Does Israeli PM Netanyahu care as Palestinians in the West Bank reel from Jewish settler violence?

1 / 4
This picture taken on February 27, 2023 shows an aerial view of a scrapyard where cars were torched overnight during an attack by Jewish settlers on the Palestinian town of Huwara near Nablus in the occupied West Bank. (AFP/File)
2 / 4
Homes and vehicles have been torched and villages attacked amid a wave of Jewish settler violence targeting Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank. (AFP)
3 / 4
Homes and vehicles have been torched and villages attacked amid a wave of Jewish settler violence targeting Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank. (AFP)
4 / 4
Israeli riot policemen surround Knesset member and head of the far right Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party Itamar Ben-Gvir as he leads settlers building illegal homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of the Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem on May 10, 2021. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 31 August 2023
Follow

Does Israeli PM Netanyahu care as Palestinians in the West Bank reel from Jewish settler violence?

  • Experts say racist rhetoric and hate crimes are now not only tolerated but actually encouraged by the state
  • Netanyahu Cabinet packed with far-right politicians with a track record of agitating for removal of Palestinian rights

DUBAI: Anti-Palestinian violence committed by Israeli settlers in the West Bank has skyrocketed in the past year, with more than 100 incidents reported by the UN this month alone and more than 400 people driven from their homes since the start of the year.

As properties are destroyed and young men fall victim to armed settler attacks, the question on the lips of many Palestinians and their international supporters is this: Does Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu care?

With the Israeli Cabinet now packed full of far-right, hyper-religious politicians who have previously agitated for the removal of Palestinian rights, analysts and observers say settler violence is not only tolerated but actually encouraged by the state.




Settler aggression against Palestinians in the West Bank has been encouraged by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has packed his Cabinet with Jewish extremists, critics say. (AFP)

Amman-based journalist and political commentator Osama Al-Sharif warns of a grim future for Palestinians as the Israeli government slides further to the right.

“The far right has now become at the center of Israeli politics after sitting on the margins for decades,” Al-Sharif told Arab News.

“Jewish nationalism in its extreme form is now in control and is pushing its agenda openly without any regret. So, we can expect to see worse acts of violence by the settlers backed by the government in the coming days.

“This could include denying Palestinians the right to drive their vehicles on certain roads on certain days and even indefinitely. This government is crossing all red lines and the world is watching.”

The latest surge in settler violence in the West Bank began shortly after the advent of Israel’s new far-right, nationalist government in December 2022.




Aside from stating publicly that Palestinian culture, history, and people “do not exist,” Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (C) has had been promoting the construction, expansion and protection of illegal settlements in the West Bank. (Pool/AFP)

Many of the new Cabinet members, all of them appointed by Netanyahu, are West Bank settlers themselves, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Moreover, these individuals have taken an active role in promoting the construction, expansion and protection of illegal settlements in the West Bank.

Earlier this month, Smotrich reportedly planned to ask the Cabinet for approximately $180 million in funding for the expansion and support of settler communities in the West Bank. He has also stated publicly that Palestinian culture, history, and people “do not exist.”

Ben-Gvir has an even more egregious history of direct participation in anti-Arab violence. In 2021, he and Arab Knesset member Ayman Odeh had a physical altercation after the former accused the latter of supporting terrorism during a visit to see a detained Hamas operative.




Knesset member and head of the far right Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party Itamar Ben-Gvir argues with a Palestinian man in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of the Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem on May 10, 2021. (AFP)

Just two months later, the future minister was filmed pulling a handgun on Arab parking attendants who had asked him to move his vehicle in Tel Aviv.

Last year, Ben-Gvir participated in clashes between Israeli Jewish settlers and Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah, where he was seen brandishing a weapon and attempting to goad security forces into shooting Palestinians who were throwing stones.

This year has seen two particularly violent settler attacks in the West Bank. The first was the Huwara rampage, during which a mob of armed Israeli settlers attacked the Palestinian village of Huwara in retaliation for the killing of two Israeli settlers earlier the same day.

One Palestinian was killed and hundreds injured in the attack. It remains one of the worst instances of settler violence in the West Bank in decades. Yet, in the wake of the incident, Smotrich said the village should be “wiped out” by the Israeli state.

Four months later, in retaliation for the killing of four settlers by Hamas in the West Bank settlement of Eli, hundreds of settlers attacked the Palestinian town of Turmus Ayya, killing one and wounding 12 in addition to setting dozens of homes and vehicles ablaze.




Israeli soldiers have been accused of abetting Jewish settler land-grabs by restraining Palestinian when they try to protect their lands. (AFP/File)

“Israeli Jewish settlers are operating freely in the West Bank, often with the permission, protection and, at times, participation of the Israeli military and police,” Ramzy Baroud, a Palestinian author and commentator, told Arab News.

“Netanyahu’s government is allowing them the space to carry out individual or mob violence in many areas in the West Bank with the hope of pacifying the likes of Ben-Gvir, thus keeping the coalition government stable.

“Now they are at the height of their power, they do not hesitate to express this newfound influence through daily violence.”


INNUMBERS

100+ Palestinian citizens of Israel murdered in first six months of 2023.

591 Settler-related incidents resulting in Palestinian casualties, property damage or both in the first six months of 2023.

399 Documented cases of people from 7 Palestinian herding communities displaced by settler violence.

(Source: UN OCHA & Abraham Initiatives)


Meir Javedanfar, a commentator on Israeli affairs for various Persian language media, believes the words and actions of the Netanyahu government are causing great damage to Israel’s relations with the Arab world.

“This government is by far the most racist government in Israel’s history. Its officials have repeatedly made racist statements against Arabs. These cause damage to Israel’s relations with Arab countries with whom Israel has peace accords and Israel’s Palestinian neighbors,” he told Arab News.

“Violence by extremist settlers against Palestinians have further increased tensions. Things could get worse as the government has stated that it has plans to significantly expand settlements in the West Bank.”




Abraham Initiatives infographic

Javedanfar sees no effort by the prime minister to stop such behavior and policies. “This could be due to two possibilities. First, if Netanyahu admonishes his coalition partners strongly and tries to curtail their statements and activities, theoretically they could leave his coalition government, thus causing its collapse,” he said.

“Second, it is possible that Netanyahu agrees with them. The correct answer is likely to be a combination of both.”

Whether Netanyahu cares about settler violence or not, Baroud, the Palestinian commentator, says the Israeli leader “has lost control of the situation — the settlers are now his major constituent and the backbone of his government.”




Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu points from an overview at the Israeli settlement of Har Homa (background) on February 20, 2020, during which he announced plans to build thousands of new homes for Jewish settlers in annexed east Jerusalem. AFP/File)

Beyond attacks by settlers and the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank, Arabs living within the agreed-upon borders of Israel, known as “48 Arabs,” are experiencing an unprecedented wave of inter-communal violence, which the state seems to have little interest in stopping.

According to the Abraham Initiatives, a non-profit supporting inter-communal peace and equal rights, more than 100 Palestinian citizens of Israel were murdered in the first six months of this year alone — more than twice the number in the same time period last year.

Baroud believes the empowerment of settlers and the rise in violence “are part of a single strategy,” highlighting the fact that Ben-Gvir had requested the formation of national guard forces — the purpose of which is to crack down on Palestinians in both Israel and Palestine — that would report directly to his office.

“While the Israeli government was conjuring up ideas to increase surveillance, policing and violence to prevent Palestinian Arabs in Israel from having a political voice, they had no plan whatsoever to control crime-related violence within these communities,” he said.

According to Abraham Initiatives’ statistics, only 10 of the reported murders of Arab citizens this year were investigated by police. Baroud says even those that are investigated are rarely taken seriously by the state.




Abraham Initiatives infographic

“Palestinian Arab areas in Israel are the least funded in terms of state budget in all sectors, including education, health, job creation, and so on.”

While Baroud says many local initiatives have attempted to reduce criminal violence within Arab communities, “community policing receives little backing from the state, and when the majority of crimes are not investigated, let alone resolved, chances are the violence will grow.

“Equally important, crime itself is an outcome of socioeconomic inequality (and) lack of investment in education and job creation.”

Al-Sharif calls the issue of crime in Arab communities “a hot potato for Netanyahu,” who acknowledges the problem of violence, “but, at the same time, he has to coordinate through … Ben-Gvir, who cares little for Arabs and openly announces his racism.

“Like other challenges Israel is facing, it requires a political will to do the right thing. This means more funds going to Arab municipalities and more police getting involved to crack down on organized crime. Both constitute a problem for his right-wing government.”

Lowering the crime rate in Arab areas is low on the Israeli state’s to-do list. According to Al-Sharif, the majority of Israel’s current Cabinet has a fairly singular goal in mind.

“Ben-Gvir and Smotrich and others in the Cabinet have an open agenda — to annex the West Bank and drive the Palestinians into a corner,” he said.

 


US warns of environmental disaster from cargo ship hit by Houthi rebels

Updated 16 sec ago
Follow

US warns of environmental disaster from cargo ship hit by Houthi rebels

  • The Belize-flagged Rubymar was damaged Sunday by a missile strike claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels
  • It was transporting 41,000 tons of fertilizer when it was attacked, says Roy Khoury, the CEO of Blue Fleet CEO

WASHINGTON: A cargo ship abandoned in the Gulf of Aden after an attack by Yemeni rebels is taking on water and has left a huge oil slick, in an environmental disaster that US Central Command said Friday could get worse.

Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-operated cargo ship carrying combustible fertilizer, was damaged in a Sunday missile strike claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Its crew was evacuated to Djibouti after one missile hit the side of the ship, causing water to enter the engine room and its stern to sag, said its operator, the Blue Fleet Group.
A second missile hit the vessel’s deck without causing major damage, Blue Fleet CEO Roy Khoury told AFP.
CENTCOM said the ship is anchored but slowly taking on water and has left an 18 mile oil slick.
“The M/V Rubymar was transporting over 41,000 tons of fertilizer when it was attacked, which could spill into the Red Sea and worsen this environmental disaster,” it said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
The ship’s operator said Thursday the ship could be towed to Djibouti this week.
Khoury said the ship was still afloat and shared an image captured on Wednesday that showed its stern low in the water.
When asked about the possibility of it sinking, Khoury had said there was “no risk for now, but always a possibility.”
The attack on the Rubymar represents the most significant damage yet to be inflicted on a commercial ship since the Houthis started firing on vessels in November — a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.
The Houthi attacks have prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, which normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development warned late last month that the volume of commercial traffic passing through the Suez Canal had fallen more than 40 percent in the previous two months.
 


UN rights chief deplores ‘entrenched impunity’ in Gaza war

Updated 24 February 2024
Follow

UN rights chief deplores ‘entrenched impunity’ in Gaza war

  • UN agency for Palestinian refugees at ‘breaking point,’ deplores chief

GENEVA, NEW YORK: The UN human rights chief said on Friday that perpetrators of gross human rights violations in the conflict between Israel and Hamas must be held accountable.

“The entrenched impunity that OHCHR — the UN rights agency — has reported on for many years cannot persist,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said in a report on the situation in Gaza and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
He said that this impunity had contributed to violations that could amount to international crimes.
Turk urged all parties to the conflict to “put an end to impunity and conduct prompt, independent, impartial, thorough, effective and transparent investigations” into alleged crimes under international law. He also called on them to implement a ceasefire on human rights and humanitarian grounds, to ensure full respect for international law, and to ensure accountability for violations and abuses.

FASTFACT

‘The entrenched impunity that OHCHR — the UN rights agency — has reported on for many years cannot persist,’ High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said in a report on the situation in Gaza and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Last month, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide against Palestinians and do more to help civilians, although it stopped short of ordering a ceasefire as requested by South Africa, which brought the case.
In separate proceedings, South Africa on Tuesday urged the court to issue a non-binding legal opinion that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal, arguing it would help efforts to reach a settlement.
Separately, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees warned it has reached a critical juncture as it struggles to cope with the war in Gaza.
“It is with profound regret that I must now inform you that UNRWA has reached a breaking point,” chief Philippe Lazzarini said, as donors freeze funding, Israel exerts pressure to dismantle the agency and humanitarian needs soar.
“The Agency’s ability to fulfill the mandate given through General Assembly Resolution 302 is now seriously threatened,” he said in a letter to the assembly.
That is the resolution under which the agency was founded in 1949, following the creation of Israel. UNRWA employs some 30,000 people working in the occupied territories, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
Several countries — including the US, Britain, Germany and Japan — have suspended funding to UNRWA in response to Israeli allegations that some of its staff participated in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
In an interview published over the weekend Lazzarini said $438 million has been frozen — the equivalent of more than half of expected funding for 2024. He said Israel was waging a concerted effort to destroy UNRWA.
The UN fired the employees accused by Israel and has begun an internal probe of UNRWA.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also tasked an independent panel with assessing whether UNRWA acts in a neutral fashion in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Lazzarini asserted that Israel has provided no evidence against the 12 former employees it accuses, but 16 countries have suspended funding anyway.
“I have cautioned donors and host countries that without new funding, UNRWA operations across the region will be severely compromised from March,” he said.
He added: “I fear we are on the edge of a monumental disaster with grave implications for regional peace, security and human rights.”
The war started after Hamas’s unprecedented Oct. 7 attack which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians.
Hamas militants also took about 250 hostages — 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 29,410 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by Gaza’s Health Ministry.

 


West Bank drone strike killed Palestinian fighter, claims Israel

Updated 24 February 2024
Follow

West Bank drone strike killed Palestinian fighter, claims Israel

  • The drone strike in Jenin came hours after three Palestinian gunmen opened fire at cars on a congested West Bank highway near a Jewish settlement on Thursday, killing an Israeli man and wounding eight others

JERUSALEM: The Israeli Army said on Friday that a Palestinian fighter on his way to carry out a shooting attack was killed in a drone strike in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin a day earlier.
Yasser Hanun from the Islamic Jihad group had previously been detained for his involvement in the “terrorist organization’s military activities,” the army said in a statement.
The resident of Jenin refugee camp “was eliminated while en route to carry out another shooting attack,” the statement said, without elaborating.
Witnesses and residents said the strike also killed 17-year-old Saeed Jaradat.
A witness said weapons in the car exploded after the strike on Thursday.

BACKGROUND

Israeli troops and settlers have killed at least 400 Palestinians in the West Bank since the war began, according to the Health Ministry in Ramallah.

Hanun was involved in several shooting attacks targeting Israeli settlements in the West Bank as well as shooting at soldiers and military posts, the army said.
Palestinian news agency Wafa said two people were killed and four wounded in the strike.
Video footage showed a car severely burned from the hit, its roof torn as if by a can opener.
“Two successive missiles” struck the car, Usayd Shelbi, who witnessed the strike, said.
“The situation was dangerous. The weapons in the car were exploding,” he said.
Crowds of mourners gathered for the funeral of the two men on Friday.
“This occupation bares its fangs clearly ... It rejects the existence of the Palestinian people,” Jamal Haweel, a leader in the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said.
The drone strike in Jenin came hours after three Palestinian gunmen opened fire at cars on a congested West Bank highway near a Jewish settlement on Thursday, killing an Israeli man and wounding eight others.
The gunmen were killed.
The West Bank has seen a surge in violence, to levels unseen in nearly two decades, since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza began on Oct. 7.

 


UAE invests $35bn in development of Egypt’s Mediterranean coast region

Updated 24 February 2024
Follow

UAE invests $35bn in development of Egypt’s Mediterranean coast region

  • The deal, signed by a private consortium led by ADQ, a sovereign investment fund based in Abu Dhabi, is the single largest foreign direct investment in Egypt

LONDON: The UAE, represented by a private consortium led by ADQ, a sovereign investment fund based in Abu Dhabi, signed a landmark agreement with Egypt on Friday to invest $35 billion in Ras El-Hekma, a region on the Mediterranean coast 350 kilometers northwest of Cairo. It represents the single largest foreign direct investment in Egypt.

“In addition to acquiring the development rights for Ras El-Hekma for $24 billion, ADQ will also convert $11 billion of deposits that will be utilized for investment in prime projects across Egypt,” the Emirati state news agency, WAM, reported.

“The vision is to develop the region into a leading, first-of-its-kind Mediterranean holiday destination, financial center and free zone spanning over 170 million square meters and equipped with world-class infrastructure to strengthen Egypt’s economic and tourism growth potential.”

The Egyptian government will retain a 35 percent stake in the development.

Mohammed Hassan Alsuwaidi, the Emirati minister of investment, said: “With this signing, a new chapter begins in the long-standing bilateral relations between our two nations.

“Underscored by mutual respect and trust, this investment demonstrates the UAE’s commitment to supporting the government of Egypt in realizing the abundant potential of the local economy.

“As a large-scale infrastructure project, the planned Ras El-Hekma development will foster widespread impacts across multiple sectors, be a catalyst for job creation, and attract significant additional foreign direct investments in the years to come.”

ADQ said work to build the “next generation city” over 170 square kilometers — nearly a fifth of the size of Abu Dhabi city — would begin in early 2025. The city would feature investment zones, technology and light industry, amusement parks, a marina and an airport as well as tourism and residential developments.

Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly told a press conference that the deal would bring in $15 billion in the next week and $35 billion over two months — though he said $11 billion of that money would be converted into Egyptian pounds from existing UAE dollar deposits in Egypt’s central bank.

(With Reuters)


UN experts urge ‘immediate’ stop of arms transfers to Israel

Updated 23 February 2024
Follow

UN experts urge ‘immediate’ stop of arms transfers to Israel

  • Transfers are prohibited even if exporting state does not intend arms to be used in violation of law
  • ‘Israel has repeatedly failed to comply with international law,’ say experts

GENEVA: Any transfer of weapons or ammunition to Israel that would be used in Gaza is likely to violate international humanitarian law and must cease immediately, UN experts warned on Friday.
“All states must ‘ensure respect’ for international humanitarian law by parties to an armed conflict, as required by 1949 Geneva Conventions and customary international law,” a media statement quoted the experts as saying.
“States must accordingly refrain from transferring any weapon or ammunition — or parts for them — if it is expected, given the facts or past patterns of behavior, that they would be used to violate international law.”
According to the experts, such transfers are prohibited even if the exporting state does not intend the arms to be used in violation of the law — or does not know with certainty that they would be used in such a way — as long as there is a clear risk.
Meanwhile, the UN experts welcomed the decision of a Dutch appeals court on Feb. 12 ordering the Netherlands to halt the export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel.
The court found that there was a “clear risk” that the parts would be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law, as “there are many indications that Israel has violated the humanitarian law of war in a not insignificant number of cases.”
Israel has repeatedly failed to comply with international law, said the experts.
They noted that states party to the Arms Trade Treaty have additional treaty obligations to deny arms exports if they “know” that the arms “would” be used to commit international crimes, or if there is an “overriding risk” that the arms transferred “could” be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law.
EU member states are further bound by the bloc’s arms export control laws.
“The need for an arms embargo on Israel is heightened by the International Court of Justice’s ruling on Jan. 26, 2024, that there is a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza and the continuing serious harm to civilians since then,” the experts said.
The Genocide Convention of 1948 requires states parties to employ all means reasonably available to them to prevent genocide in another state as far as possible.
“This necessitates halting arms exports in the present circumstances,” the experts added.
They further welcomed the suspension of arms transfers to Israel by Belgium, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and the Japanese company Itochu Corp.
The EU also recently discouraged arms exports to Israel.
Moreover, the experts urged other states to immediately halt arms transfers to Israel, including export licenses and military aid.
The US and Germany are by far the largest arms exporters and shipments have increased since the attack by Hamas on Israel on Oct. 7. Other military exporters include France, the UK, Canada and Australia.
The experts further noted that arms transfers to Hamas and other armed groups are also prohibited by international law, given their grave violations of international humanitarian law during the October attack, including hostage-taking and subsequent indiscriminate rocket fire.
The duty to “ensure respect” for humanitarian law applies “in all circumstances”, including when Israel claims it is countering terrorism.
Military intelligence must also not be shared where there is a clear risk that it would be used to violate international humanitarian law.
“State officials involved in arms exports may be individually criminally liable for aiding and abetting any war crimes, crimes against humanity or acts of genocide,” the experts said.