Above Photo: A Jewish settler carries a weapon by the main entrance to the Palestinian city of Nablus in the northern West Bank, October 04, 2022. Ilia Yefimovich / DPA via AP Images.
Saturday, November 19, 2022, was according to Jewish tradition Shabat Chayei Sarah – the Shabbos, or Saturday commemorating the death and burial of the biblical matriarch Sarah. In the biblical story, her husband Abraham purchased her burial plot in the ancient city of Al-Khalil. According to Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, the “commemoration” events that Al-Khalil has been subjected to over the last few decades have nothing to do with Jewish tradition, only, “Zionist Embellishments.”
Al-Khalil, or Hebron in Hebrew, is the largest city in the West Bank, with close to a quarter of a million residents. The Old City part of Al-Khalil, also known as H-2, is a beautiful place, with narrow alleyways and architecture that bears witness to the centuries of grandeur it enjoys, the fourth-holiest city in Islamic tradition. Around 25,000 Palestinians and close to 800 Jewish settlers live in the old city. The settlers are vile, racist and violent to a point where 800 of them are able to terrorize thousands of their Palestinian neighbors.
Besides that, there is a massive military presence in the Old City of Al-Khalil. This military presence includes at least one full combat brigade which monitors the more than five hundred checkpoints and movement barriers that exist within one square kilometer or approximately 0.4 square miles of the city. The military is there to assist the settlers, not protect the Palestinian civilians who they are constantly terrorizing.
Thirty Thousand Settlers
The “settler” community is a deeply racist, anti-Palestinian movement that had appeared on the scene after the Israeli attack on its neighbors of 1967, and the consequent occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. This conquest was marketed as an act of the almighty, and a movement of thousands of religious Zionist zealots began invading the West Bank. Al-Khalil was one of their first targets, and they were successful in establishing a city for themselves on the lands of Al-Khalil called Kiryat Arba.
Today, this settler movement mobilizes its people to wherever they want in order to terrorize Palestinians. In May 2021, they sent hundreds of their members to the occupied city of El-Lyd where they rioted and terrorized Palestinian residents of the city. During the attack, they murdered Musa Hassuna, a 31-year-old truck driver, whose family I met. They also rioted and attacked Palestinians in Bi’r Saba in the Naqab and tried to invade local Palestinian Bedouin communities, but were pushed back.
Last weekend, 30,000 settlers converged on the city of Al-Khalil where they, along with the Israeli military, proceeded to terrorize local Palestinians. Even as they invaded Palestinian homes, destroyed shops and attacked people in the streets, the Israeli army was ordering Palestinians to close their shops and leave the area, thus permitting the Israeli setters to riot without interruption.
Anyone who has been to Al-Kalil and particularly to H-2 knows how small and crowded it is. To imagine thirty thousand racist thugs with a license to destroy anything in their path is a terrifying image. And yet there they were.
The First Of Many
The Israeli media described what happened in Al-Khalil as a pogrom. Pogroms were known as murderous riots perpetrated against Jews throughout Eastern Europe and usually resulted with entire communities destroyed and countless dead. This riot in Al-Khalil was by no means the first riot by the settler movement. It was, however, the first open riot since the Israeli elections. The election results gave the leaders of the settler movement unprecedented power, and it is expected that they will now be given influential cabinet and sub-cabinet positions, as well as control over important parliamentary committees and appropriation of government funds. This means more money and more licenses than ever before to build and to displace Palestinians.
One portfolio they are demanding is a new government office titled, “The Negev, Galilee and the Periphery.” If they do receive this, it will mean control over areas within 1948 Palestine, where there are still large Palestinian communities.
Their new-found power is also a sign for their base to continue and escalate their vigilantism on the ground, killing, destroying property and generally terrorizing Palestinians everywhere. Other areas where we see members of this movement rioting freely is in the northern West Bank around Za’atara Junction which leads to the cities of Nablus and Jenin.
In that area surrounding Za’atara Junction are towns like the tiny and incredibly beautiful village of Yanoun and the larger town of Akraba, with close to twenty thousand people. All Palestinian communities in that area have seen settler violence and rioting, and they can expect to see a great deal more violence now that the elections have given them a boost. Similarly, the cities of Lyd, Ramle and Yafa as well as the Naqab are all in grave danger.
No Security Provided For Palestinians
The main point to be taken from the results of the Israeli elections is that the lives of Palestinian have never been in more danger than they are now. If one could assume that the reality for Palestinians will continue to be as it has, as one Israeli historian called it, a slow genocide, now it is clear this is not going to be the case. The Israeli politicians who are expected to be in the coalition – people like Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich – want the Palestinians out or dead. They will act with greater authority to accomplish the full ethnic cleansing of Palestine, as well as the destruction of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the erection of a so-called Jewish temple in its place.
They demand full control of the budgets and policymaking regarding Palestinians throughout the country. They want an easing of the rules of engagement vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the death penalty for all Palestinian political prisoners. They also call for what they term “stronger governance” over the Palestinian population – a code word for tighter control, more expulsions, home demolitions, arrests, torture and killing.
Palestinians are provided no security, no safety and no protection by anyone. The Israeli authorities are certainly not going to provide security or protection for Palestinians who are terrorized by the army or by groups of Israeli Jewish vigilante gangs. The international community is unwilling to intervene, and the United Nations has no means of enforcing its resolutions regarding Israel.
So who may Palestinians turn to as the violence against them increases? One particularly disturbing video posted on Twitter during the riots in Al-Khalil shows a young Palestinian man, Yousef Azza from Tel-Rumeida, in the Old city of Hebron running to get help. Settlers invaded his home and attacked his mother and sisters. He tried to approach the soldiers, and his fury and fear are evident as he fails to find help.
Just as Yousef Azza tried in vain, so do Palestinians everywhere try in vain to seek help from Israeli authorities, the Israeli public, the international community and the various non-governmental organizations that operate in Palestine. However, there is no entity that is willing to step in to save Palestinians as they continue to be terrorized by Zionist gangs.