The Palestinian town Nablus in the West Bank (Picture: WIkicommons)

Hundreds of Israelis rampaged through Palestinian towns last Sunday evening, killing at least one person, injuring some 400, and torching dozens of homes. The attackers were settlers—Israeli citizens living on stolen Palestinian land in the militarily-occupied West Bank. Their anti-Palestinian riot—described by one left wing Israeli organisation as a “pogrom”—came after the Israeli army killed some 11 people in the nearby city of Nablus last week.

They’re the latest examples of how Israel’s new right wing government has intensified the state’s drive to force out Palestinians. One resident of Hawara, the focus of the settler attack, told the Middle East Eye website that he barely got his family to safety before his home was set on fire. 

Ziyad Dmaidi was returning from work when he saw a group of settlers heading towards his house and rushed inside to gather his family. Within minutes “dozens of settlers” began smashing in windows, breaking into the house. The family escaped just as burning rubber tyres were thrown inside. His home was completely destroyed.

“We got out of the house and off to safety with the help of the ambulance crews who were also attacked while trying to evacuate us,” he said. “Our lives are in danger and all this is happening while the Israeli soldiers stand around waiting only to protect the settlers.”

Israeli media reported the anti-Palestinian riot as “revenge” for a shooting attack on two settlers earlier that day. The settlers live in a string of fortress-like towns and “outposts” on a hill overlooking Hawara and other Palestinian villages. They’re a typical feature of Israel’s occupation in the West Bank, squeezing Palestinians into ever-smaller pockets of land. 

Israeli citizens drive Palestinian farmers from the land below the settlements, protected by soldiers who set up checkpoints and close off surrounding areas. Settler and soldier violence against Palestinians has increased since a right wing Israeli government took office in December. The government is led by warmonger Binyamin Netanyahu and propped up by parties rooted in nationalist and settler movements.

It hopes to resolve a long-running crisis in Israeli society stemming from the occupation and the racism at the heart of the state. Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is deeply entrenched, and hardly any party in Israel wants to give up the settlements to the Palestinians. Most want to make that West Bank land officially part of Israel. But none of them want to live alongside more Palestinians.

The state was founded on the promise that Jewish citizens will always be in an ethnic majority over Arabs. That’s why the Israeli state—no matter what its government—has kept Palestinians living under a violent system of apartheid.  The latest government’s solution to its crisis is to intensify it.

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