Above Photo: Leader of the ultranationalist party Otzma Yehudity (Jewish Strength) Itamar Ben-Gvir speaks to supporters in Jerusalem after hearing the results of the exit polls giving his party 14 seats in the parliament. Eyal Warshavsky / Sipa via AP Images.
The racist thug Itamar Ben-Gvir has not yet set foot in his new office as Minister of National Security, but the effects of his rise to power have already been felt throughout Palestine. As I write these words, Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro was arrested by the Israeli Army. He recently published a video showing an IDF soldier attacking and beating an Israeli activist in the city of Al-Khalil (also known as Hebron). The actions of the soldier and the sudden unwarranted arrest of Issa are signs of things to come.
From Al-Khalil, Issa runs Youth Against Settlements, one of the most important and effective grassroots organizations in Palestine. His life has been threatened many times by soldiers and by Israeli settlers, and now the pressure on him is worse than ever before. He is not alone, as has been said many times recently, the safety and security of Palestinians is in grave danger, more than ever before.
One has to wonder how many more warnings will it take before the world intervenes to protect Palestinians. Israeli sources confirm that Itamar Ben-Gvir, a student of hate-mongering, anti-Arab racist Meir Kahane – a man who has publicly stated his admiration for the mass murderer Baruch Goldstein who massacred Palestinian worshipers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil – will be Israel’s minister of national security. Benny Gantz, the outgoing Israeli minister of defense, described the situation as, “Netanyahu allowing Ben-Gvir to create his own army in the West Bank.”
The position of Minister of National Security is a new post created specifically for Ben-Gvir. It is an appointment that will give him unprecedented power; he will have control over the lives of Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as those living in Jerusalem and the West Bank. This position includes control over the Border Police, who deal primarily with Palestinians. He will have control of the so-called “Green Brigade,” and the “Green Police,” two agencies that directly deal with Palestinian “environmental” violations, a code word used to describe actions taken by Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians who hold a Jerusalem ID or Palestinian residents of the districts Israel designates as “Area C”.
The Border Police have several brigades that operate in the West Bank, with an estimated personnel of 2,000. An additional 4,000-5,000 are in reserves. Currently, they are funded by and under the command of the IDF. The reason Ben-Gvir wants this enormous force under his control is because part of their mandate is the evacuation of the settler outposts. These outposts are in fact settlements that are yet to be officially recognized or authorized by the government, and from time to time the army actually needs to evaluate them.
The Border Police are particularly violent. And while no one cares when they apply their violence towards Palestinians, there have been cases where even Israeli have settlers complained of excessive use of force. These settlers are Ben-Givr’s foot-soldiers. Therefore, he wants to control the Border Police who enforce the law when they break it.
Ben Gvir Will Fix Everything
Issa Amro recently published video of an encounter he had with a soldier at an Al-Khalil checkpoint. “That’s it, you are fucked, you and your activities, the whorehouse you are operating here are now finished,” the soldier says. “What activities?” Issa asked, “Am I breaking any laws?” “Yes you are. You are breaking all the laws, I make the laws here,” this twenty-year-old corporal said, adding, “Now get away from here.”
One has to be deeply concerned by the fact that approximately 30% of soldiers voted for Ben-Gvir’s racist anti-Arab party.
As this video was making its way through social media, another video showed a soldier in Al-Khalil beating an Israeli activist. This soldier, who I had confronted in the past, threw an Israeli activist on the ground and punched him in the face. All this was in front of the cameras and as other activists and soldiers were watching. The Israeli papers all carried the story and posted the video.
Death To Arabs
Although Ben-Gvir himself is careful not to allow this chant when he is present, his followers show no such restraint. Ben-Gvir insists they chant “Death to terrorists” instead, but, in his circles, “terrorist” is often a code word for “Arabs”.
A march in the Old City of Jerusalem from earlier this month makes this clear. Video show young settlers marching through Muslim-majority neighborhoods chanting “Death to Arabs, death to enemies” and “No Arabs, no terrorism.”
A short list of worrying events that have taken place since the Israeli elections includes the following:
- Issa Amro’s settler neighbors in the old city of Al-Khalil terrorize him by throwing rocks at his house and at the Youth Against Settlements offices. This is not new, but incidents such as these have been on the rise.
- Palestinians who left their house for a few hours to attend a funeral had settlers take over their home and move in.
- Hamdallah Badir, a Palestinian doctor in the Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi, was attacked for being an Arab.
- In the small towns of Abu Ghosh and Ein Nakuba, two towns on the outskirts of Jerusalem that are heavily frequented by Israelis who come to dine at their restaurants and shop at their stores, there were arson attacks and graffiti calling for the expulsion of Arabs.
Will Israelis Act?
Former IDF chief General Dan Halutz warned in a recent interview that the appointment of Ben-Gvir to minister of national security would lead to civil war among Israelis. This is not a likely scenario for two reasons: The first is that too many Israelis actually agree with Ben-Gvir, even if they did not vote for him directly. The second reason is that the Israelis who do not agree with him do not possess the conviction it takes to fight a man like him.
General Halutz also mentioned that, “Ben Gvir, who the IDF declined to draft due to his far-right activities even as a teenager, has experienced a surge in popularity.” When Benjamin Netanyahu was opposition leader, he said Ben Gvir could be in his coalition but that he was “not fit” for ministerial office. Now it is confirmed that he will be minister of national security, a post created especially for him.
It did not take long for Palestinians to feel the repercussions of the election results. How many more will be terrorized, detained, tortured, and killed no one knows. How many more will lose their homes and property and how wild will Israeli youth and soldiers become now that they are empowered, no one knows. What is certain is that Palestinians will pay the price, and thus far no one has stepped up to protect them.