Racist settler lynch mobs are the true face of Israel

Racist settler lynch mobs are the true face of Israel
Emboldened by the far-right government, Jewish settler violence against Palestinians reveals the real nature of Israel, and is reminiscent of white mob lynchings during the Jim Crow era in the US, writes Richard Sudan.
6 min read
25 Apr, 2023
Palestinians inspect a destroyed truck loaded with citrus after being set on fire by Jewish settlers during an attack against Palestinian property in the occupied West Bank. [Getty]

As vigilante settler violence continues to run rampant in Israel, the silence from Western politicians and mainstream media is simply deafening.

Political leaders are quick to condemn the year-long Russian occupation of Ukraine, and wholeheartedly support sanctions on Russia, but have nothing to say on Israel’s seven-decade occupation of Palestinian land.

In the face of unspeakable violence, with countless Palestinians already killed this year at the hands of occupation forces, both Israel and Israel’s backers, in the face of all the evidence, continue to shamelessly prop up a rogue illegitimate regime intent on annihilating Palestinians, led by one of the most hard-line right-wing and ruthless governments in recent history.

Most won’t even have heard about the crazed settler lynch mobs terrorising Palestinians on a daily basis, which itself is by no means a new phenomenon.

Recently armed Israeli extremists have been roaming the West Bank and Jerusalem hunting for easy targets, as was the case recently when a Palestinian family in a car were set upon by a pack of racists. Luckily, the family escaped before any serious harm occurred.

Away from the propaganda meekly offered by Israeli leaders to justify the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, the reality is that Israel’s Jewish settler mobs are no different to the lynch mobs in the United States that terrorise black people. In fact, they seem to be inspired by them.

As was, and is, the case in the US, racist mobs intent on violence are not an aberration of the state, but a direct product of it and its messaging. In Palestine, settler violence on the ground is being greenlighted by Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel’s security minister, a racist and provocative far-right extremist loathed even by many Israelis. 

Much like a racist power-drunk Sheriff in one of America’s dangerous sundown towns, Ben Gvir represents the law while actively encouraging Israelis to break it. He never misses the chance to be physically present when there is an opportunity to humiliate and provoke Palestinians.

Even before he was part of the ruling coalition, Ben Gvir and his minions were already provoking violence, famously storming the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem and pulling a gun on residents.

Ben Gvir and his team also stormed the Al Aqsa Mosque compound earlier this year, one of the most sacred and reverential places of worship for Muslims, during Ramadan.

Aside from the poisonous rhetoric he spews on a daily basis, it is not too far-fetched to wonder to what extent Ben Gvir is directly involved in organising the violence against Palestinians. In any other country, a security minister behaving as he has would trigger swift action and a revocation of his official position.

This is Israel, however, where human rights abuses are swept under the rug as soon as they happen. Western leaders are faster to send funding and roll out the red carpet for war criminals than to address the apartheid and ethnic cleansing taking place, which shatter any illusion that Israel is the one democracy in the Middle East surrounded by hostile neighbours.

"As was, and is, the case in the US, racist mobs intent on violence are not an aberration of the state, but a direct product of it and its messaging"

If there are shared values between the UK, the US and Israel, they are values of colonisation and conquest, and a commitment to land theft.

If the US shares a characteristic with Israel, it is the pastime of settler violence and racism, with a ramshackle democracy at the helm – something which even Israelis, silent on Palestinian oppression while being vocal about their corrupt government, are currently protesting about.

There’s another twist to the story of settler violence in Israel, led by chief Palestinian provocateur Ben Gvir, which many or most will not know about.

In 2015, Ben Gvir was filmed in celebration with a group of extremist settlers, one of which can be seen clutching a placard picturing a Palestinian infant.

The baby was called Ali Dawabsheh, who was 18 months old when he was murdered by a settler firebomb attack on his family’s home in the village of Duma. Baby Ali burned to death in the attack while his parents died of injuries weeks later.

The video of settlers celebrating with a picture of a dead baby is no different to the postcards of lynched and burned black people that were circulated and sold following white mob lynchings in the US.

Not only is Ben Gvir gleefully pictured with a group celebrating the death of a baby, but he even at the time defended the killer Amiram Ben-Uliel in court.

At the court proceedings, the grandfather of Ali Dawabsheh, Hussein Dawabsheh, was taunted by Israeli settlers who reportedly chanted "Where's Ali? There's no Ali. Ali is burned. On the fire. Ali is on the grill".

This is the true face of apartheid Israel, freely allowed to operate as it pleases, comfortable in the knowledge that the US will continue to send billions of dollars each year and knowing that it will not be held to any standard of international law and accountability that the West loves to invoke only when suited to a specific political agenda.

Itamar Ben Gvir and the violent vigilante mobs he emboldens are the perfect representation of what Israel really is: a violent settler colonial enterprise with the objective of ethnically cleansing Palestinians to steal their land and resources.

If ever there was a time to rally and demand our leaders pull the diplomatic and financial plug on Israel the time is now.

Just like South Africa in the 90’s, the Israeli apartheid regime must be starved of oxygen, crippled, sanctioned and boycotted. Lynch mobs and vigilante settlers running wild in Palestine are no different than the likes of the Klu Klux Klan seeking to act as judge, jury and executioner. 

Nobody should be forced to live in such dangerous and abusive conditions, especially the Palestinians who remain trapped and persecuted in their native homeland.

Richard Sudan is a journalist and writer specialising in anti-racism and has reported on various human rights issues from around the world. His writing has been published by The Guardian, Independent, The Voice and many others.

Follow him on Twitter: @richardsudan

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.