West Bank Dispatch: The meaning of a racial Jewish settler state

Mondoweiss Palestine Bureau

Mondoweiss  /  May 29, 2023

The Zionist ethos of “maximum land, minimum Arabs [Palestinians]” made the Nakba possible and allows the Nakba to repeat itself every time a Zionist colonist takes over Palestinian land, whether in Ein Samiya today or in Yaffa in 1948.

Key developments (May 26 – 29)

  • Jewish settlers attacked the village of al-Mughayyir, west of Ramallah, shooting at Palestinian farmers and setting fire to Palestinian vehicles and property over the weekend. According to Palestinian media, settlers from the Adi Ad Jewish settlement raided the village on May 26. Settlers threw stones and fired bullets at farmers, wounding at least five people, including one person who was reported to be in critical condition after being shot in the head. Local reports alleged that some of the bullets fired were from Israeli soldiers who accompanied the settlers during the raid. Additionally, the settlers torched around 270 bales of hay and five cars, Middle East Eye The settler attack on al-Mughayyir comes amidst a more than two-week closure on the village by Israeli forces. The mass closure and collective punishment has resulted in residents having to take long roads and detours to enter and exit the village. Over the past week, two Palestinians have also been arrested by Israeli soldiers from al-Mughayyir. 
  • A Palestinian was killed on Friday May 26 near the town of al-Dhahriyya in the Hebron district of the southern West Bank. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MOH), the young man was 28-year-old Alaa Khalil Qaisia. Qaisia was shot and killed inside the Teneh Omrim settlement, after he allegedly attempted to carry out a stabbing in the settlement. Israeli media reported that a settlement security guard killed Qaisia, and that there were no Israeli casualties.
  • A Palestinian man was killed and seven others were injured on Monday May 29 in Jenin during an Israeli raid on the city before dawn. The Palestinian MOH identified the man as 37-year-old Ashraf Ibrahim. According to Wafa News Agency, Israeli forces raided the city, deploying snipers on rooftops, primarily in the vicinity of the Jenin Government Hospital. The raid sparked confrontations between local residents and Israeli forces, who fired live bullets, injuring eight people, including Ibrahim, who sustained critical injuries. Ibrahim succumbed to his wounds later Monday morning. Wafa added that Israeli forces “obstructed the work of ambulances” that were attempting to evacuate the wounded. Israeli military vehicles also reportedly rammed into two ambulances, damaging them. 
  • Despite promises by the Israeli government to the Biden Administrationthat it would not retroactively legalize the evacuated Homesh outpost, settlers re-established a Yeshiva school in the outpost on Monday. According to Israeli media, settlers moved the Yeshiva to a plot of “state-owned” land nearby its previous location on privately-owned Palestinian land*. The move was approved by Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and was greenlit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Haaretz added that settlers are now being allowed to enter and exit the outpost freely, while Israeli forces stationed in the area are preventing journalists from accessing the outpost. The moves by the government and settlers to re-establish Homesh, which was evacuated as part of Israel’s 2005 “disengagement plan”, are seeking to circumvent its promises to the US based on a technicality: Israel has promised not to prompt the establishment or legalization of outposts on privately-owned Palestinian land. In the case of Homesh, the government is now approving the move of the outpost from land designated as privately-owned, to lands designated as state-owned just a few kilometers away from the old outpost location. The effort to re-establish Homesh has resulted in increasing anti-Palestinian violence in the area, specifically in the nearby town of Burqa, upon whose land Homesh was built. 

* It is important to note that all land in occupied Palestine, including land designated by Israel as “state-owned,” is Palestinian land. What is classified as state-owned was confiscated by the state from its Palestinian landowners. 


When we say that the Israeli state is a settler colonial entity, we do not simply mean it as a statement about a distant moment in history — that the state was founded, long ago, through the establishment of colonies on top of indigenous Palestinian land — but that the state is also an ongoing colonial project geared towards territorial expansion and achieving ethnic purity. Since the settler state enjoys total control over Palestine from the river to the sea, then the colonies it continues to establish in the West Bank are not so much an attempt at territorial expansion as they are an attempt at achieving demographic dominance (a euphemism for racial supremacy) within territories they already de facto control.

That is why Zionist settler colonialism is also a racialized project, because it is predicated on expanding to more and more territory while ensuring that this territory is devoid of gentiles. This means that the prevailing Zionist attitude towards the indigenous, non-Jewish residents of the land can only ever be about erasure. It’s a zero-sum equation, one where the Zionist state views any non-Jewish presence within its borders as an existential threat, and hence transforming the struggle of non-Jewish Palestinians into an existential fight for their lives. 

Last week was a full illustration of this basic dynamic. It started with the expulsion of a community of over 170 Palestinian Bedouins from the Ein Samiya area, whose generations-old existence was under continuous assault by the state and its settlers through harassment, the theft of the shepherding community’s livestock, the demolition of their homes, the confiscation of their land, and the restriction of access to grazing land — all methods of slow strangulation meant to force them into leaving. It worked.

The settler assault continued with the escalation of an already aggressive campaign of attacks against the village of al-Mughayyir, in what can only be described as a lynching, as mobs of settlers torched property, shot at villagers, and set fire to vehicles, all while accompanied by an Israeli army escort to provide them with protection. That these pogroms enjoy tacit state support through army participation is not, however, the only sign that they are state-sponsored. More directly, the settlers themselves are functioning as unofficial arms of their current rightwing government, serving the intended purpose of the “private militias” Netanyahu promised to Ben-Gvir.

Another indication that this strand of settler interest has captured the state was made apparent this week when Israeli settlers established a yeshiva school in the evacuated outpost of Homesh. Back in March, the Knesset had passed the second and third readings of a bill for repealing the 2005 Disengagement Plan that saw the evacuation of several settlements in the West Bank. Part of the overall settler-led judicial overhaul, the government’s project to resettle those abandoned outposts proceeded in spite of its promise to the Biden Administration that it would not retroactively legalize them. It did it anyway based on a technicality, allowing settlers to set up a yeshiva in “state-owned land,” which was itself illegally confiscated from the Palestinian inhabitants of the area.

The fact that settlement has experienced this kind of resurgence under the aegis of the current government should not lead to the assumption that it is a contingent result of one competing political interest over another, or the result of a dispute between right and left. The old Zionist pre-state maxim of “maximum land, minimum Arabs” was as much, if not more so, a left Labor Zionist strategy as a right-wing strategy. It concerned itself with the objective of territorial conquest of land that is emptied of non-Jews. It is what made the ethnic cleansing and the massacres of the Nakba possible, and it is what allowed the Nakba to repeat itself every time a Zionist colonist took over Palestinian land in the past 75 years, whether in Ein Samiya or Yaffa.

Important figures

  • 155 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza since the start of the year.
  • 119 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank alone
  • At least 385 incidents of settler attacks on Palestinians have been recorded in the West Bank in 2023

The Mondoweiss Palestine Bureau are the Mondoweiss staff members based in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip