Israel has unleashed a reign of terror on Palestinians, first attacking worshippers at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and then bombing the Gaza Strip, killing at least 67 since Monday.
But Palestinians are fighting back. Thousands rallied in East Jerusalem to defend their homes from a far-right Israeli march.
In a sign of the depth of the resistance, protests are not just taking place in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967 but inside Israel itself. Palestinians have taken to the streets in as many as 11 towns and cities, including Lydda—known as Lod by Israelis—Nazareth, Haifa and Jaffa.
This latest conflict was sparked by an attempt to steal Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah.
Standing in the garden of an East Jerusalem home, an Israeli settler argues with a Palestinian woman. He states in a thick Brooklyn accent: “If I don’t steal it, someone else will steal it.”
Video of this confrontation went viral—underlining the cavalier Israeli attitude toward Palestinians that has existed at least since the Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe)—the establishment of Israel in 1948 and the ethnic cleansing of more than 700,000 Palestinians.
For most Israelis, the Palestinians are simply “in the way” of their development and as such must be removed, often at gunpoint.
Any protest against this draconian policy is met with disproportionate Israeli retaliation that often results in serious injury or death, new restrictions on civil and religious freedoms and deafening silence from Western states.
For the past two weeks, Palestinians have demonstrated against this latest round of evictions in Sheikh Jarrah as well as the provocative locking down of the Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem during Ramadan.
Israel quickly escalated the situation, with reports of Israeli police firing indiscriminately into crowds with rubber bullets, water cannons and stun grenades.
In response to rocket launches from Gaza by the Palestinian resistance group Hamas, Israel unleashed hundreds of air strikes on Gaza, bringing down buildings and killing civilians, including children.
With Israel currently in electoral deadlock, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may see this as an opportunity to take a hard stance to win popularity.
This recent violence is the latest step in a long-running campaign of persecution. Settlers are using a law passed in 1970, a mere three years after Israel illegally invaded and occupied East Jerusalem, to “legally” force Palestinians out of their homes if Israeli courts decree that the land was owned by Jews before the arrival of Palestinians.
Yet hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were dispossessed in 1948 with the formation of Israel have no right to return.
The institutionalised racism of the Israeli legal system and the seizure of land by settlers on the West Bank have reduced Palestinian territory to a fraction of its former self. Palestine is now limited to the Gaza Strip and fragments of the West Bank.
Israel’s clear intention is to remove any trace of Palestine altogether, with a deputy mayor of Jerusalem stating: “Of course there are laws that some people may consider as favouring Jews—it’s a Jewish state.”
All the while, the United States and its allies, including Australia, continue to provide almost unconditional support to Israel as a loyal ally in a region where most people are hostile to Western imperialism.
Israel’s policies of racial, religious and class discrimination have created an atmosphere where the far-right thrives.
One group that has benefited from Netanyahu’s harsh policies is Lehava, a right-wing Zionist group that campaigns for segregation between Jews and non-Jews. It has been active in intensifying tensions on the streets with its supporters leading chants of “death to the Arabs” and “Arabs get out”.
The group has loose ties with the far-right Religious Zionism political party, which has enjoyed recent electoral support and has been courted by Netanyahu.
The conflict over Sheikh Jarrah and the events of the past week underscore why the respected NGO, Human Rights Watch, last month issued a report declaring that Israel is guilty of crimes of apartheid against Palestinians.
Socialists stand with the Palestinians and support their fight for liberation. There can be no justice without the formation of a single, democratic state with equal rights for Muslims, Jews and Christians, and which guarantees the right of return for all Palestinian refugees forced from their homes since 1948.
By Joshua Look