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Huwara – A Bridge too far in Israeli Settler Aggression?

Huwara – A Bridge too far in Israeli Settler Aggression?

Categories: Latest News

Monday March 20 2023

A rise in Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians in occupied territories has escalated to alerting levels to a point where the UN has mentioned settler attacks are at an all-time high since 2006. In certain cases, Palestinians are in fear for their own lives after recent settler attacks on the Palestinian village of Huwara lead to the death of one Palestinian, while Palestinian properties were damaged and destroyed. Rather than trying to de-escalate the situation, Finance Minister Belazel Smotrich distressingly seemed to condone the attacks, calling for Huwara to be wiped out. Though Smotrich has since retracted his words, the sentiment still stands strong among many settlers, with many ascribing the recent rise in attacks as a reflection of the current Israeli far-right government’s implementation of policies including the expansion of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territories. In a turn of events, recent comments by the finance minister even received the strongest condemnation from Israel’s closest allies, including the United States. At the same time, B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, voiced their concerns for Palestinians under this current regime.

As described by Ned Price, a US Secretary of State spokesperson, Stromrich’s comments were “repugnant” and a “disgusting incitement”, calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to disavow the remarks “publicly and clearly”, which he then did. The need for the US, a country that gives over $3.8bn annually to Israel, to use such strong language to condemn Israel’s actions should serve as a warning for not only the future of Israeli politics but of the future of Palestinians. Indeed Smotrich’s comments also prompted the Board of Deputies of British Jews to “utterly condemn” the remarks, demonstrating even Israel’s strongest defenders abroad are critical of the country’s trajectory and its treatment of Palestinians, an issue Palestinian groups have been raising for decades.

The attacks on Palestinians in Huwara were just the latest in a series of settler attacks across Palestine. In February, settlers set alight live ammunition in Nablus, resulting in the death of a Palestinian man. The Israeli Government has urged settlers to not matters into their own hands, however, it fails to recognise that the culmination of its expansion policies along with rhetoric emanating from its heart has provided fertile ground in which such settler attacks have flourished. As described by Amnesty, Israel’s settlement policy is “one of the main driving forces behind the mass human rights violations resulting from the occupation”.

Recently, Israel has witnessed numerous demonstrations, as hundreds of thousands have protested against judicial reforms introduced by the far-right government. Surely it is also high time to raise concerns about the impact of Israel’s anti-Palestinian policies that have led to the depletion of the human rights of Palestinians, as well as the censoring of Palestinian activists.

For decades, Palestinian groups in the UK have been campaigning for Palestinian rights under an Israeli government that has effectively created an apartheid state. However, such groups have often been maligned by neoconservatives conflating criticism of Israeli policies and support of Palestinian rights with antisemitism.

To say that Palestinian activists have not had their voices heard is perhaps an understatement, rather, they constantly face challenges for nothing more than raising awareness of Israel’s discriminatory policies. In the Queen’s speech last year, the UK Government reiterated its desire to ban Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) boycotts by councils and other public bodies, the international movement designed to pressure Israel into meeting its obligations under international law, including an end to its settlement policy. These plans are not only obstructive to the goals of BDS, but a threat to freedom of speech, and the right to boycott.

Meanwhile, over a few weeks leading up to June 2021, the Islamophobia Response Unit received 146 reports from students detailing schools taking action to shut down support of Palestine by pupils, in one case, students were told displaying the Palestinian flag had equated to supporting terrorism. Furthermore, several social media companies have come under fire for censoring Palestinian activism. Last year, several Palestinian activists complained of their posts being removed and accounts being suspended by companies such as Twitter and Facebook. When Brunel University students protested against a visit of an Israeli diplomat, the right-wing organisation Students Rights did not hesitate to label them as antisemitic. It is clear that Palestinian rights groups are not only silenced but smeared for simply raising awareness for the Palestinian cause.

The current far-right government of Israel has shown how far it will go with implementing divisive policies that impede the rights of Palestinians and incite violence at the cost of Palestinian lives. Furthermore, Palestinian activism here in the UK must no longer be treated as taboo. Those who smear pro-Palestinian groups are merely throwing smokescreens to cloud over Israel’s continued human rights abuses. MEND will continue to call for the protection of Muslims to show their support and solidarity for Palestine without any fear of repercussions, truly and freely.


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