrogations, intimidation or expulsion of students from the university, and unjust job terminations. This crackdown, labeling solidarity with their fellow Palestinians in Gaza and opposition to Israeli policies of genocide and apartheid on social media as ‘terrorism glorification’, has led to the expulsion of Arab students from schools and universities, dismissals of Palestinian employees, and discriminatory hiring practices by some companies targeting.. Even the Washington Post had to admit that Israel is having two wars, one in Gaza and an internal war on free speech. 

Palestinians in Jerusalem are also threatened with the revocation of residency, deportation, or a specified period of exile outside Jerusalem if any materials related to the genocide in Gaza are found during inspections of their social media.

Additionally, Ben Gvir is attempting to pass a law allowing Israeli police forces to use live ammunition against Palestinian citizens of Israel to disperse their marches and demonstrations. This law essentially grants a license to kill Palestinians cold-bloodedly.  

The war on the truth

Palestinians across their historic homeland have been resisting by documenting, sharing information, and mobilizing online. 

In the isolated areas of the West Bank, many Palestinians have found no solution other than documenting the onslaught of the settler militias and the ethnic cleansing through photos, videos, and messages, hoping for popular support to protect them, and their families, and strengthen their resilience in those areas. 

Israeli settlers and military therefore started confiscating the phones. Their privacy is breached in search of any images or messages documenting these violations, which are then either deleted or the device is permanently stolen.

In most cases, Palestinians are subjected to brutal beatings if anything that doesn’t please the settlers or the military is found. The activists of Youth of Sumoud in Masafer Yatta area, a group of resilient youth, local residents, and human rights defenders, have documented various assaults aimed at terrorizing them and stopping them from documenting the persecution they are facing. 

The denial of any form of expression and full surveillance of any online activity has been a core element especially of the repression of Palestinians holding Israeli citizenship. 

It began with the declaration that any act of solidarity with the residents of Gaza or the sharing of Quranic verses or demands to stop the war is considered support for terrorism. Police have expanded random inspections of social media, searching for any posts or images indicating solidarity with their people in Gaza or opposition to the ongoing genocide. Palestinian citizens of Israel may be stopped when they pass near an Israeli police officer in the street, and even through raids on Palestinian businesses, with Israeli police entering to demand they surrender their phones. Similarly, in the West Bank, Palestinians are stopped at checkpoints, their phones searched and many have been arrested simply for watching, liking, sharing, or writing posts opposing the genocide in Gaza.

Once any form of solidarity is found on the phones, whether through physical checks in the streets or through online reporting mechanisms, the police confiscate the phone, and the person is arrested on charges of incitement to terrorism. Most arrests after October 7 are extended and postponed in court, In one high-profile incident, after receiving threats from an Israeli settler organization, Palestinian artist Dalal Abu Amneh was arrested for two days after a tweet in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. The occupation forces charged her alleging the tweets were “subversive incitement” and imposed house arrest on her for a week.

Scores of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are held in the occupation’s prisons under the worst possible conditions due to posts and tweets, in a desperate attempt to suppress Palestinian voices and out of fear of a popular uprising in solidarity with their people in Gaza. 

Police are supported by Israeli civilians who scan the internet to root out and repress any form of solidarity. As in any major attack on Gaza, new technology is being rolled out and tested in order to repress freedom of expression and repress Palestinians who are fighting for human rights. FakeReporter claims it is running a “war room” with 2500 volunteers that report pro-Palestinian and Palestinian content while TrendTrack allows anyone to report social media posts and share the information with third parties that “are using this data to root out the sources of misinformation online, while others are using it for intelligence-gathering purposes”. 

Resisting Together

The Palestinian people have learned the pain of displacement and losing their homeland already during the Nakba, the mass displacement in 1948, which is why today’s Palestinians remain resilient, holding onto their lands and homes despite daily assaults and attacks. Despite all the policies of intimidation and terror, and under all the suffocating conditions and isolation from the outside world, they stand strong, fighting for their right to that land. They have been displaced twice before and will not accept history repeating itself. 

However, at times, resilience can be daunting and nearly impossible without tangible support for the Palestinian families in those affected areas. The people in these regions need popular solidarity to enhance their resilience and protect them. The Palestinian people must take the necessary steps to reinforce the resilience of those in Area C. If this fails, the assaults we face today in Area C will spread to the heart of the West Bank cities, threatening all Palestinians without exception, and communities will be ethnically cleansed one after another.

We all must realize the imminent danger facing Palestinians in the West Bank and understand that the annexation plan, which aims to maintain Area C and the rest of the West Bank under permanent Israeli control, is being implemented rapidly. Palestinians residing in the West Bank are facing not only the occupation army but also approximately 350,000 armed settlers within Zionist militias supported by the Israeli army, without any real deterrent. 

If not stopped, the current escalation in the West Bank will fundamentally alter its demographics, as the territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority may shrink by 30% during the ongoing genocide in Gaza. There should be media coverage documenting these violations and attacks in those areas, and we need to integrate into local and international solidarity campaigns efforts to denounce and halt the forced displacement of Palestinians. Israel’s plans for the elimination of the entire Palestinian people are part of one multifaceted strategy. As we fight to achieve a lasting ceasefire and unrestricted access to humanitarian aid to Gaza to end Israel’s genocide, it is crucial to also fight Israel’s ethnic cleansing and every day more brutal apartheid policies across historic Palestine.