'Death to Arabs': Palestinians Need International Protection From Israel's Racist Jewish Thugs

Israel's right-wing extremists, Netanyahu's allies, are taking to the streets, fueled by Jewish supremacy and anti-Palestinian hate, protected by the police and emboldened by their unprecedented power in the Knesset

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Israeli border police block members of "Lahava", a Jewish extremist group, from approaching the Damascus Gate, just outside Jerusalem's Old City last week
Israeli border police block members of "Lahava", a far right Jewish extremist group, from approaching the Damascus Gate, just outside Jerusalem's Old City last weekCredit: Ariel Schalit,AP
Sami Abou Shahadeh
Sami Abou Shahadeh

The images of hundreds of religious Zionist activists in occupied East Jerusalem chanting "Death to Arabs" come as no surprise to Palestinians. In fact, they are commonplace, daily occurrences, the result of decades of racist policies, laws and hateful anti-Palestinian incitement.

But there is also a new element to these attacks: the role that Israel’s prime minister is playing. Netanyahu’s allies, particularly the Kahanist-supporting MKs, Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, called on their fanatic youth to take over the streets, a show of force and a mob to harass and assault Palestinians. It was clear that there was coordination with the police; they were supported by politicians; and from the government - not a single condemnation to date.

These acts are not being carried out by a marginal group of Israeli youth and they’re not confined to Jerusalem. The same violent harassment happens all over the occupied West Bank, and even in my hometown, Jaffa.

For these haters, the issue isn’t about 1967 or 1948, but dedicated hostility towards all indigenous Palestinians, including Palestinian citizens of Israel. Many of those extremists have experience in the army, some are armed, and most importantly: They are aware that anti-Palestinian attacks generally enjoy impunity. 

Imagine if it were the other way around: If those calling for such demonstrations had been Palestinians, they would have been either taken for interrogations in advance, perhaps detained as a preventative measure. They would have been met by overwhelming police force, tear gas, batons.

Israeli police subdue a Palestinian man during unrest by the Old City of Jerusalem's Damascus Gate this weekCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg

But since they were Jewish radicals, the police did not even put up a checkpoint on their way to the Old City or confront their chanting "Death to Arabs."

This same police force that is supposed to protect law and order in Jerusalem is the same one that participates in the illegal evictions of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, which protects illegal settlers and attacks peaceful demonstrators against this injustice. My colleague and Joint List partner Ofer Cassif felt the full force of that “law and order” when he was punched in the face by a policeman for peacefully protesting evictions in Sheikh Jarrah.

He said then: "I am a member of the Knesset but the police don’t care about that. They don’t care about my parliamentary immunity nor about my civil rights, they just care about protecting the criminal settlers who invade here…this is a police force of a fascist government…All the world should know what is happening here."

An Israeli policeman strikes lawmaker Ofer Cassif, yesterday.Credit: AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP

Israeli policies, whether in occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, or within Israel proper, are mainly about one thing: Securing Jewish supremacy. Arbitrary and illegal actions are taken against Palestinians, while now, more than ever before, settlers and other extremists enjoy a political honeymoon with their unprecedented racist representation in the Knesset.

They don’t believe that the international community will do anything to protect the Palestinians or to hold those guilty of anti-Arab hate crimes accountable. Regretfully, they seem to be correct.

Back in 2018 my party, Tajamu/Balad, proposed a bill called "Basic Law: State Of All Its Citizens." The Knesset Presidium refused to allow the bill to be submitted, because it was not based on the claim that Israel is a Jewish state; Israel’s own Supreme Court refused to discuss it, likewise.

Instead, Israel approved the Jewish Nation State Law, that provides an institutional basis for a Jewish state based on as racial/religious hierarchy. At the same time, Israel still controls every aspect of Palestinian life in occupied Palestine, while expanding its illegal settlements.

MK Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the racist ultranationalist Otzma Yehudit party, rabble rousing near Jerusalem's Old City Damascus Gate last weekCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg

It is of course essential to end the hateful anti-Palestinian incitement and physical attacks on Palestinians, and to hold those criminals accountable. But it is not sufficient.

Only when the State of Israel acknowledges that it must be the state of all its citizens, and when it commits to a just and lasting peace, and when it respects its obligations under international law, to end the occupation and fulfil Palestinian rights, will real peace be possible.

Meanwhile, there is an urgent need to ensure the international protection of the Palestinian people. Palestinians within Israel’s border and in occupied territory need to be defended, not just against the cruelty of Israel’s armed forces, but also against the brutality of "regular" citizens, emboldened by their new Knesset representation and fueled by a racist vision of Jewish supremacy, and embrace of apartheid and a mission to transfer Palestinians from their homes and homeland by intimidation, or force.

Sami Abou Shahadeh is a Palestinian historian, leader of Balad/Tajamu party and member of the Knesset for the Joint List:. Twitter: @ShahadehAbou

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