By Maureen Clare Murphy
“He wasn’t even fighting, was just trying to protect people,” the widow of Omar Qateen told a delegation of diplomats in between deep breaths on Friday.
The woman said she was in pain from the grief after her husband was killed as hundreds of rampaging settlers, some of them armed, set fire to homes in Turmus Aya, a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday.
Settlers attacked multiple Palestinian communities in the West Bank this week after Palestinian gunmen shot and killed four Israelis at Eli settlement, before being executed by armed civilians and special forces. One day before the settlement shooting attack, Israeli forces killed several Palestinians during a raid in Jenin, including two children.
At the scene of the attack in Eli on Tuesday, Israel’s ultranationalist national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir called on settlers in the West Bank to pick up arms.
In the revenge attacks that followed, settlers vandalized a mosque and tore up copies of the Quran and set fire to a school in Urif, the Eli gunmen’s hometown. They also cut off electricity to the entire village.
Footage: Zionist state-sponsored terrorists desecrate a mosque in the West Bank and tear apart Quran books they stole from ithttps://t.co/4wWwuEJvM2
— Asaf Ronel (@AsafRonel) June 23, 2023
The Israeli military and police used live fire and crowd control weapons against Palestinians trying to defend themselves and obstructed the movement of ambulances and fire trucks in Turmus Aya, only several miles away from Eli.
Footage shows settlers firing guns towards Palestinian homes in Turmus Aya:
"The moment of shooting by herds of settlers
in Turmus Ayya yesterday, which led to the death
of a martyr and a number of injured"… https://t.co/UFwqHkXJ7h
— Marian Houk (@Marianhouk) June 23, 2023
During the rampage in Turmus Aya, 27-year-old Omar Qateen was shot and killed by Israeli police, who initially said that the slain man was armed – a claim refuted by his widow and not repeated in subsequent police statements.
Qateen’s wife said that she was comforted knowing that her husband and father of their two young children died bravely while coming to the aid of others.
Switching from American-accented English – Qateen’s wife and children are reportedly US citizens – to Arabic, the bereaved woman said they needed international protection.
“This is genocide”
That was also the plea from Lafi Adeeb, the mayor of Turmus Aya, after settlers set fire to more than 30 homes in the town, attempting to burn families alive.
“This is genocide, this is a war against us. Settlers carrying weapons and canisters full of fuel attack our small village and set fire to houses over the heads of their inhabitants,” Adeeb told the publication Middle East Eye.
“The attack was large and organized, with full protection and coordination with the Israeli army, which is working against us and protecting them,” Adeeb added.
The widowed wife of Omar Qattin, murdered by terror settler militias in Turmus-Ayya: "He [Omar] died rescuing innocent people and children. He was pulling the children out of the fire, the elderly, the moms, the dads. He rescued everybody except for himself." pic.twitter.com/zcYg8IoF3p
— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) June 23, 2023
It’s now being reported that the person killed during this attack was a US resident married to a US citizen.
The village attacked is 85% Palestinian-Americans according to its mayor.
— Dylan Williams (@dylanotes) June 22, 2023
Together w/ 20+ EU MS and like-minded, we visited #Turmusaya. Shocked by the accounts of 🇵🇸 inhabitants. Our heart goes out to the family of Omar Qateen who lost his life during recent attack by settlers. Perpetrators must be held accountable + protection of civilians ensured. pic.twitter.com/nfWlEpz88R
— Germany in Ramallah (@GerRepRamallah) June 23, 2023
It needs to be made clear that Israeli army and police are active collaborators in settler attacks on Palestinians. They’re not simply “standing by” – they’re facilitating, defending the attackers and shooting any Palestinian attempting self defense https://t.co/os5DhQYxRC
— Haggai Matar (@Ha_Matar) June 24, 2023
Following Wednesday’s violence in Turmus Aya, famously home to many Palestinian Americans, the US Office of Palestinian Affairs said it was “appalled at ongoing settler attacks.”
The office added that it called on Israeli authorities to “protect US and Palestinian civilians, and prosecute those responsible.”
Tom Nides, the US ambassador to Israel, said that “we do not stand and watch settler violence. I’ve been very clear and very specific that we will not stand by.”
In reality, US policy is even worse than doing nothing. Washington provides Israel a floor of $3.8 billion in military aid each year, allowing for the violent colonization of Palestinian land and brutal repression of any and all resistance against it.
This statement is all fine and good, but let's not pretend the US is some neutral observer here. Israeli settlers act as an extension of Israeli military and political goals. The US funds this Israeli terrorism and apartheid with $4 billion of weapons EVERY SINGLE YEAR. https://t.co/B1p3L2OUAS
— Josh Ruebner (@joshruebner) June 22, 2023
Meanwhile, the US shields Israel from accountability at all international fora, including the International Criminal Court, where it opposes the now apparently shelved Palestine investigation.
This impunity breeds the settler rampages that terrorized residents in more than a dozen defenseless Palestinian communities this week, violence explicitly encouraged by Israel’s leaders.
Shocking increase of settler-violence incidents in the occupied #WestBank; on avg., 2/day in 2022, 3/day this year.
Past 3 days alone saw 21 settler attacks against Palestinians & their property, leaving 115 injured, most by ISR forces. Accountability needed for attacks to stop pic.twitter.com/4B7waEhwXX
— Lynn Hastings (@LynnHastings) June 23, 2023
Itamar Ben-Gvir, kingmaker in Benjamin Netanyahu’s fragile coalition government, once again made this clear on Friday when he visited Evyatar, a settlement outpost in the northern West Bank.
This statement from Ben Gvir this morning is worth translating because it encapsulates the leading agenda of the current Israeli government: killing Palestinians and building settlements on behalf of a great ideological mission. pic.twitter.com/3k3zrytvt9
— Nimrod Flaschenberg (@Nimrod_Flash) June 23, 2023
He urged settlers to “run for the hilltops” – harkening back to the identical exhortation made 25 years ago by Ariel Sharon, a notorious war criminal who later became Israel’s prime minister. Ben-Gvir may well hope and expect that he will follow the same path.
“In addition to settling the land,” Ben-Gvir said, “we need a military operation: taking down buildings and killing terrorists.”
“Not one or two, but dozens and hundreds, and if need be thousands!” he said.
“Above all, this is how we will fulfill our great purpose: the land of Israel for the people of Israel,” he added, meaning exclusive Jewish control from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, assuring settlers that “we’ve got your back.”
The 'ideological mission' referred to is political Zionism, a European settler colonial ideology. And Israel's Minister of National Security calling for the massacre of Palestinians and settlement on Palestinian lands is in line with 100+ years of Zionist policy in Palestine. https://t.co/tDZWwwS8CR
— Sam of the Nord (@SamerAbdelnour) June 23, 2023
Ben-Gvir was speaking to settlers at an outpost not authorized by the government, built in May 2021 on land belonging to the Palestinian communities of Beita, Qabalan and Yatma on Jabal Subeih near the northern West Bank city of Nablus.
Since then, several Palestinians have been killed during or in close proximity to protests against the settlement.
Ben-Gvir is honest about the fulfillment of Israel’s state ideology, Zionism – that it requires killing Palestinians and pushing them off of their land.
After all, that is how the state was founded – by militias massacring and terrorizing Palestinians, forcing them to flee and denying their right to return to their land and property. And now the state is being steered by messianic figures like finance minister Bezalel Smotrich who seek to impose Jewish theocratic rule.
I used to feel pretty confident that the international community would step in to stop Israel from committing another wave of ethnic cleansing en masse akin to 1948. Now, I’m not so sure. More importantly, Israel’s leaders are putting ostensible “red lines” to the test. https://t.co/EKScWnaQ9p
— Tariq Kenney-Shawa (@tksshawa) June 23, 2023
Smotrich infamously called for Huwwara, a town near the West Bank city of Nablus, to be “wiped out” after a settler rampage there in February, similar to the one in Turmus Aya this week.
His allies in Netanyahu’s extreme-right coalition are seemingly open to any means of securing Jewish domination in Palestine, including burning children alive in the sanctity of their homes.
The chief of staff in Ben-Gvir’s ministry is Hanamel Dorfman, who was filmed dancing at his 2013 wedding as his guests stabbed and burned photos of Ali Dawabsheh, a Palestinian toddler who was killed along with his parents when settlers firebombed his family’s home.
Ben-Gvir, who provided legal defense for the suspects of the 2015 firebombing attack that killed the Dawabsheh family, was among those in attendance, as was Bentzi Gopstein, one of his advisors. Gopstein’s daughter was the bride whose nuptials were being celebrated at the infamous “wedding of hate.”
Before he started donning suits, Dorfman led the Hilltop Youth, an extremist and religious-nationalist group of Israeli settlers who agitate for a Jewish kingdom from which non-Jews would be expelled.
The ringleader of the attack against the Dawabsheh family home was allegedly part of the Hilltop Youth.
Once on the fringe, Jewish supremacists who venerate Baruch Goldstein, a US-born settler who murdered 29 Palestinian men and boys in Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque in 1994, are now running the Israeli government and have oversight of its police and military forces.
This is Itamar Ben Gvir. He controls Israel’s police.
This is him, today, calling on Israel to kill 1000s of Palestinians, destroy their homes, and steal their land.
He’s one of the most powerful politicians in Israel, and he’s openly calling for Palestinians to be killed. https://t.co/0alxZcrOMj
— IMEU (@theIMEU) June 23, 2023
Settler terror is state terror
Israel tries to maintain the pretense that settler violence is not sanctioned by the state, with its military spokesperson describing this week’s rampages as “very grave,” adding that it hinders the army’s ability to fight “terror.”
The spokesperson has also claimed that the Israeli military – which subjects Palestinians under its rule to total surveillance – had no advance knowledge of the attack by hundreds of settlers in Turmus Aya, despite it being planned in WhatsApp groups and reportedly leaked on social media.
As one Israeli analyst put it, if the military spokesperson’s claim is to be believed (which it shouldn’t be), it doesn’t make sense that Israel wouldn’t know about the plans unless they didn’t want to have prior intelligence.
#Israeli security forces claim to have no knowledge of Israeli settlers launching attacks against #Palestinian persons and property. At the same time, settlers push out massages detailing exact locations of their acts of violent extremism, including setting fire to numerous… pic.twitter.com/J7pA3TC5Ls
— Itay Epshtain (@EpshtainItay) June 21, 2023
In an editorial on Friday, the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz observed that the attack on Turmus Aya “was predictable,” as was the army’s claim of intelligence failure.
“When a failure keeps recurring for decades, it’s clear that the problem isn’t lack of control, but a pattern of behavior and a decision from on high – that is, from the country’s leadership – to allow Israelis to attack Palestinians,” the editorial states.
“There’s no need for explicit orders; it’s enough to know the spirit of the commander.”
While the military seeks to preserve plausible deniability, Ben-Gvir is forthright with the unpalatable truth: Backed by various state apparatuses, settler terror in tandem with brutal military repression (this week that included the first ever military drone strike in the West Bank) is what will secure exclusive Jewish rule from the river to the sea.
Netanyahu has expedited settlement expansion by giving “practically all control over planning approval for construction” in settlements to Smotrich, as reported by The Times of Israel.
This, too, is what annexation looks like.
Recall that the far-right settler leader who is now effectively Israel's civilian governor of the West Bank (Bezalel Smotrich) called for Israel to "wipe out" the Palestinian village of Huwara after the large-scale settler pogrom there. https://t.co/hsfvl2IKmu
— Debra Shushan 🌻 דבורה שושן 🌻 دبرا شوشان (@DrShushan) June 21, 2023
Over the past 48 hours, the oPt has witnessed the establishment of seven new outposts, while no evacuations have been conducted by the IDF.
Terrorist settlers have perpetrated numerous attacks against Palestinian villages during this time, yet no arrests have been made. pic.twitter.com/okY8WwAwzj
— Peace Now (@peacenowisrael) June 23, 2023
Settlers established several new outposts since four Israelis were killed on Tuesday and others are set to be regularized by Netanyahu’s government.
Clarification: those blood thirsty Zionists claim to act in revenge for the death of other Zionist settlers. In reality, they are happy about the deaths & will gladly sacrifice their own children because it'll gives them another excuse to advance their genocidal ideology https://t.co/iqormGwwTg
— Asaf Ronel (@AsafRonel) June 22, 2023
Settler rampage with terror attacks across the West Bank. Israel authorities not only don't stop them…they reward themhttps://t.co/EjRqxWR7Zr
— Lara Friedman (@LaraFriedmanDC) June 23, 2023
Ben-Gvir’s orders are clear: grab the hilltops.
As bad as this week’s settler attacks may have been, the worst is yet to come. And Israel’s powerful friends will be 100 percent complicit, having ignored the pleas from Turmus Aya by answering settler state terror with only empty gestures of toothless solidarity.
Reprinted from Electronic Intifada