From Drone Strikes to Settler Attacks, Israel Intensifies Effort to “Completely Take Over Palestine”
Written by GRB on 23/06/2023
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn now to the occupied West Bank, where tensions soar this week after Israel launched a massive military raid Monday in the Jenin refugee camp, killing seven Palestinians, including a 14-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy. During the raid, which was met by fierce Palestinian resistance, Israel deployed U.S.-made Apache helicopter gunships for the first time inside the West Bank in nearly 20 years.
On Tuesday, two Palestinian gunmen shot dead four Israelis near an illegal settlement in the West Bank. Settlers responded by attacking Palestinian villages, setting fire to homes and vehicles. One school was set on fire. Settlers were caught on video tearing out pages from multiple copies of the Qur’an after they raided a mosque in the West Bank village of Urif.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Israel carried out its first targeted assassination aerial strike in nearly 20 years. The drone strike killed three Palestinians, including a 15-year-old boy.
This all comes as the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government has agreed to accelerate the process for approving new settlements in the West Bank, despite criticism from the United Nations, European Union and the United States.
We’re joined now by the Palestinian journalist Mariam Barghouti. She’s a senior Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss. She usually is based in Ramallah but is joining us from New York City today.
It’s great to have you with us, Mariam. If you can talk about the escalating violence right now in the West Bank?
MARIAM BARGHOUTI: Thank you. It’s good to be here again, Amy. Thank you for having me.
Right now what we’re seeing is an intensification of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in the collective. So, it’s not just being intensified at the level of attacks towards Palestinians, but it’s increasing in size. And this is reminiscent of what we have seen in 2021, when Israeli settlers rampaged through the Old City of Jerusalem, as well the cities in heartland Palestine, such as Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Haifa, chanting “Death to Arabs.” And that’s what they have been doing now, is killing Arabs. We’ve had almost 700 Palestinians killed since those chants began in 2021.
And right now what we are seeing is a joining of forces, once again, between Israeli settlers in uniform, such as the army and Border Police, and Israeli settlers in civilian clothing, but also armed, attacking Palestinians under the false, manipulated discourse that this is a response to a Palestinian militant operation. This is not a response to that. This is the status quo. This is the daily norm. We saw it happen in 2015, when an entire Palestinian family in Nablus, near the location where the most recent arson attack happened, en masse, an entire family was burned in Duma, including an infant, just a few months old, and his mother and father, leaving the last remaining child in the family, who was 3 at the time, orphaned.
So, what we’re seeing is an intensification to completely take over Palestine. And it’s not just Palestine in the sense of the West Bank. This is Gaza. This is heartland Palestine in Jerusalem. And right now you’re seeing attacks, exactly the same way Israeli forces have attacked Palestinians in the West Bank, happening in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. So, Israel is moving full force to do exactly what Bezalel Smotrich, the current finance minister of Israel, called for in terms of Huwara and Nablus, and that is wipe it out. What they are doing right now is wiping it out.
AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. State Department’s Office of Palestinian Affairs said it was appalled by the attacks on Palestinians by the Israeli settlers, adding, “We call [for] Israeli authorities to immediately stop the violence, protect U.S. and Palestinian civilians, and prosecute those responsible.” There are many also Palestinian Americans who are living there, as well, right? Can you talk about the State Department’s response? Did that surprise you?
MARIAM BARGHOUTI: It did not surprise me. The U.S. State Department has rarely interfered or intervened on behalf of Palestinian American citizens in order to push forward for justice. More than a year later, in the assassination of the Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last year, who was also killed by an Israeli sniper shot in Jenin, still did not receive accountability. And come the dozens of others that were killed who are American citizens, and zero accountability. Anyone that was arrested in the Israeli military, known for torturing and mistreating their political detainees, the U.S. did not interfere.
I think that the words, that the language that they try to push forward as though they are truthfully and sincerely representing American citizenry, as they claim, is false. What we see is the U.S. arming Israel continuously and consistently. What we see is the U.S. vetoing any potentials or opportunity for actually holding Israel accountable. I have never heard of asking the butcher to be told to give themselves judgment and accountability. I have never heard of that dynamic except in this.
AMY GOODMAN: During the raid in Jenin, Israel deployed U.S.-made Apache helicopter gunships for the first time inside the West Bank in nearly 20 years and also carried out its first targeted assassination aerial strike in the West Bank for the first time in 20 years. They have done that in Gaza more recently. Can you talk about the significance of this, and what difference it means when groups in the United States, particularly Jewish groups, put pressure on the U.S. government around the issue of weapons that Israel uses coming from the United States?
MARIAM BARGHOUTI: Thank you for asking that. It’s really important to recognize that, just recently, the current minister of national security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who was actually denied service in the Israeli military because he was considered a terrorist and a threat to national security, is now the minister of national security, has called for a renewed military operation called Defensive Shield. Now, Defensive Shield was a military operation in the early 2000s, between 2002, 2003, that took place mostly between Jenin, Nablus, Bethlehem and Ramallah in the West Bank, and they blew up homes, wall to wall. That is how they moved through cities. And it was considered to be one of the most destructive and tragic military operations to have hit Palestinians in the West Bank. And Israel is being — was investigated, and it has shown, the evidence, that Israel has committed crimes against humanity and war crimes during these operations.
A few months ago, Itamar Ben-Gvir called for Operation Defensive Shield 2.0, basically. So, that’s the significance of using that drone for the first time in 20 years, because the last time it was used was 2006, where they targeted the young fighters at the time. And now those born in 2000, 2002, ’03, ’04, ’05, at the peak of Operation Defensive Shield, have grown up, and they have seen no change, and they try to confront back. And now Ben-Gvir is asking to kill those, the children that grew up under nothing but war, who are mostly refugees, on World Refugee Day. Almost 80% of those killed in the last two years were refugees, in the refugee camps.
AMY GOODMAN: Israeli settlers rampaged through Palestinian towns in the West Bank Wednesday, killing at least one person, critically injuring another, torching buildings and cars. This is a resident of the town of Turmus Ayya.
TURMUS AYYA RESIDENT: [translated] Dozens of settlers came here, around 200, 250 settlers. They tried to enter the courtyard. They set the cars on fire. They started shooting towards the house, using live bullets and stones, and they damaged the balconies. There were almost 14 family members at home, including women and children. But, thank God, there were no injuries. They tried to open the doors, but they were closed.
AMY GOODMAN: Mariam, if you can talk more about what the Israeli government — how the Israeli government responds to Israeli settlers rampaging?
MARIAM BARGHOUTI: So, the Israeli government arms and provides protection to Israeli settlers rampaging. They send in military forces with the settlers in civilian clothing, who are armed, as well, in order to facilitate ease of movement across Palestinian towns and villages. What happened in Turmus Ayya was preceded in a similar occurrence just a few months ago, and it was preceded by a mass arson attack in Huwara near Nablus also a few months ago. So this is not an anomaly. It’s not the exception. It’s the norm.
And this is why it is important for especially Jewish voices in the U.S. to continue tackling this issue, where their name and their beliefs is being used to perpetuate crimes against humanity and to also benefit the weapons trade industry. It’s not just the U.S. providing weapons to Israel. It is the U.S. and Israel tag-teaming to test those weapons on Palestinians. They have turned the Palestinian demographic into lab rats.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to end with Mohammad al-Tamimi, the 2-year-old Palestinian child who was recently shot dead by Israeli soldiers. You have written about this and the personal effect it has on you covering this kind of brutality. Tell us about him.
MARIAM BARGHOUTI: Mohammad al-Tamimi was a 2-year-old boy who was killed as Israeli soldiers chased other Palestinian youth, firing bullets at the car near the village of Nabi Saleh in Ramallah. Mohammad was next to his father when the shooting happened. And as we know, as I have seen from testimonies and documentation, Israel does not discriminate, indeed, between child or adult, civilian or noncivilian, combatant or noncombatant. The father was injured. Mohammad, who was 2, was killed.
And you need to understand that his mother is this young woman who I’ve known when she was a child, who has helped protect adults from Israeli arrests, who grew up in Nabi Saleh watching one death after the other — this is a small village — and could not protect her 2-year-old son. I don’t know what that does to a mother. I don’t know what that does to a young mother. And I don’t know what that does to a mother living under consistent trauma.
That’s what happened with Mohammad al-Tamimi, who was 2. And that’s what happens to dozens of Palestinian families. And it’s not to discourage us, but it is to empower us and make us say, “No. Yeah, we refuse this dynamic and reality. Not at our tax dollars.”
AMY GOODMAN: Mariam Barghouti, I want to thank you for being with us, a senior Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss, based in Ramallah, speaking to us, though, today from New York City. You mentioned the idea that Palestine is a lab. Coming up, we speak with the author Antony Loewenstein about his new book, The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World. Back in 30 seconds.