WHEN Israel’s new government was sworn in in December last year, many feared what might come with the assemblage of the most far-right cabinet in the nation’s history. Notable posts were given to Itamar Ben-Gvir, the new minister of national security, and Bezalel Smotrich, who has significant power over Israeli settlements, in addition to his role as finance minister. 

Ben-Gvir is a controversial figure in Israel. He was a follower of the late, explicitly racist, ultra-nationalist Meir Kahane, whose organisation was banned in Israel and designated as a terrorist group by the United States. The ultra-nationalist politician is known for his anti-Arab comments and has a past conviction for racism. Smotrich is a supporter of expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank and opposes Palestinian statehood. His position grants him the power to  increase enforcement against what they deem illegal Palestinian construction, in line with his vehement opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

And the fears were realised when the largest Israeli military raid in more than 20 years on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank took place last week. Ten residents, including two children, were killed with several others hospitalised after being wounded by live ammunition. 

Following that, seven Israelis were killed in a shooting at a synagogue, and a day later came Netanyahu’s response. He convened a meeting of his far-right security cabinet and announced that his government would be implementing a number of collective punishment measures in response to the shooting. Included in the measures were expedited gun permits for Israeli citizens, deploying more military troops in the West Bank, and Ben Gvir said he would also push for the death penalty against ‘terrorists’.

The purely punitive measures announced by Netanyahu’s cabinet against the families of the Palestinian attackers include revoking social security benefits of the families, the proposal of a law to deport them, arresting them, and sealing their family homes. These measures have been slammed by experts as collective punishment and clear violations of international human rights law. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the punishing of a protected person for an offence he or she has not committed themselves and also prohibits collective penalties and reprisals against protected persons and their property. 

Since the beginning of January this year at least 35 Palestinians, including eight children, have been killed by the Israeli army and settlers. Twenty of them were in and from the Jenin area. Yet the murder of Palestinians is almost ignored by mainstream media, and this was never clearer than with the near-silence by media on the Jenin massacre compared to the coverage given to the Israelis killed. Notable also was Labour leader Keir Starmer saying nothing about Jenin but tweeting about the ‘senseless murder’ of the Israelis killed.

These latest measures to be brought in by Netanyahu’s far-right government will do nothing to safeguard lives, be they Israeli or Palestinian. Instead they may ignite an inferno of hate and destruction the likes of which neither side has seen before.

We must not be silent. We must stand against this oppression of the Palestinian people.

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