Wed 12-June-2024

In the West Bank we are under siege and see the West’s hypocrisy

Monday 13-November-2023

While the world is preoccupied with the fierce Israeli war on Gaza there is less interest in what is happening in the occupied West Bank. This is understandable and natural given the large scale of destruction and killing in the Gaza Strip.

As Palestinians residing in the occupied West Bank we have been following the events in Gaza with pain and anger. Out of respect for the suffering of Palestinians in the besieged enclave we have been hesitant to talk much about the oppressive Israeli practices in the occupied West Bank before and after 7 October.

But this silence does not mean that things are calm in this territory where more than three million Palestinians live under Israeli military occupation.

The West Bank and Gaza were occupied by Israel in 1967. According to the United Nations and the international community both territories were supposed to form a single political entity – the foundation of a Palestinian state as part of the so-called two-state solution.

But reality has not gone in this direction. Gaza completely separated from the occupied West Bank since 2005 has endured a comprehensive Israeli siege and five wars during which thousands of Palestinians have been killed.

Meanwhile the occupied West Bank where my family and I live is suffering from illegal settlement expansion that is devouring our private lands. Around 700000 settlers live in approximately 150 settlements and 128 outposts and this number constantly increases.

These settlers who have become widely represented in the Israeli Knesset and were recently handed weapons by the government are soldiers in civilian clothes. Some have formed armed militias to kill Palestinians under the pretext of maintaining security.

Buffer zones
Across the occupied West Bank we suffered greatly from the Israeli occupation before 7 October – and our suffering has only intensified since then.

In the village of Qusra settlers under the protection of the Israeli army killed four Palestinians last month. Settlers also killed a farmer in the village of al-Sawiya while he was picking olives on his land in front of his wife and children.

Also last month in Deir Istiya adjacent to my own family’s village settlers attacked Palestinian olive pickers and distributed leaflets warning them to leave for Jordan or risk being annihilated in a second Nakba.

Every year settlers attack Palestinian farmers during the olive harvest season. This is the most important agricultural season for Palestinians; we greatly depend on it for our livelihood. Settlers often burn trees steal crops attack farmers and seize land with no accountability or punishment. Rather they enjoy the support and protection of the occupying army.

This year witnessed the peak of these attacks under the pretext of retaliation for the 7 October attack. Palestinians in areas near settlements and main streets have been prevented from harvesting their olives.

Israel’s extremist finance minister Bezalel Smotrich has called on the government to create buffer zones free of Palestinians around the settlements and to prevent Palestinians from picking olives in these areas. Israeli authorities have also cut off water to Palestinian residential communities while neighboring settlements enjoy water 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Before 7 October Israeli forces had killed around 200 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since the start of this year and more than 170 others have been killed since that date. Israeli forces have invaded the cities of Jenin Tulkarm Nablus and Jericho destroying infrastructure under the pretext of searching for wanted persons.

Restricted movement
Israel also maintains severe restrictions on freedom of movement for Palestinians with 700 road obstacles and checkpoints across the occupied West Bank. Israeli forces have locked up neighborhoods with iron gates while giving settlers total freedom of movement across the territory.

We as Palestinians are not allowed to enter the settlements established on our stolen lands as they are surrounded by fences barbed wire and strict security measures. And while we live in the same geographical area the laws and legal procedures for Palestinians and settlers differ. Israeli civil and criminal law applies for settlers while Palestinians face a military court system.

Before 7 October more than 5000 Palestinians including children and women were being held in Israeli prisons including hundreds in “administrative detention” without charge or trial. Since 7 October – that is within just one month – more than 2000 others have been arrested across the occupied West Bank. Arrests are often made after violent raids and many prisoners say they have been tortured and abused in Israeli custody.

Israel is also cracking down on pro-Palestinian online posts aided by social media companies that have restricted and blocked content supportive of Palestine.

At the same time we have followed in astonishment the collusion of western governments with Israel in its crimes against us. We feel frustrated by western double standards on human values and freedom as evidenced by the glaring difference in their responses to Ukrainian versus Palestinian resistance.

We are disgusted by hypocritical western rhetoric about civilians and human rights. Western officials loudly denounce the killing of Israelis while trumpeting Israel’s right to “defend itself”; yet they appear largely indifferent to the thousands of innocent Palestinians who have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

The ongoing killing and displacement of Palestinians will not bring peace to the region. It will do the opposite serving only to intensify the conflict. It is an illusion to believe that peace can be achieved without justice.

The only way to resolve the conflict is through a political solution that ends the occupation and holds war criminals accountable.

– Fareed Taamallah is a Palestinian journalist who lives in Ramallah. He is a farmer and political and environmental activist. His article appeared in the Middle East Eye.

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