The reality that Israel cannot evade

Israeli soldiers in the streets of Tel Aviv (NYT)

Ahmed Abu Artema

Mondoweiss  /  April 13, 2022

There is a simple principle that Israel ignores: a society based on the oppression of another people cannot dream of enjoying a normal life.

In recent weeks, there has been a significant escalation of incidents of Palestinian resistance throughout the Palestinian Territories occupied by Israel. At least fourteen Israelis were killed in four attacks by Palestinian youths in the Negev, Khadera, and Tel Aviv.

The severity of the recent resistance incidents is not in the death toll, as there is no comparison between the Israeli losses and the seventy-four years of Palestinian losses as a result of the occupation and the continuous Israeli aggressions. Rather, their danger to Israel is in the damage caused to Israel’s image through the loss of security stability in a country that justified its existence by being a safe haven for Jews around the world.

In the weeks prior to these resistance activities, Israel was actively in communication with Jews in Ukraine, exploiting Russian aggression against Ukraine to attract Ukrainian Jews to Israel as a safe haven for them. Already, thousands of Ukrainian Jews have relocated at Israel’s offer, and as Israel settles its new arrivals, it simultaneously prevents Palestinian refugees from returning to their homelands, disrupting the reunification of Palestinian families throughout Palestine.  

The last thing Israel wanted was the occurrence of such resistance incident, which fly in the face of their security-state propaganda. Paradoxically, two of the dead reportedly came from Ukraine to escape the war there.

On Thursday night, April 7, 2022, the scene on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv posed a massive challenge to the security system in Israel; a state of complete chaos reigning throughout the city which represents the symbolic face and heart of Israel, thousands of Israelis running in the streets. More than a thousand police personnel and army were mobilized and the special combat units were brought in, in search of one Palestinian fighter. The pursuit continued for nine hours before soldiers succeeded in killing him.

Former Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz commented on the scene that night, saying: “Last Thursday we lost the battle of consciousness. The broadcasted scenes of a gunman coming with a pistol to launch an attack in Tel Aviv conveyed a lot of fear and anxiety to the public. This was not necessary.”

Israel even relies on the responses from the Arab countries who have normalized relations with the Israeli regime. Many of these countries have issued statements condemning the attacks, describing them as terrorism.

But the question that Israel never tries to answer: What is the motive for these people to sacrifice their lives to attempt to cause Israel pain?

These recent resistance activities are marked by certain facts that cannot be overlooked: the perpetrators of these resistance operations are not affiliated with Palestinian organizations, and the planning and execution of the attacks were individual efforts. The perpetrator of the Dizengoff Attack was Ra’ad Hazem, a handsome young man with good employment opportunities in software development. His action cannot merely be explained away as being frustrated with life.

The security cameras showed that the perpetrators of the Khadera attack allowed a woman crossing the area to move away, specifically avoiding targeting her. An Israeli woman also spoke to the Israeli media, saying that the perpetrator of the B’nei B’rak operation near Tel Aviv, Dia Hamrasheh, asked her to move away, along with other women, and telling her that he did not want to kill women or children. These actions by the perpetrators, which the media spontaneously conveyed without intending to, indicate that the perpetrators of these attacks adhere to moral obligations which drive their actions, and that they are not merely the group of terrorist barbarians Israel is trying to portray them as.

Israel has not changed its habits since its establishment. After these individual resistance attacks, it threatened the Palestinians with more collective punishment, imposing an economic closure on the city of Jenin, where two of the attackers came from, and heightened the level of violence across the occupied territories, killing more than ten Palestinians in an operation that it called “Breaking Waves.”

In the wake of the resistance operations, the Israeli Minister of War, Benny Gantz, reassured the Israeli public, “We have arrested hundreds, and we will not hesitate to arrest thousands!”

These mass arrests are based on suspicion and undertaken without adherence to legal procedural standards as Israeli police arrest the families, relatives and friends of the perpetrators of the attacks. Gantz is unconcerned by the illegal nature of his threat, because the policy of collective punishment through arrest has been practiced by Israel since its establishment without consequence.

Israel’s multiple attempted arrests of Fathi Hazem, father of Ra’ad Hazem, who was responsible for the Dizengoff operation, is one recent example of this consistent policy of collective punishment. The Israeli state has called on Fathi to surrender himself, and opened fire on a car carrying his mother and brother. Israel knows very well that the fighter did not tell his parents about his desire to carry out the attack, but it adopts this method in dealing with the Palestinians with the aim of raising the cost of resistance. In the same way, after every Palestinian attack, Israel hastens to destroy the home of each perpetrator’s family. The perpetrators have been killed by Israel by the time their homes are demolished. The true targets of this policy are the families of the deceased, depriving civilians including women and children of the shelter of their homes. Israel regards this form of collective punishment as a means of deterrent pressure on Palestinian society.

While Israeli security is entangled in dealing with this latest wave of Palestinian attacks across the occupied territories, Israel remains far from confronting the root of the problem, which means that its extensive and expensive security policies will not provide a fundamental solution.

The Dizengoff attack coincided with the 74th anniversary of the Deir Yassin massacre committed on April 9,1948 when militant Zionist gangs attacked the village of Deir Yassin, massacring 250 Palestinian civilians, women, children and elderly in the month before the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel. That massacre aimed to spread panic in the Palestinian villages and towns to encourage their people to flee. In fact, former Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin wrote in his memoirs that without Deir Yassin the State of Israel would not exist.

The State of Israel was established based on ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Two of the fighters of the recent attacks came from the Jenin refugee camp, which still bears the original camp name, like dozens of other camps, where millions of Palestinian refugees still live following the years of displacement during the Nakba. They are separated from their original towns by the Israeli apartheid wall.

The Israeli apartheid wall is a stark representation of the discrimination between two ethnic groups. The first group are the indigenous people of the land; they are expelled from their land, deprived of all privileges, deprived of freedom of movement and the investment of their economic resources. They have been subjected daily humiliation and abuse for seventy-four years at the whims of the Israeli occupation regime. The second group behind the wall are the colonial Zionist settlers who bear control over the land and resources, enjoying a life of privilege and ease of movement.

Israel wants to stabilize this situation, but the problem is that the cost of the welfare of the Israeli colonists comes at the expense of generations of Palestinian victims, generating a collective and enduring sense of oppression, persecution and injustice.

The Palestinian memory is full of tales of daily oppression, and Israel itself continues to add to this memory, continuing its ceaseless pursuit of policies of settlement and discrimination while striving to uproot any evidence of Palestinian presence.

The recent resistance attacks are borne of the same context as the Palestinian resistance  operations tens of years ago. These attacks express Palestinian anger and oppression in the face of the occupiers, and at the same time, these operations are a representation of the Palestinian dream of a hopeful life in a normal life based on freedom and dignity.

Israel continues to fail to learn this lesson. In the Israeli cabinet meeting following the latest wave of operations, 40 kilometers of the separation wall between the West Bank and 1948 Occupied Territories was approved for rebuilding to close the gaps created by the Palestinians.

But the policy of an apartheid wall has failed to prevent attacks, as three of the recent perpetrators of are Palestinians from the 1948 Occupied Territories who hold Israeli citizenship. These are the ones who succeeded in staying within the borders of Israel during the ethnic cleansing process that the Palestinian people were subjected to in 1948. Israel claimed that they would be assimilated into Israeli society, but these Palestinians, who make up 20% of the citizens of Israel, experience racial discrimination, and face displacement at the end of Zionist policies targeting Palestinian land throughout the Negev. In 2021, popular protests against Israeli injustices broke out in Palestinian towns throughout the ’48 Territories. These Palestinians are a vital part of the Palestinian nation, sharing with the Palestinians of Gaza, the West Bank, and the diaspora the dream of freedom. The policy of Israeli walls will not succeed in defeating them.

There is a simple principle that Israel ignores, which is that peace and security cannot be built without justice. A society based on the oppression of another people and the denial of their rights cannot dream of enjoying a normal life.

Ahmed Abu Artema was born in Rafah, Gaza Strip and is a Palestinian refugee; he is an independent Gaza-based writer and political activist, he has written the book Organized Chaos and numerous articles; he is one of the original founders and organizers of the Great March of Return