This chilling message, passed in secret between ultranationalists in Israel in the aftermath of the Hamas attack on Israel at the weekend, has been published by Middle East Eye.
“Dear Jewish people, the time has arrived to take action against the other side. Kidnap Arabs, murder without fear. You see an Arab in the street? Chuck him in the car, abuse him and don’t forget to photograph him and post it. Children, women and adults are all relevant. Without mercy, every Arab regardless of sex and age you should immediately kidnap and kill. Burn businesses that employ Arabs, and post those businesses online to shame them and work against them.”
This is not an empty threat. Between 2010 and 2019, nearly 3,000 Israeli settler attacks killed at least 22 Palestinians and injured 1,258 others across the occupied West Bank. These attacks have been stepped up in the last two years with the active support of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). Since Israeli forces drove 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and killed thousands more in 1947 Palestinians have been subject to discriminatory laws that led Amnesty the UN, Human Rights Watch and B’tselem all to describe Israel as an apartheid state. Now more than a tenth of all Israelis live in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Many of them are fundamentalists who have no wish to control the people of Palestine. They want to drive them out altogether. Armed mobs, hundreds strong, will descend on a Palestinian village, destroying crops, burning cars and homes, and when Palestinians respond the IDF arrives to ‘restore order’ and more Palestinians are shot dead or wounded. Over 200 were killed last year, and this year the figure is set to be higher still.
Gaza is different. It has been described as the largest open air prison in the world. Since Israel blockaded Gaza in 2006 its 2 million inhabitants have been unable to leave. There have been regular incursions by Israel, so called defensive operations, that have left thousands dead and destroyed essential infrastructure like schools, hospitals, power and access to clean water.
Hamas have been condemned as terrorists after breaking out of this prison and inflicting hundreds of casualties, many of them civilians. But western outrage reeks of hypocrisy when you remember their silence over the thousands of Palestinian civilians who have been killed by Israel. Already 370 have died in Israeli air strikes on Gaza and thousands have been injured. That number will grow because Netanyahu is threatening all out war on Gaza and has warned its inhabitants to flee the coming onslaught. But they have nowhere to go and no means of leaving because of the Israeli blockade. He may even agree to calls from the extremists in his government to launch a ground invasion of Gaza and bring it under complete Israeli control.
So what is the way forward? There are small oases of hope. Middle East Eye was only able to publish the message that begins this article because an Israeli Jew shared it with their Palestinian neighbour to warn them to take care. And some Israeli Jews have been patrolling in mixed neighbourhoods to protect their Palestinian neighbours from right wing vigilantes.
Netanyahu has also been weakened. By concentrating armed forces in the occupied territories of the West Bank to support the illegal settlements there, he left the border controls around Gaza severely weakened, allowing Hamas to break out in unprecedented numbers for the first time in seventeen years of Israeli blockades. His intelligence services were taken by surprise and, although he is currently buoyed by a thirst for revenge that has led so called liberal opposition politicians to propose a government of national unity, the most significant breach of Israel’s borders since the Yom Kippur War in 1973 has happened on his watch and will lead to recriminations within the right wing coalition that sustains his government.
Meanwhile in the West, where support for Israel’s ‘right to self defence’ is almost universal, socialists and internationalists have a duty to stand firm in support of Palestinian rights and against our own government’s hypocrisy in condemning Hamas, while ignoring Israel’s breaches of international law. Such breaches are rightly condemned as a war crime when perpetrated by Russia in Ukraine. But instead of condemning Netanyahu, who has just cut off Gaza’s power supply, and access to food, fuel, and drinking water, the EU has announced it is stopping all aid to Palestine.
Hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian civilians have been killed in this latest conflict. Thousands more will die unless there is a ceasefire and a return to negotiations. But the West’s unremitting support for Israel means that is unlikely to happen anytime soon. The real danger is that other groups and nations will be drawn into the conflict which will escalate into a full scale war with disastrous consequences for both Israel and Palestine.