‘World must act against rising Israeli-settler violence on Palestinians’

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The international community must act against what has been described as the ongoing and pervasive violence being perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

This was the call made by several experts at a panel discussion on Wednesday organized by the Middle East Institute in Washington D.C. They also accused Tel Aviv of sanctioning the violence, and claimed the US was not acting to clamp down on the perpetrators.

Panelist Ahmed Abofoul, legal research and advocacy officer at Al-Haq Organization, a Palestinian human rights body based in Ramallah in the West Bank, said: “Israeli-settler violence is state-sanctioned violence and is part and parcel of, in the wider context, (of the) Israeli-settler colonial and apartheid regime.”

He argued that Israel, in order to continue with its project as a “settler-colonialist enterprise” has strategically fragmented the Palestinian people into four distinct groups that would ensure Israel’s long-term dominance and control.

He said the four Palestinian groups are: those who live inside Israel as unequal citizens, residents of occupied Jerusalem, inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza, and lastly refugees in exile who are denied the right to return to Palestine.

Israel occupied Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza during the 1967 war, in addition to other Arab territories.

There have reportedly been more than 300 attacks on the West Bank Palestinian villages of Huwara, Burin and Asira Al-Qibliya, south of Nablus, since Feb. 26 of this year.

There are about 750,000 Illegal Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to international organizations and human rights groups.

Addressing the issue, panelist Sarit Michaeli, international advocacy officer for B’Tselem, Israel’s largest human rights organization, said a “quantum leap” had taken place of ongoing and daily attacks committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank.

Michaeli argued that there were ideologically driven, supremacist and racist elements within the Israeli settler population committing these crimes. The attacks were not the product of the current rightwing government, but a long-term settler enterprise conducted by successive Israeli administrations, she said.

Michaeli said settlers “enjoy impunity” and very rarely have to pay a price for their crimes committed against the Palestinian people.

She accused the US and broader international community of failing to respond more robustly on the issue, which has encouraged the Israeli government to continue supporting the building of illegal settlements on Palestinian land, in addition to turning a blind eye to the violence.

“Lack of accountability is a policy therefore violence is expanding,” she said.

Alex Kane, senior reporter for the newspaper Jewish Currents, said that the situation today in Israel has changed considerably since the 1990s when the terrorist Kach political party was led by American-born Meir Kahane, the organization’s only Knesset member.

Kane said Kach was an outpost of the Jewish Defense League in America, which were both designated as foreign terrorist organizations by the US state department. The US has recently removed this terrorist designation, reasoning that the Kach movement no longer exists as a single entity by that name.

Kane argued that while it is true that Kach no longer exists as a group, its followers have spread throughout the Israeli political system, and more recently have attained considerable political power within the rightwing government of current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“There is no one single address to the Kahane movement but its tentacles have spread wide within Israel,” said Kane.

He said the leaders of such extremist groups and others are today’s leading politicians within the US-allied Israeli political system. Kane added that far-right extremist Israeli politicians and government ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich are adherents of Kahane’s anti-Arab terrorist ideology.

Kane said the US administration “doesn’t know what to do” with these extremist elements who follow a designated Jewish terrorist group, other than refusing to meet with Ben Gvir and Smotrich.

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