Since Jan. 7, thousands of Palestinian and Israeli protesters have taken to the streets in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and cities in occupied Palestine. The actions are in response to a series of repressive measures imposed since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right extremist government took office in December.
One of the most egregious acts was to enforce a ban on carrying Palestinian flags in public, through a directive issued by Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. The Palestinian flag has long been recognized as a symbol of resistance to the Israeli occupation. Now people arrested for carrying the flag under the ban can be sentenced to up to a year in prison. Ben-Gvir has ordered police to tear down Palestinian flags wherever they are found in public.
Over 20,000 activists joined forces in a “Together against fascism and apartheid” protest in Tel Aviv Jan. 7. A week later on Jan. 14, over 100,000 protesters turned out in Tel Aviv and two other cities, again defying the ban on flags and denouncing Netanyahu’s government as “criminal.” Protesters challenged “reforms” proposed by the ultraright-wing government; these are meant to make it easier for parliament to annul Israeli Supreme Court rulings, including those curtailing West Bank Zionist settlement expansion.
In Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on Jan. 13, left-wing Israeli activists joined Palestinian activists in raising the Palestinian flag, defying the directive. There is no sign of a letup in protest actions.
Neofascists take control of government
Netanyahu’s government includes far-right and fascistic allies in key posts, seeking to intensify and codify Israeli apartheid, through the passage of laws prohibiting Palestinian rights and the erosion of any state bodies, like the courts, which have provided even minor relief. Ben-Gvir, who plays a central role, was previously convicted of incitement to racism and supporting a Zionist terrorist organization after advocating the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 2007.
Ilan Pappe, author of “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” writing in the Palestine Chronicle, Jan. 14, notes that Netanyahu might be the least extreme member of his new government. Netanyahu’s coalition includes ultraorthodox Jews, who had initially opposed Zionist sovereignty in Palestine but with few exceptions now support colonization in the West Bank, the siege of Gaza and harsh and aggressive policies to take over public space for Israeli Jews only.
A second group includes ultranationalist Jews in favor of expropriating even more Palestinian land in the West Bank. They support the policies of the Israeli army and the actions of Zionist settler vigilantes who harass Palestinians, shoot at them and uproot their orchards, in an effort to pressure more Palestinians to leave.
Both groups promote stricter apartheid measures inside Israel, where 1 in 5 citizens are Arabs, most of them descendants of people who remained in Palestine after the founding of Israel following the Nakba in 1948. These groups also promote crusades against the LGBT+ community and a stricter marginalization of women in public spaces. Many secular Jews from the Likud Party who are also participating in this formation are marginalized.
Punished for appeal to U.N.
In early January, the Palestinian Authority urged the United Nations General Assembly to pass a resolution calling on the International Court of Justice to “render urgently an advisory opinion on Israel’s prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of Palestinian territory.” In response to the Palestinian appeal, the U.N. General Assembly asked the ICJ to render an opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s 55-year-old occupation.
One week later, Israel’s Security Cabinet responded by passing a series of punitive measures including a moratorium on Palestinian construction in a part of the occupied West Bank called Area C, which is 60% of occupied territory under Israeli control.
The Security Cabinet took other measures intended to further strangle Palestinians economically. They voted to immediately withhold taxes and tariffs collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and transferred $39.5 million of revenues already collected for the Palestinian Authority to a fund for so-called “victims of terrorism” and their families — i.e. Zionist settlers.
Global unity needed against Zionism
Even before the Nakba in 1948 forced the exodus of 700,000 Palestinians and the destruction of over 500 Palestinian villages, Israeli Zionists were carrying out attacks on the Indigenous population that amounted to ethnic cleansing. Decades of settler colonialism have witnessed the seizure of more Palestinian land and cultural expropriation, with growing repression against any resistance. The actions of the current government appear intent on finalizing this ethnic cleansing.
It is imperative that all forces globally who are in solidarity with Palestine and oppose the Israeli occupation join forces. Palestinians need this unity more than ever. No conditions should be placed on how Palestinians in occupied territories carry out their resistance.
The solidarity movement within the U.S. must condemn President Joe Biden’s latest omnibus bill, which contains millions of dollars intended for the expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine.