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Graffiti in Nablus. Photo: Victor Grigas/cropped from original/licensed under CC3.0, linked at bottom of article

Graffiti in Nablus. Photo: Victor Grigas/cropped from original/licensed under CC3.0, linked at bottom of article

Israel is conducting a brutal crackdown on Palestinian communities, largely to media silence, but resistance is growing again, reports Don Davies

You wouldn’t know it from reading mainstream papers or watching the main television channels, but Israel is currently undertaking a brutal crackdown on Palestinian communities across the West Bank.

‘Operation Break the Wave’ was launched by Israeli occupation forces in March this year. It has led to vast areas of the West Bank being subject to regular shutdowns, refugee camps subject to repeated night-time raids, and the arrest of over 5000 Palestinians, 766 of them children. For the latest arrest figures visit the websites of the Palestine Prisoners Society and Defence for Children International (Palestine).

In 2022 to date, over 160 Palestinians have been murdered at the hands of Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank alone. Twenty of those killed are children under the age of eighteen. There has also been a significant increase in settler violence against Palestinian communities. In Huwarra, south of Nablus, settler gangs have smashed up Palestinian shops and homes. Around Ramallah and Tulkarem, olive harvests have been delayed and olive pickers attacked.

Armed Israeli extremists have attacked Palestinians in the Sheik Jarrah district of East Jerusalem, trying to forcibly evict Palestinians from their homes. Meanwhile, gangs of Israeli extremists have been gathering outside Damascus Gates, in the Old City of Jerusalem, and attacking Palestinians, calling for a ‘second Nakba’. The Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron has been invaded by settlers in a clear act of provocation. This is the mosque where Israeli terrorist Baruch Goldstein attacked people at prayer in 1995, killing 29 and wounding 125. Settlers took over half the mosque, turning it into a Jewish Temple outside of which is a statue celebrating Goldstein’s murderous act. Wherever Settler violence has occurred they have had the protection of, and worked in collusion with, the Israeli armed forces.

To understand what is going on we need to look at three interlinked dynamics. First, Israeli politics is increasingly dominated by far-right groupings. They are openly racist and call for ever greater restrictions on Palestinian rights. They advocate ‘Israeli sovereignty’ and the ‘extension of Israeli law’ over ever greater parts of the West Bank. Essentially the annexation of all settlements and their surrounding areas. In the recent crackdown, Israeli army chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, and Israeli Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, have promised no Israeli soldier will face repercussions for killing a Palestinian. Kochavi was quoted as saying that the Israeli forces would reach into ‘every city, neighbourhood, alley, house or basement’ to root out the Palestinian resistance.

Collaboration and resistance

Second is the role of the Palestinian Authority. The PA is committed to working alongside the Israelis in ‘security operations’. On the 19 September, it was PA forces that raided Nablus and arrested resistance leaders. PA security forces are actively involved in the surveillance, targeting and arrest of Palestinian militants.

To understand this we need to look at the PA leaderships long-term accommodation to Israel and their attempt to court the US administration. At the UN recently, Lapid raised the possibility of a revised ‘two-state solution’. Tellingly he said that this would require assurances that the Palestinian state would not be led by armed militants. The PA are attempting to control the resistance to gain respectability and a seat at the negotiating table.

Third, we need to understand the renewed resistance movement. The actions of the PA are leading to growing hostility to the current strategy and leadership. In response, new groups are emerging, and young militants are not prepared to follow the dictates of PA political leadership unconditionally. In Jenin, the ‘Jenin Brigade’ has drawn in unaffiliated youth and young activists from a range of fedayeen groupings. In Nablus, the ‘Lions of Nablus’ have grown, especially after the martyrdom of Ibrahim al-Nabulsi. Both groups have been active in defence of their towns and refugee camps.

Further, the new resistance activists have increasing links with activists inside Palestine48. In March this year, a series of attacks took place inside 48 where the fighters were drawn from both the West Bank and inside 48 itself. Last year the so-called ‘unity intifada’ spread across the whole of Palestine and brought activists together from the West Bank, Gaza and 48 itself.

The Israeli state responded by arresting significant numbers of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. They used all the old tactics of arrest, beatings and collective punishment but failed to break the links or the nerve of activists. The continuing brutality of Israeli colonial settlement is producing a new layer of militants willing to fight for Palestinian liberation.

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