Why Israel and the West fail to understand the Palestinian struggle

Feras Abu Helal

Editor in chief @Arabi21News
February 06, 2023

Last Friday, Khairy Alqam, a Palestinian from Jerusalem’s Bab al-Amoud neighbourhood, killed seven Israelis in a gun attack in the Neve Yaakov settlement in occupied East Jerusalem. The following day, at least three minor attacks were conducted by Palestinian individuals in occupied Jerusalem, Jericho and Nablus.

This escalation came one day after the Israeli occupation army had killed nine Palestinians during a raid in the West Bank city of Jenin, while a 10th succumbed to his wounds on Sunday.

Over the weekend, another Palestinian was killed by an Israeli settler in the West Bank, and another on Monday, bringing the death toll of Palestinians killed by Israelis this year to 33.

The escalation, especially the attack on the Neve Yaakov settlement, suggests that the conflict between the illegal occupation and the Palestinian people has entered a new era, due to a combination of political and operational reasons.

Since 2002, Israel has invaded all areas in the West Bank. It erased the Oslo Accords' classifications for areas A (under Palestinian Authority control), B (joint Israeli-Palestinian control), and C (under Israeli control). The Israeli army controls the daily movement and every aspect of life of the Palestinians. The Israeli human rights group B'tselem counted about 174 military checkpoints in the West Bank in 2019.

'Individual fighters'

The hope of establishing a Palestinian state vanished after the failure of the Camp David talks in 2000, when the then US president, Bill Clinton, Israeli and Palestinian leaders met to negotiate a final status agreement, with the resulting framework not complying with Palestinian rights. 

The struggle of Palestinians for freedom and putting an end to the occupation in the West Bank has dramatically changed too. Israel weakened the Palestinian Authority (PA) because it failed to deliver on many of its promises, the most important of which was building a sovereign nation.

Most Palestinians view the PA as a tool at the service of the occupation by maintaining security coordination with Israeli apparatuses. At the same time, Israel and the PA weakened the Palestinian resistance factions. This situation - the control of Palestinian lives, the shattering of Palestinians' hopes, the undermining of the PA and pressure on Palestinian factions - led to the phenomenon of "individual fighters". 

According to the Israeli security agency Shin Bet, in 2021 Palestinians conducted 1,570 attacks, killing 25 Israelis. In 2022, there were 1,933 attacks, killing 29 Israelis. In most cases, the attackers were individuals.

Israel failed and will fail to put an end to this phenomenon because it resisted accepting and understanding why it happens. As it always does, after the attack in the Neve Yaakov settlement, the Israeli government leaked a plan of collectively punishing Palestinians and arming settlers in the West Bank, instead of attending to the real problem, namely the occupation.

Israeli politicians do not understand the lesson to be learned. As long as there is occupation and there is no hope, there will be resistance and unrest.

Supremacist ideology

So, if it is as simple as that, why don't the Israeli government and its western allies get it? I would argue that white and Jewish supremacy leads to ignorance about the right understanding of the issue. The white and Jewish supremacists do not see the Palestinians as "people" who deserve fundamental human rights. They don't believe they deserve the right of self-determination or the right to "resist" to gain their freedom and sovereignty.

This supremacist ideology can help explain the policies and comments of Israeli and western politicians. Take, for example, US President Joe Biden's statement after he called Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu last Friday. He said the attack on the Neve Yaakov settlement was "an attack against the civilised world". According to the US president, the apartheid state, ruled by fascists such as Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, represents the civilised world.

In this view, civilisation has nothing to do with democracy, human rights or obedience to international law. Instead, it is a label for states with warplanes, nuclear weapons and all types of lethal arms to justify the killing of people from the "uncivilised world" - and this pervasive impunity is granted because the rest of the "civilised" world will protect them in the UN Security Council.

Jewish supremacy is rooted in the Israeli political discourse. It was even legalised by the passing of the controversial "Citizenship Law", which makes Palestinians second-class citizens. Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving PM, insisted that "Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people – and only it", and not for all its citizens.

Not equal to the Jews

Take for example the fascist views and policies of Israel's Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir who said that Palestinians who do not "believe" in Israel must be deported from their homeland. Unless you are a supremacist, you will not think that any decent human will "believe" in his occupier and oppressor.

Another example is that of Smotrich, who threatened to expel Arab members of the Knesset and other Muslims who "do not accept Jewish rule". So, as a Palestinian, you must accept Jewish supremacy or be expelled from your home.

The problem with these statements and ideology is not merely rhetorical. It is the basis of actions that prevent any opportunity to see the conflict as it is. It is the motive for trying to stop the attacks by dealing with Palestinians as "subjects", who can be silenced by collective punishment and either economic rewards or pressure. 

If the West and fascist politicians who rule Israel - and may rule it in the future - do not see the Palestinians as people equal to the Jews, who deserve to live in dignity and have the right to self-determination, they will not be able to solve the conflict.

They will only ignite violence in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and everywhere else in historic Palestine.

"The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author."

Israel wants to turn Jenin into another Gaza, siege by siege

Belén Fernández

Author of Inside Siglo XXI: Locked Up in Mexico's Largest Immigration Center
September 20, 2023

To Palestinians, Gaza is a symbol of resistance. To Israel, Gaza is a template to pummel and isolate that resistance.

The Palestinian Struggle: Oppression Breeds Resistance

Majed Kayali

Palestinian political writer
August 29, 2023

The Palestinian struggle is catastrophic, and any resistance is a natural reaction to occupation, oppression and humiliation.