[Daily life in Jenin refugee camps in West Bank, where Israeli military raids have increased since October 7. The Israeli army has destroyed roads and monuments of killed fighters. (Mauricio Morales/Al Jazeera)]
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 700,000 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.
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.
YOU want to TALK about HAMAS!Sure let’s do it.Let’s forget the fact Hamas was created by #Israel.Now IMAGINE a World WITHOUT Hamas. Have you done that?Back to the real World & #WestBank where Hamas has NEVER existed.SO WHY HAS ISRAEL MURDERED 7000 #Palestinians in #WestBank? pic.twitter.com/KmZ9Am4Uvb— Alpha100 (@100_alpha) November 8, 2023
YOU want to TALK about HAMAS!Sure let’s do it.Let’s forget the fact Hamas was created by #Israel.Now IMAGINE a World WITHOUT Hamas. Have you done that?Back to the real World & #WestBank where Hamas has NEVER existed.SO WHY HAS ISRAEL MURDERED 7000 #Palestinians in #WestBank? pic.twitter.com/KmZ9Am4Uvb
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 neighbouring 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.
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 neighbourhoods 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 5,000 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 2,000 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.
[The writer, Fareed Taamallah, is a Palestinian journalist who lives in Ramallah. He is a farmer and political and environmental activist. The above article is originally published by Middle East Eye.]
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