Israel’s drive to force Palestinians from their homes is at the root of its renewed assault on the Gaza Strip this week.
Israeli airstrikes killed at least 24 people—including children—in the besieged Gaza Strip on Monday night Many media reports presented the violence as the result of a religious dispute.
They said there had been “escalating tensions” in Jerusalem, and that Palestinian fighters used an Israeli raid on a religious site as an “excuse” to launch rockets.
In fact, armed Israeli police have spent weeks attacking protesters resisting attempts to make dozens of Palestinian families homeless. Israeli settlers want to use laws that privilege them over Palestinians to take over homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of east Jerusalem.
The homes were built when east Jerusalem was controlled by Jordan, and meant for Palestinian families that became refugees when Israel was founded in 1948. Now Israel says the land belonged to Jewish people before 1948—and so Palestinians have to be forced out again.
It’s the latest chapter in a long history of racism, violence and persecution meted out to Palestinians by the Israeli state.
As many as 850,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes in 1948 in a campaign of ethnic cleansing by militias that went on to become the Israeli army. Israel’s founders said keeping Arabs in a minority was essential to its existence as a Jewish state.
The western half of Jerusalem was captured by Israel in 1948—then it invaded the eastern side in 1967. It has occupied the city ever since, and claimed it as its own in 1980.
Despite this, Israel denies full citizenship rights to the Palestinians who live there—and keeps them under a system of violent repression. It uses a range of racist laws to rob Palestinians of their right to live in the city, while encouraging Israeli settlers to move in.
Settlers have the “right” to take over Palestinian homes, but families who were made refugees in 1948 are denied the right to return.
Every year tens of thousands of Israelis march through the streets of east Jerusalem, celebrating the anniversary of the 1967 invasion, jeering at Palestinians. Yet whenever Palestinians protest, they are met with tear gas and rubber bullets by Israeli police.
Israel’s latest raid on the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem came on the day of the annual Israeli march— and after weeks of attacks on Palestinians resisting the evictions.
One of Israel’s deputy mayors of Jerusalem, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, confirmed the planned evictions privileges Israelis over Palestinians. “Of course there are laws that some people may consider as favouring Jews—it’s a Jewish state,” she said.
Nabeel al-Kurd, a 77-year-old whose family faces losing their home, said the evictions were a racist attempt to “expel Palestinians and replace them with settlers”.
Another, Abdelfatah Skafi, said, “It’s the height of racism. Jews can get back their properties but not the Arabs.”
Palestinians right to resist this brutal assault
Palestinians responded to Israel’s attacks on them in Jerusalem with heroic and defiant resistance.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians have stood up against the evictions and the attempts to keep them out of the Old City in Jerusalem during Ramadan.
They have protested across towns inside Israel’s borders in the West Bank, which is also under Israeli military occupation. And, they have defied vicious attacks by Israeli police—including raids on the Al Aqsa mosque compound on Friday and Monday that have left hundreds injured.
Nour Mtour told the Al Jazeera news website on Monday, “Snipers went on the roof of the gate at the mosque compound and began to shoot rubber bullets at everyone— women, men, everyone.
“At the same time a huge number of police forces invaded from different directions. I saw Israeli police attacking the paramedics with batons who were doing their job. They were firing rubber bullets randomly at everyone.”
Palestinians fought back. The resistance forced Israel to delay the court ruling that is expected to approve the Palestinians’ eviction.
Fighters from the Palestinian group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, have also fired rockets towards Jerusalem.
Governments and politicians across the world always respond by calling on “both sides” to de‑escalate, as if both Palestinians and Israel are equally to blame.
Israel is the cause of the violence.
Its siege and military occupation, enforced by one of the strongest armies in the Middle East and backed by the US, shapes every aspect of life.
Palestinians in east Jerusalem and the West Bank can’t travel without having to pass through a gauntlet of military checkpoints. Residents of Palestinian villages and neighbourhoods have come under increasing attacks by Israeli settlers protected by soldiers.
Young Palestinian adults in Gaza have spent their lives under permanent siege. They can be shot and killed by Israeli soldiers simply for coming too close to the border fence that pens them in.
When Palestinians protested near the fence in 2018, Israeli soldiers massacred them.
Condemning them for daring to fight back is the height of hypocrisy. Standing with Palestinians means defending their right to resist.
Fight against imperialism to demand that Palestine be free
US president Joe Biden’s spokesperson said the White House had “concerns about the escalating violence” on Monday.
Israel is the US’s most important ally in the Middle East. The US relies on Israel to defend its interests and has spent billions of pounds to make sure its military is the most powerful in the region.
Yet Biden also knows ordinary people across the Middle East support the Palestinians—and is worried that Palestinian resistance could spread.
Biden and previous US president Donald Trump have both tried to unite Israel with Arab states against their shared rival Iran. But support for Palestinians among ordinary people means only a few rulers of Arab states have recently been able to sign “peace deals” with Israel.
As Palestinian protests spread, even those states that signed deals with Israel have been forced to condemn the attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem.
Palestinian resistance is a challenge to the whole system of imperialism that props up dictators across the Middle East.
That’s why the Palestinian cause needs to be a fight for everyone who opposes racism and war.
Solution is a single, democratic state
For decades some people have said that the way to secure justice for the Palestinians is to set up two states in what is presently Israel. Politicians have paid lip-service to that idea.
The two-state solution survived as an idea for as long as it appeared to offer Palestinian leaders the possibility of a state. It also satisfied the need of the Israeli state—founded on the basis of maintaining a Jewish ethnic majority in Palestine—to keep Arabs segregated.
But the idea of a two-state solution broke down long ago. In reality the supposed “peace process” that the two-state solution was founded on gave Israel a further opportunity to extend and solidify its occupation.
In doing that, it has left little land for an independent Palestinian state—and what remains would be completely tied and subordinated to Israel.
The Oslo Accords signed in 1993 claimed to pave the way to a Palestinian state. In fact, this turned Palestinian leaders into enforcers for Israel, while the occupation steadily deepened.
There are only two solutions to the present situation, and neither of them involve two states.
One is a new drive to clear Palestinians from their land. This is already underway and is backed by all the major parties in Israel.
The alternative is the only just, anti-racist one.
This is for Jews and Arabs to live together in a single, secular state with equal democratic rights for all of its citizens.
Achieving this new single state means accepting the end of a state founded on ethnic division. It will take a struggle by ordinary people across the Middle East against Israel, its imperialist backers and the Arab rulers who prop up US power.
Calling Israel racist is not antisemitic
Defenders of Israel have spent nearly seven years waging a sustained attempt to silence solidarity with Palestinians.
They have pushed the argument that it is antisemitic to call Israel a racist state, and that opposition to Israel is often motivated by a hatred of Jews.
Yet the evictions in east Jerusalem expose the racism at the heart of Israel. They show how Palestinian oppression has been built into the state ever since it was founded.
The assault on Palestinian solidarity reached a peak when Jeremy Corbyn was leader of the Labour Party. Right wing opponents of Corbyn wanted to use his support for Palestinians to smear and discredit him.
But the arguments began in 2014, the year before he became leader, when an Israeli invasion of Gaza sparked a global movement of solidarity.
More than 150,000 people marched across Britain against the attacks—the biggest protests in solidarity with Palestinians there have ever been in this country.
Israel’s supporters wanted to turn the tide against the growing support for Palestinians. But as Israel’s violence escalates, we can defy them with new mass protests of solidarity.