“Lynch Mobs”: Palestinians Face Brutal Attacks Inside Israel as Assault on Gaza Escalates

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Televised images of Israeli mobs attacking Palestinians have been widely denounced by Israeli media and public figures, but Palestinian writer Budour Hassan says the selective outrage ignores decades of occupation that have led to this point. “There is some mention of these lynch mobs that are attacking Palestinians in mixed cities. What is not mentioned is who emboldened these lynch mobs. We’re talking about state-sponsored, decades-long discrimination, isolation and erasure that emboldened these groups,” says Hassan, legal researcher for the Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights, who joins us from Nazareth.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: As we’ve reported, at least 83 Palestinians, including 17 children, are dead in Gaza, as Israel continues its assault on the besieged territory as Palestinians mark the end of Ramadan. Israel is now amassing ground troops near Gaza. And inside Israel, Palestinians are fearing for their lives as Israeli mobs attack Arab homes and businesses. This comes as President Biden is giving Israel a green light to continue its assault on Gaza, speaking publicly on it for the first time yesterday.

For more, we’re joined by Budour Hassan, a Palestinian writer and legal researcher for the Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights, who has been out in the streets in Jerusalem.

Can you describe, Budour, the scene on the ground in Jerusalem? We just listened to Mohammed describe Sheikh Jarrah, and we’ve just listened to Issam in Gaza.

BUDOUR HASSAN: Well, since the start of Ramadan, there have been protests all over Jerusalem. They were sparked by Israel’s decision to close off Damascus Gate, steps where Palestinian youth usually gather every night, especially on the nights of Ramadan, because this is a public space that Palestinians have reclaimed over the past decade. And then these protests extended after they forcefully managed to force the Israelis to remove the barriers and the barricades. They extended to reach Sheikh Jarrah. All over Jerusalem, there are protests in different neighborhoods, both in support of Sheikh Jarrah and in support of the people in Gaza.

But in response to these protests, Israel, especially for the last two weeks, has ramped up its mass arrests campaign. They don’t only target Palestinians who have been protesting in the streets; they are also targeting well-known Palestinian activists in an attempt by Israel to deter and to stop, quell this popular movement, that we probably haven’t seen anything like it before. It’s even greater than the movement we’ve seen in 2017 against Israel’s decision to install metal detectors outside Al-Aqsa Mosque, and it’s definitely even greater than the movement we saw in 2014 against the — after the killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a teenager from Shuafat.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Budour, could you talk about the Israeli leadership that’s spearheading this assault? I mean, Netanyahu was on the cusp of being ousted. He’s known as “Mr. Security.” Also, Israel’s new military chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, outlined last year a, quote, “victory doctrine.” What was his role in determining the scale of this assault — and as you say, even more violent than what we’ve seen in the past?

BUDOUR HASSAN: Yeah, Nermeen, it’s not just Netanyahu and Kochavi. It’s also Benny Gantz. Remember last year everyone was hailing Benny Gantz as some sort of a hope for the so-called center-left. And now we hear his rhetoric. Obviously, we know that he was the chief of staff during the war in 2014. So, Aviv Kochavi is just an extension to the doctrine of Israeli occupation forces against Gaza.

But I’d like to highlight the role that Gantz has been playing on escalating the war on Gaza, on threatening that the war will continue until Gaza is leveled. The celebration on Israeli TV whenever a high tower is destroyed by Israeli occupation forces, blatant celebration, as if there are no civilians living there, is just — you see it in every national television channel. Not a single word is said about the children who are killed. Not a single word is said about the infrastructure that is being destroyed. So, it’s just provoked, and there is outright incitement on Israeli national TV.

I’d just like also to highlight the role that Ohana is also playing, who is the internal affairs security minister, in inciting against Palestinians who live in Palestine ’48, which is present-day Israel, especially in inciting against them and labeling all of them as “terrorists,” describing any unarmed protest that has started as a “riot,” and just inciting really every single mayor of mixed cities where Palestinians are a minority in Jewish-dominated cities. These cities obviously were ethnically cleansed in 1948, and Palestinians who live in these mixed cities have, for decades, suffered unbelievable discrimination, state-sponsored discrimination, and erasure of their Palestinian identity.

So, we have been seeing incitement against Palestinians who live in Palestine ’48, who are being demonized and being treated as internal enemy. And the whole rhetoric is just beat them with force, deploy the border police, deploy the — even calls to deploy the army by Netanyahu in mixed cities. So, there is this violent, intimidating and inciting rhetoric all over the Israeli leadership, and especially on the Israeli national media.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the violence that’s spreading across Israel with Jewish mobs attacking Palestinians in mixed Jewish and Arab communities. In the Israeli city of Haifa, a video was posted online showing an Israeli mob trying to break into the home of an Arab family. And then you had what happened in another community, as well, in a Tel Aviv suburb, and this was caught live on Israeli television, a Palestinian — a Jewish mob taking people, Israeli extremist settlers breaking shops in the suburb, another harrowing video showing ultranationalist Israelis dragging a man they believed to be an Arab from his car and beating him mercilessly. It turned out he was Jewish. On the one hand, you have the Israeli media, some that have been critical of Israel, joining in supporting Israel in bombing Gaza, but on the other hand, you have the Israeli media talking about lynch mobs, because they’re showing this live on TV as settlers are caught on television chanting “Death to Arabs” and dragging Arabs out of their cars, or people they perceive to be that.

BUDOUR HASSAN: To add to what you said, Amy — although I just would like to correct one thing: Haifa is a Palestinian city. And this is the identity that Israel has been trying to erase since 1948.

But, yes, and to add to what you said, there has been buses bringing settlers from the occupied West Bank to the territories occupied in 1948 to aid these Jewish mobs in attacking Palestinians. Just to remind you, last week, when Palestinian worshipers tried to reach Al-Aqsa Mosque, their buses were blocked from reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque, so they had to walk to Jerusalem by foot. And people in Jerusalem had to bring their cars in order to help these people who were blocked and were prevented from reaching Jerusalem. On the other hand, we see how these settler groups are organizing on Facebook and on social media. And the Israeli police knows all about them and has allowed them to run riots in these cities, and especially in these mixed cities.

And even though, yes, indeed, there is some mention of these lynch mobs that are attacking Palestinians in mixed cities, what is not mentioned is who emboldened these lynch mobs. We’re talking about state-sponsored, decades-long discrimination, isolation and erasure that emboldened these groups. We’re talking about a myth that we’ve always had about so-called coexistence in these mixed cities. Now, what we’re seeing right now is toppling this myth, because it proves that whenever something really — an explosion happens of violence, we see the true face of the Israeli state, which is supporting or being complicit with these attacks against Palestinians. This happened, to remind you, in 2000, when the Israeli police killed 13 unarmed Palestinian protesters who were protesting in solidarity with Jerusalem and with the Palestinian Second Intifada. So these attacks are not new.

And the new dimension is the ease with which these settlers are allowed to run riot, is the justification that we hear on Israeli TV, although it’s criticizing the lynch mob. But on the other hand, it’s using previous attacks by — unspontaneous, to say — by other Palestinians, in order to justify these responses and this retaliation and reprisals. These reprisals by Israeli Jewish mobs against Palestinians are not at all spontaneous. They’re absolutely organized. These settler groups are directly and strongly supported by the Israeli state, and they have representation in the Knesset. And they are represented by far-right parties, Jewish parties, in the Knesset, as well.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Budour, could you also talk about the significance of so many Israeli Arabs joining these protests?

BUDOUR HASSAN: Again, to correct the terminology, I’m sorry, we are Palestinians, not Israeli Arabs. And again, this was one of Israel’s efforts, since 1948, to assimilate us, to erase our identity and to tell us that we are not Palestinians, as an attempt to silence us and to separate us and isolate us from the Palestinian people.

And what we are seeing right now — and Mohammed has mentioned it always very eloquently — is that we’re challenging decades-long colonial fragmentation. We are redefining the geography of Palestine, and we’re redefining the cause. I mean, when I see Palestinians in Nazareth chant for Jerusalem in one voice, in unison, I see the same in Haifa, I hear the same in Jaffa. I hear how Palestinian youth, who had probably never come to Jerusalem before, go on their own to Jerusalem in order to join the protests in Sheikh Jarrah. Not only is it heartwarming, it says that for so long Israel has tried to fragment us and to isolate us and to erase our identity, and despite all the budgets that have been spent for that, despite all the efforts, including intimidation, revenge and arrests and so on, especially after 2000 and the Second Intifada in 2000, when Israel has tried to divide the Palestinian community from within by letting free and letting loose gangs, by spreading weapons and by convincing people that our social and economic cause is somehow separate from the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, and to see that despite all this, for so many years, that the Palestinian people, whenever something happens in Gaza and Jerusalem, they take to the streets.

But what’s happening this time, in particular, I think, in a sense, it’s unprecedented. Sometimes we tend to be — to exaggerate, to be taken away and taken aback, obviously, because we are so emotionally involved in what’s going on. But really it’s something unprecedented, because despite all the repression that these protesters have faced, they’re continuing. And now they know that their cause, as the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, is inseparable from the Palestinian cause, from the cause of the right of return.

And now, just in two days, on Saturday, we will mark the anniversary of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948. And what we are seeing now, and one of the most popular chants, actually, in these marches, in these protests in support of Jerusalem, Sheikh Jarrah and Gaza, is “I’m returning.” And to see that this young generation, this third generation or even fourth generation to the Nakba, is still insisting, “I will return. I have not relinquished my right of return,” it says so much about their resilience. It’s not just a cliché. It’s truly we’re seeing being implemented this incredible resilience and steadfastness by the Palestinians, that no matter how much we’ve been forced to forget and been forced to be isolated from our people, we continue to act as though this had never happened, and we continue to insist on our right to be called Palestinians and to support our sisters and brothers all over the Palestinian diaspora and all over Palestine.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Budour, how do you even protect yourself when you go outside?

BUDOUR HASSAN: Well, I mean, obviously, I have — I’m very fortunate to have the most amazing comrades and friends in the world, so I know, whenever you’re in the streets, you’re never alone. So, I have the most amazing women and men in the world, young women and men, supporting me. Obviously, it’s always a danger for anyone, by the way, because the Israeli police doesn’t discriminate. But I know that it’s my right and my duty as Palestinian to take to the streets and to participate. Like so many Palestinians, I’ve been — and all Palestinian protesters, whether they’re women, whether they’re men, whether they’re elderly, whether they’re children, have had to suffer the oppression and the violence of the Israeli police. But, you know, when you are in the street, when you’re chanting and raising your voice, there is something — and that’s the most amazing thing, and it always gives me goosebumps. Whenever you are in the street and you’re raising your voice against injustice and for freedom and liberation, really, the last thing you think about is fear.

AMY GOODMAN: Budour Hassan, I want to thank you for being with us, Palestinian writer, legal researcher for the Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights.

When we come back, we stay in Jerusalem to speak with Nathan Thrall, author of The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel an Palestine. And he’ll tell us about this New York Review of Books piece he wrote, that was passed around Congress even before this latest Israeli assault, called “A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: One man’s quest to find his son lays bare the reality of Palestinian life under Israeli rule.” Stay with us.

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