North Africa, West Asia: Opinion

Israeli mobs attacking Palestinians are part of the occupation policy

To achieve justice for those in Palestine, the world must stop equating the oppressed and the oppressor

Abir Kopty
17 May 2021, 11.33am
Right-wing protesters march with Israeli flags in the mixed Israeli-Arab city of Lydd
Oren Ziv/dpa/Alamy Live News

On Thursday, a Palestinian friend wrote on Facebook: “Apartheid is when you’re afraid to go out to work because you’re an Arab.”

Palestinians in Israel have been in a state of terror for days. Countless images and videos show settler mobs and Israeli police attacking Palestinians.

It all started when Palestinians took to the streets to rise against their forced displacement in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem and the attacks on people praying in the Al-Aqsa mosque. The protests were unprecedented, spreading across numerous cities and villages including the so-called ‘mixed’ cities, where both Palestinians and Israelis live.

The scale and spread of the protests shocked the Israeli public, who thought that decades-long policies of taming those Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship, by detaching them from their identity and political consciousness, had worked. But the events of the past week clearly demonstrate that they hadn’t..

This realisation called for immediate intervention; how dare these people stand up for their dignity?

In most cases, Palestinians took their anger out against the gentrification of their neighborhoods and cities, and the privileges they are denied. They attacked Israelis and Israeli homes, particularly in mixed cities, where they have been enduring harsh policies of Judaization, discrimination and state violence for decades.

Immediately, incitement against the Palestinian community escalated in the Israeli media and among politicians. The message was that if Palestinians dare stand up, they should be punished. A prominent journalist at Channel 12 wrote on Twitter: “The fact is that the Arab rioters in Lydd are not counting their dead this morning – no containment and no restraint but rather blindness and fear. The fact that a Jew who shot a rioter yesterday to protect his family is still in custody should shake the country.”


Right-wing activists, as well as settler mobs backed by right-wing organizations such as Im Tirtzu or La Familia, started organizing. They were well prepared – they had been attacking Palestinians in Jerusalem, including in Sheikh Jarrah, quite frequently lately.

Over the past week, pogroms against Palestinians took place in several places including Jaffa, Akka, Haifa, Lydd and Tiberyas. Mobs lynched Palestinians, attacked homes, and destroyed businesses – all amid chants of “death to Arabs”.

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The attacks escalated and spread. On WhatsApp and other social media platforms, messages circulated calling on Israelis to gather at certain points, at certain times, equipped with weapons, batons, knives and so on, and to be prepared to kill. One message on WhatsApp read, "we will stab every Arab we will see".

In Bat Yam, a Jewish settlement near Tel Aviv, a Palestinian was beaten by tens of unstoppable settlers and was later hospitalized in severe condition. A Palestinian home in Jaffa was firebombed and the children, who luckily survived, suffered from burns all over their bodies. In Haifa and other places, settlers reportedly started marking Arab houses with red paint for later attacks.

The violence of the oppressed is a reaction to oppression

Video footage documented horrifying scenes of violence and terror. However, what was even more horrifying, yet not surprising, is the way mobs were emboldened by the Israeli police. Footage from Jaffa shows extremists throwing stones at Palestinians while seemingly being protected by police. Another video, from Umm-al Fahm, shows police forces attacking Palestinian cars.

Palestinian residents in Lydd documented how, while they were subjected to curfew, armed settlers roamed their city, allegedly under the eyes of the police.

Many Palestinians called the mob violence of the past week ‘the Kristallnacht’, referring to the Nazi pogroms against Jews carried out by German paramilitary forces and civilians throughout Nazi Germany on the night of 9-10 November 1938.

It was yet another sour reminder, that the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948 has never really ended, and the threat to our existence as Palestinians continues.

Oppressor and oppressed

Amid all the horror, Palestinians were subjected to media narratives describing the violence as a battle between two equal sides. Such narratives are in fact one-sided and amount to victim-blaming.

One cannot equate the violence of the oppressed to the violence of the oppressor. The former is deployed in order to achieve liberation, while the latter is attempting to achieve domination. The violence of the oppressed is a reaction to oppression.

The reality is that on the one hand, there are fully armed settlers serving a powerful state. They are deployed side by side with security forces to terrorize and crack down on a popular unarmed uprising of people who cannot call the police for help when they are attacked even if their taxes fund it. Israeli police hostility to Palestinian citizens is well documented by many human rights organizations.

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It is a long and tough night. We cannot sleep. The house feels like it is shaking. We are all afraid

When you deprive people of power and oppress them for so long, it should be of no surprise that, without any means to defend themselves, they will fight back. It is about time to stop telling Palestinians to stop being angry, when the international community has done nothing to support them in their pursuit of justice.

If you want to do justice to Palestinians, now is the time to stop equating the oppressed and the oppressor, and to raise your voice against settler-colonial crimes, in support of people’s right to dignity and freedom.

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