As the world watches the massacre being carried out against the 2.3 million Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, Israel is intensifying its violence and collective punishment against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem, and for Palestinian citizens of Israel, exposing that its attacks are not against Hamas, but against the Palestinian people as a whole.
Over the past thirteen days, Israeli officials made a number of genocidal statements dehumanising Palestinians, translating into the killing of over 4,785 Palestinians, including 1524 children, mass destruction of homes and infrastructure, and displacement amidst a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.
What is less reported, however, is the intensified violence, suppression and collective punishment against fragmented Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and within the borders of Israel.
Before the aggression on Gaza, 2023 had already been identified as the deadliest for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2005, with 203 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces and settlers. In the past two weeks, Israeli forces and settlers have killed over 81 Palestinians in the West Bank. To put this in perspective, before the recent escalation, an average of 5 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces and settlers every week, while after, it increased to 40.
This horrific number is only expected to increase as Israeli occupying forces embark on their ‘shoot to kill’ policy against protesters and civilians, and their daily arrest raids and military attacks. On Thursday, Israel conducted a full-fledged military attack, including airstrikes, against Nour Shams Refugee Camp, in Tukaram, killing 13 Palestinians, including five children, as well as levelling infrastructure and properties.
Meanwhile, Israeli officials are committed to reinforcing Israeli Jewish civilian militias. The Knesset on 15 October approved a regulation that significantly relaxes the requirements for civilians to acquire firearms, before National Security Minister Ben-Gvir promoted a video of him distributing guns. Around 150,000 firearms have been distributed to illegal settlers.
Recent weeks have seen a surge in settler violence, with incidents more than doubling. Settlers are further organising their violence and attacks on social media platforms, and inciting for killing Palestinian figures, with over 130,000 hate and incitement speech in Hebrew recorded in little over a week. All this is not only permitted but encouraged by the Israeli government.
While Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza is an opportunity for settlers to ‘eradicate’ Palestinians, it is also a chance to steal more land and expand illegal settlements, something Israeli officials have promised to do. Amidst the increased settler violence and use of death threats against Palestinian communities, approximately 545 Palestinians from 13 herding/Bedouin communities have been displaced since 7 October.
The institutionalised impunity Israeli settlers have enjoyed for decades has always translated into dehumanising crimes. On 11 October, armed Israeli settlers attacked Qusra village in Nablus and opened fire at Palestinian homes, killing three Palestinians, while the Israeli Air Force (IOF) killed a fourth. The next day, settlers killed another two Palestinians during the funeral of the four killed.
A few days later, settlers circulated a photo on Telegram of Karam Dweikat, a 17-year-old boy, who was killed that day by Israeli forces in Beita, Nablus, threatening to kill Palestinians if they hold a public funeral for him. The death threat stated: ‘Learn the lesson from Qusra residents who thought they could hold a public funeral for their carcasses, which led to another two killings. Every idiot who attends the funeral of your carcass will expose his life to the risk of instant death.’
A Wave of Oppression
Israel continues to escalate the collective punishment of Palestinians through an aggressive mass arrest campaign since the onslaught on Gaza. Prior to the aggression on Gaza, around 5,200 Palestinians were in Israeli prisoners and detention centres. Since then, Israel has launched an aggressive arrest campaign across the West Bank, detaining more than 850 Palestinians. Another 900 Palestinians from Gaza were detained under ‘the unlawful combatant law’, which indefinitely detains Palestinians without formal charges and based on secret ‘evidence’.
Further punitive measures have been imposed on Palestinian prisoners. This has included banning family visits and restricting lawyers’ visits. The Israeli Prison Services also cut off electricity and restricted water to only one hour per day in several prisons, akin to the starvation warfare Israel has been imposing against Palestinians in Gaza. This is all as many are subjected to physical beatings and other ill-treatment, and patient prisoners are denied treatment.
As Israel claims its massacres in Gaza are legitimate because Hamas ‘uses civilians as human shields’, it is now punishing thousands of Palestinian workers who were present in Israel on 7 October simply because they are from Gaza. For a couple of years, Israel granted around 18,000 Palestinians from Gaza permits to work across Israel and Jerusalem, as the 16-year-old Israeli blockade on Gaza has caused a 46 percent employment rate.
Since the aggression, Israel punitively revoked all their work permits, which rendered their presence in Israel ‘illegal’, and subjected their lives and safety to danger amidst a hostile and violent climate. Many were expelled from their workplace and denied their salaries. Others were harassed and brutally beaten by Israeli civilians, police and military.
Further, Israel detained around 4,000 workers without record or any guarantee of their most fundamental rights. Thousands were forced to the West Bank and are being hosted by locals. This collective punishment and degradation against workers from Gaza is happening as they are enduring the loss of their loved ones and homes under bombardment.
Meanwhile, Israel, which purports to be the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’, is cracking down on any Palestinian citizens of Israel who condemn the ongoing genocide. At least 100 Palestinian citizens of Israel and residents of occupied Jerusalem have been arrested for social media posts supporting Palestinians in Gaza, representing the highest rate of arrests for 20 years. The Israeli police even published a video banning any protests in solidarity with Gaza. Dozens of Palestinians have been expelled and suspended from their jobs, while around 70 students in Israeli universities are facing expulsions and disciplinary action from their schools over their social media posts.
Amidst this Israeli genocidal warfare, collective punishment, and repression against Palestinians all over Palestine, many Western governments have been fueling Israeli war crimes, including by supplying it with more arms and promoting its so-called ‘right to self-defence’. Mainstream media, on the other hand, has also been complicit in greenlighting Israel’s genocidal war while failing to adequately cover the reality of the ongoing massacres in the wider context of apartheid, occupation and colonisation.
As people of consciousness should mobilise to end the genocide in Gaza, remember that Israel’s ‘current’ war is not new. The violence, dehumanisation, and colonial domination of Palestinians started over a century ago and continues to this day. Since the Nakba of 1948, the Israeli state has been relentlessly pursuing the elimination of the Palestinian people and control of their land — and now, with the world watching, it is enacting a second Nakba. Yet, in the face of all of this, Palestinians’ will to live freely and in dignity persists.