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Israel: A radicalised state built on fear and violence Open in fullscreen

CJ Werleman

Israel: A radicalised state built on fear and violence

Israel celebrates 70 years of 'independence', 19 April 2018 [AFP]

Date of publication: 19 April, 2018

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Comment: From Tel Aviv liberals to the ultra-orthodox community of Jerusalem, Israeli public discourse towards Palestinians is increasingly radicalised, writes CJ Werleman.
"We hate them [Palestinians] because they throw rocks at our cars, threaten our kids, and attack our homes," a 34-year-old Israeli settler, who was born and raised in New Jersey, USA, told me as he gave me a tour of the illegal outpost he and two-dozen others, including several from the US, had established on the hills outside of Nablus in the West Bank.

Despite my probing questions, he was unable or unwilling to recognise how his actions, and the actions of his fellow 800,000 illegal settlers, especifically the theft and occupation of stolen Palestinian land, had wrought reprisals against him and his contemporaries.

"They hate us because we are Jews," he added.

It's a self-told lie some pro-Israel Jews internalise, ultimately producing a defensive siege mentality. The fact of the matter, however, is Palestinians - like any nation of people - resent being illegally occupied by foreigners, humiliated and harassed with draconian security measures including military checkpoints which take hours to negotiate each day, and a separation barrier that divides one Palestinian community from the other.

Israel's illegal occupation and blockade of the Palestinian territories now enters its 51st year, and rather than seek peace with the Palestinian people, or abide by international law, putting an end to the settler enterprise project, Israel has instead chosen to put expansion and colonisation before safety, and has come to rely on ever increasing forms or repression and violence to crush Palestinian aspirations and resistance.

The total number of illegal Israeli settlers has more than quadrupled since 1990, growing from 200,000 to more than 800,000. Essentially, what this means is the Israeli government has willingly and knowingly put nearly one million Israelis in harm's way by inserting them into the occupied Palestinian territories.

Whereas three decades ago there were only 200,000 Israelis exposed to daily Palestinian resistance, no matter how benign that resistance might be, today roughly 15 percent of the total Jewish Israeli population is an illegal settler.

Today roughly 15 percent of the total Jewish Israeli population is an illegal settler

This reality has had a self-radicalising effect on all levels of Israeli society, from the religious class to the political class; from Tel Aviv liberals to the ultra-orthodox community of Jerusalem, public discourse towards Palestinians has become increasingly psychopathological.

This much is evident in the way Israeli political leaders and the military have responded to the recent and ongoing Palestinian protests in Gaza, which have left more than 30 Palestinians dead, alongside another 1,300 injured as a result of Israeli sniper fire and tear gas. Videos show unarmed and non-threatening Palestinians being shot during prayer, walking towards friends, or even while flying a kite.

One video sent to the English language Israeli newspaper Haaretz shows Israeli snipers and a cameraman celebrating the shooting of a Palestinian protester in the head. "Yes, son of a bitch," you can hear in the recording. "What a fabulous video," the soldier who made the recording boasts, while another can be heard saying, "Wow - somebody was hit in the head."

Israel has come to rely on ever increasing forms or repression and violence to crush Palestinian aspirations and resistance

Not only did this video provide evidence of Israel's brutal and barbaric shoot-to-kill policy, but also the Israeli response to it illuminates just how a half-century of occupying and oppressing the Palestinian people, and the cycle of violence that has produced, has radicalised Israeli society towards violent extremism.

"The sniper deserves a commendation, the photographer a court martial" and "there are no innocent people in Gaza," said Israel's defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, while education minister Naftali Bennett expressed solidarity with the shooter by stating, "Judging soldiers because they are not expressing themselves elegantly while they are defending our borders is not serious," and in a later interview said, "I refuse to condemn the IDF soldiers in the video. To sit in Tel Aviv and to condemn the soldiers is not serious. I back all IDF soldiers."

"No wonder the soldiers behave this way when ministers, legislators, the media and public opinion are party to the jubilation at the mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza," said Jamal Zahalka, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament.

Zahalka is not exaggerating when he invokes the word "jubilation," and the fact some Israelis perched themselves on a watchtower outside the Gaza perimeter fence to enjoy a form of macabre entertainment, or rather to watch on and cheer as Israeli snipers shot Palestinian protesters, speaks to exactly that. When Israel carried out its medieval siege of Gaza in 2014, killing 2,200 Palestinians over the course of 51 days, Israelis gathered on hillsides to watch and cheer as Israeli military jets bombed the Palestinian enclave.

These atrocities are not only cheered on by the general public and Israeli politicians, but also by the religious class. Last week, Rabbi Ophir Wallas of Bnei David Military Mechina claimed Israeli soldiers have a scriptural right to exterminate the Palestinian people.

These atrocities are not only cheered on by the general public and Israeli politicians, but also by the religious class

Worryingly, Rabbi Wallas is not a lone voice among the ultra-orthodox or settler religious community. For years, rabbis of all stripes have justified the killing of Palestinians, and have been widely blamed for the spike in settler violence.

When Palestinians resist violently, they are shot, bombed, imprisoned, and killed. When they resist peacefully, as they have done in Gaza's Great Return March protests over the past few weeks, they are shot and killed by merciless Israeli snipers who pick them off from behind secure posts well outside the Gaza perimeter fence.

Israel has no intention of halting settlement expansion, or lifting the blockade of Gaza, and today Israeli politicians talk openly about officially annexing the Palestinian territories, which only furthers Israel's isolation from the international community. This isolation will eventually result in the end of apartheid Israel, the same way it brought an end to apartheid in South Africa.

But until that day comes, the ever more self-radicalised Israeli state will become increasingly violent and repressive towards the Palestinian people.

CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman


Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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