Israel: a racist settler state

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The decision of the Israeli Cabinet on 23 November 2014 to place a Jewish Nation Bill before the Israeli parliament has confirmed once more the racist core of the Zionist project. If approved, it will legalise the de facto position of Palestinian people living in Israel as second-class citizens. Full citizenship will only be open to Jewish people; the Bill would also downgrade the status of Arabic as the second official language. The Bill comes in the wake of intensifying Israeli repression against Palestinian communities over the past few months stretching across the West Bank, Jerusalem and into Israel itself. BOB SHEPHERD reports.

The proposed Bill has been accompanied by a proposal to take away rights such as National Insurance from Palestinian citizens who are arrested for ‘inciting violence’ or for throwing stones. Another one, approved by the Cabinet, is to increase the prison sentence for Palestinians found guilty of throwing stones at Israeli settlers to 20 years. The racist repressive nature of the Israeli state is becoming more and more open with calls to expel Palestinians now part of the political mainstream.

A combination of religious provocation, settler violence and an officially-sanctioned shoot-to-kill policy has led to an explosion of Palestinian anger and resistance on the streets. In both Jerusalem and Galilee, Israeli forces have used a shoot-to-kill policy which is so transparent that it has been condemned by Amnesty and other international human rights groups. Alongside continuing attempts to force Palestinians out of East Jerusalem, the Zionist state has also been engaged in provocations against Palestinian worshippers in the Haram Al Sharif or Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem. Haram Al Sharif is a unifying national symbol for all Palestinians as well as being the third most important religious site for Muslims across the world.

Protected by Israeli security forces, Zionist religious fanatics have been forcing their way more and more often into the Haram Al Sharif compound. The compound includes both the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Claiming that the compound is the site of two Jewish temples built thousands of years ago, the fanatics want to demolish the mosque and build a further temple on the site. Palestinian opposition to these invasions of their religious sites has been met with rubber bullets and tear gas injuring 36 people in just four days at the beginning of October. Israeli forces also imposed restrictions on Palestinian worshippers entering the compound, based on age and gender; these were lifted under US pressure on 14 November. There are outright bans on some Jewish holidays preventing Palestinians from entering the compound to pray at Al Aqsa mosque. Connected to this is a drive to increase Jewish settlements in Palestinian districts of East Jerusalem which border the compound, especially in the district of Silwan where Zionist settlers have recently occupied two sets of buildings with over 35 apartments which they had bought from absentee landlords.

Daily demonstrations against Israel’s actions in Jerusalem have been taking place in East Jerusalem and across the West Bank with Israeli forces using tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against demonstrators. On 16 October Israeli forces shot dead a 13-year-old Palestinian boy near Ramallah, and then on 24 October a 14-year-old boy in a nearby district, bringing the number of Palestinian dead in 2014 on the West Bank to 45, including 12 children.

Palestinians have responded with a mixture of anger and desperation to the ongoing repression in Jerusalem. On 22 October a young man from Silwan drove his car into passengers getting off the rail system in the city killing a young child in the process. Israeli police shot him dead almost immediately, ensuring no trial would determine whether the act was deliberate or not. This didn’t prevent Israeli officials calling it a ‘terror attack’. On 29 October, Yehuda Glick, one of the leaders of the Zionist religious organisation The Temple Mount Faithful, who are at the forefront of calling for the building of a third temple, was shot and wounded as he left a conference in Jerusalem on the building of a Temple on the ruins of Al Aqsa. His alleged attacker was summarily shot dead by Israeli forces. On 5 November another Palestinian was executed after driving his car into a crowd of train passengers. Following this incident the Israeli Public Services Minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, openly advocated a shoot-to-kill policy against Palestinians, ‘The action of the Border police officer who chased the terrorist and quickly killed him is the right and professional action, and that is the way I would want these actions to end’.

Late in the night of 7 November in Kafr Kana, Galilee, the police took Aharonovitch’s advice and shot dead a young unarmed Palestinian who had been protesting at his cousin’s arrest. Local people came out demonstrating their opposition to the murderous actions of the Israeli police and a general strike took place across Galilee and Negev the next day. The response of Netanyahu was to order the Interior Minister to investigate whether it was possible to remove the citizenship of those arrested in the protests, and to urge the Palestinians demonstrators ‘to move to the Palestinian Authority or to Gaza…Israel will not put any obstacles in your way’.

Israeli pressure on the 1.5 million-strong Palestinian minority within Israel has been increasing with attacks on mosques and churches taking place in Galilee and other areas. There are also concerted efforts to disenfranchise Palestinians within Israel by trying to ban the Islamic Movement, which does not take part in the electoral process, and by increasing the threshold for parties to enter the Knesset which will make it much more difficult for Arab-based parties to get MPs.

The scale of Israeli repression is now intense: over 200 Palestinians were arrested in East Jerusalem during the first three weeks of November, and nearly double that number across the West Bank. On 17 November the hanged body of a Palestinian bus driver was found in Jerusalem. Israeli authorities attempted to pass it off as a suicide, but his family said the body had bruises on it which suggested he had been tortured and then hanged. On 18 November members of the PFLP in an unofficial operation entered a Jewish religious establishment built on the site of Deir Yassin and killed five people including two police officers. They declared that the action was in response to the ‘ongoing racist policies and crimes of the occupation’ which includes ‘taking unprecedented measures against Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem on a daily basis’.

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Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 242 December 2014/January 2015