Israeli police have stood by as armed, right wing Jewish settlers run riot through Palestinian towns and neighbourhoods inside Israel’s borders.
Sawsan Zaher, deputy director of the Adalah legal centre in Haifa, told Socialist Worker how groups of Israeli settlers have organised assaults on Palestinian demonstrations.
Sawsan said Palestinians in Israel began protesting after border cops attacked worshippers in the Al Aqsa mosque, Jerusalem, last week. “Instead of allowing them to protest peacefully, the police started using violence, attacking demonstrations and arresting activists,” she said.
Groups of settler activists—Israelis who try to force Palestinians from their land to make way for Jewish-only towns—soon joined the attacks.
Adalah, which defends the human rights of Palestinians in Israel, obtained voice messages. They showed settlers arranging for busloads of activists to join the assault.
“380 people—everyone with weapons,” one settler says. “Every one of them dying to kill Palestinians. They want to kill Arabs.”
Sawsan said Israeli police did nothing to stop them. “The police enabled extreme right wing settlers to enter Arab towns in a very organised way,” she said.
“We started to monitor the operation by the settlers. We started to see that during the demonstrations of the Palestinian citizens which were peaceful, the settlers were standing near the police officers.
“At some point you would see tens and even hundreds of settlers arriving from the direction of the police officers and starting to attack Palestinian demonstrators.”
She added, “At no point would you see any kind of action to stop the attacks by the police. But you would see only police violence towards Palestinian demonstrators.”
Settler gangs then began marching through Palestinian neighbourhoods, beating Arabs and marking out homes and buildings for future attacks.
“The police officers were behind them and accompanying them,” said Sawsan. “We have testimonies from three young girls attacked near their house in Haifa. They called the police and the police didn’t arrive.
“We have also seen a new phenomenon where they are marking the houses of Arabs so that they will be identified to be attacked later.” In Lydd, the Israeli government imposed a state of “emergency” which allowed them to stop entry and exit from the city and a curfew from 8pm. Then, after curfew, settlers marched into town to attack the mosques.
Young Palestinians came out to defend themselves and the mosques—and were arrested and beaten by cops.
It’s a very different picture to the stories of “inter-communal violence” or “rioting Arabs” told in much of the press.
Sawsan said, “The Israeli media is misrepresenting the situation. Describing the situation as if it is Arabs attacking Jews without really covering the organised extreme violence by the settlers.”
Legislation legitimises discrimination
Israeli politicians claim they treat Arab citizens equally to Jews.
The state and settlers attacks on Palestinians show this is a lie.
Sawsan highlighted that Israeli politicians have encouraged attacks on Palestinians by arming the police and blaming Arabs for violence.
“All these actions are backed up by the politicians,” she said. “Prime minister Netanyahu is inciting against the Arabs. He even called the actions of Arabs terrorism.
“It’s not communal violence it is a war against Arab citizens of Israel.”
Sawsan linked the assaults to Israel’s 2018 nation state law which confirms only Jews have the right to self-determination in Israel.
Sawsan said, “It imposed a constitutional identity of Jewish supremacy on everyone. This gives legitimacy to discrimination.
“So what we see now is shocking, and we are all afraid. But it is not surprising because now it’s constitutional.”