Greater Violence Expected against Palestinians--Especially Children--by New Far-Right Israeli Government
By John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer
Palestinian children in particular have been targeted as the threat of Israel’s far-right grows. Netanyahu’s decisive victory was aided by a far-right party, Religious Zionists, headed by a true zealot, Itamar Ben Gvir. He will probably be appointed public security minister. That will make him head of police, prisons, and security around Jerusalem religious sites. One can only hope world leaders will reject Netanyahu’s oppressive approach against the Palestinians.
Palestinian Children Targeted as Threat of Israel’s Far Right Grows
Palestinian parents especially are concerned about threats against their children, The trend of violence had already begun before the recent elections. Newly elected Prime Minister Netanyahu’s convincing win has exacerbated the threat against Palestinian children. His decisive victory was aided by a far-right party, Religious Zionists, headed by a true zealot, Itamar Ben Gvir.
According to the Washington Post, “Ben Gvir’s Jewish Power party is the political descendant of the far-right Kach party, which was banned from the Knesset for being racist and undemocratic.” Their leader has even been convicted for hateful actions against Arabs. Furthermore, “he was exempted from mandatory military service as a young man after he threatened Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for trying to make peace with the Palestinians.” It wasn’t Ben Gvir who ultimately assassinated Rabin but rather another Israeli ultranationalist.
The snag is that Ben Gvir will probably be appointed public security minister. That will make him head of police, prisons and security around Jerusalem religious sites. Religious sites have been the trigger points of Israeli-Palestinian clashes. Ben Gvir has called for giving police and soldiers wider latitude to use live ammunition and protect them from criminal prosecution if they kill or injure Palestinians.
A Post interview of a plumber from Ramallah, who has four children ages 10-23, is compelling. He opined, “Israel is tending toward radicalism, so I expected Ben Gvir to win”—with him, “things will get worse.” Ben Gvir’s base is Israeli settlers. They number half a million, are growing, and are critical to the Israeli political picture. They live in a highly militarized, occupied zone in which they are the privileged and those occupied are the underprivileged.
Israel’s 55-year-long occupation of Palestine is rejected as illegal by most of the rest of the world. Ben Gvir describes the occupation as “critical to making Israel the landlords of this country.” These words were an important piece of his campaign motto.
One of the main fears is that such a far-right hatred of Palestinians will especially put children at risk. The most right-wing government in Israel’s history will disadvantage children. Even prior to the new election, Palestinian children have been targeted by Israeli police. The government reports, “it is targeting newly formed militias,” depicting the “crackdown as collective punishment, and saying children are increasingly caught in the dragnet.”
To date, almost 130 Palestinian minors ended up in prison “on security grounds.” Actual imprisonment totals are much higher. The Post reported, “Seventy-three percent of Palestinian children in Israeli custody last year reported being subject to physical violence, an all-time high.”
Far Right Win Portends More Israeli Violence against All Palestinians
Palestinians are even more fearful of an escalation of conflict with Israel since the return of Netanyahu. They fear this extremist right-wing coalition foreshadows more oppression and related violence. As reported in The Gazette, “Netanyahu’s comeback in Tuesday’s election is set against the backdrop of the deadliest spell of violence in years between Israel and the Palestinians, whose hopes of statehood appear as distant as ever with Middle East peacemaking in the doldrums.”
Palestinian officials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have registered their fears about the new government. As reported in The Gazette, these officials feared “the ultra-nationalist complexion of Netanyahu’s likely alliance, including the firebrand Itamar Ben-Gvir, who once advocated expelling Palestinians, prompted concern over further tension.” One official suggested the new coalition “will increase the hostile attitude towards the Palestinian people and make occupation measures more extreme.”
Palestinian officials fear Israelis are becoming more extreme and this means more aggression against their people. One such official lamented, “Netanyahu-led governments that launched several wars against our Palestinian people, and the presence of the most extreme figures in a coalition means that we are going to face more of the Zionist terrorism–NO PEACE.” It is well known that Netanyahu has always been against the formation of a Palestinian state next to Israel. In response, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas repeated his oft-stated theme that Israel was “systematically destroying the two-state solution.”
One political analyst in Gaza, Reham Owda, wrote, according to The Gazette, “the peace process and the Palestinian Authority, in particular, maybe the prime loser of a Netanyahu comeback, given his personal enmity with Abbas and his opposition to the two-state solution.” Furthermore, she noted, “With Netanyahu, the slogan will be, no peace, no two-state solution, more settlement, and the focus will be on Iran.”
Youssef Khattab, a TV director in Gaza, summed up the feelings of many Palestinians: “The Palestinian people will get nothing from this government except war, destruction, killing, bloodshed, house demolition, razing of land and the building of more settlements at the expense of the Palestinian people.”
One would hope for a more optimistic view where possible, but that may be a reach. Whether world leaders will register their perspective and consciously reject Netanyahu’s oppressive approach against the Palestinians may also be a reach. But we must keep reaching out in support of the oppressed.
“Palestinian Children Target of increased Israeli Violence parents fear for their children as Israel’s far-right rises,” Washington Post, 11/11/2022
“Palestinians fear Israeli election result could mean more violence,” The Gazette (an electronic news summary), 11/2/2022
John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID and the World Bank in 65 countries.
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