Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s and his extreme right-wing government’s favorite word for Palestinian militants is terrorists. Certainly, some of them carry out terrorist acts. But the greater truth is the state terrorism that the Israeli government is carrying out against the Palestinian population under its bootheel.
The Israeli Defense Force occupation of Jenin, ordered by Netanyahu, was the latest manifestation. It was the biggest invasion in two decades. Finding militants who had committed terrorist acts was one reason for the 48-hour military incursion by more than 1,000 soldiers backed by armored bulldozers that entered the city and its refugee camp. But an equal if not more important reason for Netanyahu was to terrorize the refugee camp population with aerial bombing, tear gas, and the destruction of roads and numerous buildings. (PBS News Hour on July 6 interviewed residents and filmed the aftermath of the Israeli attack.)
WHAT IS NEW ABOUT THE REPRESSION?
Since coming to power at the beginning of 2023, the extreme right-wing coalition government—whose cabinet members include a number of individuals with neo-fascist attitudes toward Palestinians in the occupied territories—practiced a mailed-fist policy. One may ask what is new about this, since Israel has occupied the West Bank for more than half a century, with “democracy” for Israelis and a military-occupied dictatorship for Palestinians.
What’s new is: 1. A total green light has been given for 5,700 new settlement homes in the occupied territories. 2. Fundamentalist Israeli settlers in the West Bank have been given free rein to brutalize Palestinians and burn and pillage their homes. 3. The mailed-fist policies toward Palestinians seem designed not only to repress the population but to provoke an uprising that the government could use to launch a wholesale expulsion of Palestinians from occupied territory. 4. The government is using these policies to try and weaken crucial Israeli opposition, which has staged massive protests every Saturday against the Netanyahu government’s attempt to strip the Supreme Court of its power to overrule elected officials.
CONTRADICTIONS WITHIN THE MOVEMENT
This massive opposition from Israeli progressives to the government’s undemocratic judicial policies faces its own internal challenges: they all oppose the right-wing government, but what is the opposition’s attitude to the government’s genocidal policies and practices? As a banner at one of its rallies stated: “There Is No Democracy with Occupation.” But this view has not yet gained momentum. Only a small movement continues to support Palestinian self-determination.
The contradictions don’t end with the Israeli left. There are organizations, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who wish to exterminate Israel and have considerable influence in Gaza and the West Bank. They do commit terrorist acts. And there are murderous acts against Israelis by individual Palestinians acting out of hatred and despair.
But there have also been important protests by Israeli Palestinians within Israel itself, and independent Palestinian protests against occupation in both the West Bank and Gaza. Can progressive Jewish Israelis move to find common cause with them?
Without working out some form of solidarity, it is difficult to see how the present direction of continued occupation and neo-fascist tendencies in Israel can be overcome.