Palestinians inspect destroyed homes in Jenin after the attack by Israeli soldiers (Picture: Alamy/ Ayman Nobani)

Israeli politicians and their Western government backers are threatening repression against Palestinians living under military occupation and an apartheid system. It comes after Israeli soldiers massacred nine people—including children and a 61 year old woman—in a Palestinian refugee camp in the militarily‑occupied West Bank last Thursday.

This also follows attacks by Palestinians on Israelis living on forcibly-taken Palestinian land in Jerusalem. A lone Palestinian killed seven people in the settlement of Neve Yaakov—a “neighbourhood” in east Jerusalem built as part of Israel’s efforts to claim Palestinian land—last Friday. Then, on Saturday morning, a 13 year old Palestinian boy, shot and wounded two Israeli men near Jerusalem’s Old City, which Israel controls by military force. 

Governments rushed to condemn the attacks in Jerusalem, but not the massacre in Jenin. And news reports presented the events in Jenin and Jerusalem as the result of “escalating tensions” between two sides with equal, competing complaints. But while the massacre in Jenin was carried out by the most advanced army in the Middle East, the Jerusalem attacks were by lone, desperate individuals.

They were the result of life under the pressure cooker of an Israeli apartheid system where racism and violence are features of everyday life. In east Jerusalem, where the attacks took place, Palestinians are denied the same legal rights as Israelis. Instead of being citizens, they have only “resident” status—which can be revoked—forcing them to leave.

Israeli settler groups constantly use the courts to have Palestinians evicted from their homes and neighbourhoods. And Israeli militarised “border police” harass, monitor and obstruct Palestinians as they try to go about their lives. It’s a similar story for Palestinians in the nearby West Bank which—like east Jerusalem—Israel has occupied since it invaded in 1967.

There, they live in land fragmented by Israeli settlements, under military law, and confined by military checkpoints. Israel killed at least 170 Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem last year, and another 30 already so far in 2023. In an example of how they operate, soldiers entered the Jenin refugee camp early last Thursday morning and opened fire on several buildings—demolishing some. 

The camp has existed since 1948, housing Palestinians who Israel expelled from their homes when the state was created. Refugee families still live there—now an impoverished neighbourhood of the city—as Israel denies them the right to return. Yet, unlike the attacks in Jerusalem, Western governments including Britain and the US refuse to condemn the Jenin massacre.

Instead, they appealed to the Palestinian Authority, which they use to govern and control the Palestinian population, to keep cooperating with Israel. For them, Israel’s role as their key military ally in the Middle East, defending their interests, is more important than Palestinian lives.

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