Informed Comment / June 24, 2023
Ann Arbor – Jordan’s al-Ghad [Tomorrow] newspaper reports from occupied East Jerusalem that on Friday the extremist Israeli Minister of National Security, Itamar Bin-Gvir called on Jewish squatters on the Palestinian West Bank to take over the territory and to settle it with support from the far right-wing government.
Ben-Gvir made the remarks at the illegal Evyatar squatter Jewish settlement near the Palestinian hamlet of Beeta south of Nablus.
All Jewish squatter settlements on occupied Palestinian territory are illegal in international law, but even Israel considers some of them illegal. Most squatters build on land usurped by the Israeli state. But some just invade the West Bank and set up homes on privately owned Palestinian land. Evyatar is in the latter category.
Ben-Gvir said that it is incumbent on the Israeli government to kill dozens, or hundreds, or even thousands of Palestinians, so as to stabilize the security situation. He called the Palestinians “terrorists”.
Addressing hundreds of Jewish squatters who returned to the site the previous night with no opposition from the Israeli army, he said, “My position is well known, and I grant you complete support and cover. A complete settlement must be built here, and on every surrounding hill. The country must be settled in parallel with movement toward a military operation that will include the destruction of [Palestinian] buildings and the purge of terrorists, not one or two, but dozens and hundreds and if necessary we must kill thousands.”
He continued, “At the end of the day, this is our land and we will cling to it and we will return security to its inhabitants. The land of Israel is for the people of Israel. You have our complete support, so advance on the hills, and settle. We love you.”
The Palestinian West Bank was never awarded to Israel by the UN or any other international authority. The Israelis opportunistically seized it in 1967. The UN Charter forbids the acquisition of neighbors’ territory by aggressive force. The UN Security Council has repeatedly called for the Israeli withdrawal from territories seized in 1967. For Israel to flood its own citizens into militarily occupied territory is a war crime under the Geneva Convention of 1949 and the Rome Statute that underpins the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
Israel has gobbled up large swathes of Palestinian-owned land in the West Bank and has kept the Palestinians stateless and without basic human rights, as little better than slaves. Like slaves, they do not have the right to own property, which can be taken from them by Israelis any time. Like slaves, they can be beaten and even shot arbitrarily by Israeli squatters and security forces, and they have little recourse to courts to claim damages– just as Dred Scott and his wife were slapped down by the antebellum racist US Supreme Court. Like slaves, they are not allowed to defend themselves from these Israeli attacks or to challenge the stealing of their land, or they are lambasted as “terrorists” and are further assaulted.
On Friday, dozens of confrontations took place between the Israeli occupation army and squatter militias on the one hand and Palestinian protesters on the other. In Nablus, dozens of Palestinians said their Friday prayers in front of Jabal Sbeih in the town of Beeta, before marching in protest to Evyatar, which was set up on the hill. They rejected the reestablishment of the squatter settlement or its legalization. The protesting youth were attacked by the Israeli army, which fired military-grade tear gas at them and fired rubber-coated metal bullets at them. Youth set tires on fire near Evyatar.
Israeli security forces attacked protesting Palestinian youth in several other West Bank locales on Friday. In Qalqilya in the town of Kafr Kafr Qaddum, protesters started at the mosque of Omar B. al-Khattab and marched, protesting Israeli squatter settlements on Palestinian land and demanding that the town’s main street, closed for 20 years by the occupiers, be reopened.
In East Jerusalem, 50,000 Palestinians gathered to prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Juan Cole is the founder and chief editor of Informed Comment ; he is Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan and teh author of, among others, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam