The situation in the West bank has witnessed three phases of violence and ethnic cleansing in the last 7 years. The first phase was after the US election in 2017 when Donald Trump came to power and introduced his plan for ‘peace’ in the Middle East known as the Deal of the Century. Under the terms of the Trump administration’s plan, released in January 2020, only 40 percent of Area C would be transferred back to the Palestinians. After this announcement, settlers intensified their activities in these areas by establishing outposts at the edges of Palestinian communities.

The second phase was the last Israeli elections which has given more power and impunity to the settlers. Ben Gvir, along with Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s minister of finance belong to an ultra-right settler group, where they lead illegal settler activities in the West Bank. Since November 2022 up to October 7, Palestinians witnessed the escalation of land grab and direct attacks from armed settlers.

The third phase started in October 7 following the surprise attack from Gaza on Israeli agricultural settlements and military bases. and continues until the present. The day after the attack, Israeli settlers have notoriously intensified their already escalated violence against Palestinians and they turn soldiers.

Isolation and restrict of movement

On October 7, 2023, the Israeli military has closed the entrances of the villages and cities across the Occupied West Bank. The new reality Israel has been imposing on Palestinians since October 7 has reminded Palestinians of the situation in the early years of the Second Intifada, which erupted in 2000. While thier freedom of movement is restricted the Israeli colonial authorities has further given illegal settlers the green light to invade Palestinian villages and homes to the point life become impossible in West Bank, especially in Area C which consists 61 per cent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control.

The Israeli military has also been clamping down on Palestinian freedom to express their national identity. Israeli soldiers who constantly invade Palestinian towns confiscate the flags raised at schools and other public buildings. This is not new. Palestinians were banned from raising the Palestinian flag during the first Intifada. Over the past four months, around 7040 Palestinians have been arrested, including 220 women and 440 children in which 1200 people held in administrative attention- without charges or trial.

Settlers turn soldiers

The increase in the systemic settler violence in Area ‘C’ was initiated with the distribution of 15000 rifles to illegal settlers by the Israeli minister of national security Ben Gvir. 25, 000 more rifles are still restored for distribution. In a new development in Israeli settler violence, Palestinian communities in the area reported that Israeli settlers attack them whilst wearing Israeli army uniforms. These settler-soldiers are seizing the opportunity created by the unfolding genocide in the Gaza Strip to ethnically cleanse agrarian communities in Area ‘C’.

Settler attacks and forcible displacement of Palestinians

According to human rights organizations, since October 7, 367 Palestinians, including 22 have been killed by the Israeli armed settlers in the West Bank while more than 29000 Palestinians were killed in Gaza Strip during the current genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.

Due to Intensified settler violence, the majority of Palestinian families could not reach their land and harvest their olive trees. Belal Saleh, a farmer from the village of Asawya was shot dead by an Israeli settler while he was picking his olive trees. The olive for Palestinian farmers is the green gold and they rely on it as a source of income. This year the farmers missed the harvest and the settlers again exploited the situation and plundered the harvest whilst in some cases they burned entire groves of ancient olive trees.

In addition to the physical harm inflicted on Palestinians, Israeli settler attacks have caused damage of Palestinian property. According to UN agencies, more than 1227 settler attacks were documented since October 7 and over 2410 attacks during 2023. This is the highest number since UN OCHA has started recording Israeli settler violence in 2006.

More than 16 Palestinian Bedouin communities numbering 1600 people have been ethnically cleansed since October 7 as a result of the escalation of Israeli settler violence. The dispossession of these communities points to the ongoing and recurring Nakbah they have been enduring. Abu Bashar narrates to me,

Limit organized nonviolent resistance; no international solidarity groups managed to join

After the October 7 the space of popular nonviolent resistance campaigns that aimed to protect and minimize the settler attacks by being with them and documenting what is happening to them have decreased. The Israeli settlers also targeted activists by shooting at them. This happened to Ibrahim Wadi, an activist from Qusra village when they shot him and his son dead on October 12. The settlers also brutally attacked many activists like what happened to Mattar and Nada when they were stripped naked and filmed.

More importantly, this critical period of the Palestinian struggle is marked by an increase in the sense of fear because of armed settlers. Also, it reveals the Israeli aims of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land when the Israeli settlers called Palestinians openly to move to Jordan or they will face the same situation of transfer they faced in 1948. As one of the Palestinians said “today they bombed Gaza and tomorrow they will transfer us from West Bank”.

Every year Palestinian nonviolent activists joined by international and Israeli activists support and protect farmers during the olive harvest through a campaign called fazaa (aid and support). This year the campaign was cancelled because no one was able to move from their villages or cities. Also, the international volunteers cancelled their flights because of the escalated violence and could not join farmers during the harvest season.

1 https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=3219132 BASALLOTE, Antonio

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