A crisis is occurring in the northern West Bank. Since April, Israel has made constant military raids, especially into the cities of Jenin and Nablus, arresting over 2,000 Palestinians. On September 28, Israeli soldiers entered the Jenin refugee camp with dozens of armored SUVs and killed four men.
On September 5, 400 soldiers invaded Jenin and destroyed the home of the family of Raed Hazem, who had carried out a shooting in Tel Aviv five months earlier in which he killed three Israeli men in a bar and was killed by police. Although Hazem’s family lived in a building with 29 apartments, the Israeli army (IDF) forced everyone out of the building and detonated a bomb inside it. They shot Mohammad Sabaaneh dead as he live-streamed the raid.
Jenin is where journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in May by one of 16 shots from a distance while she stood in the open with other reporters, in daylight, wearing a vest identifying her as a member of the press. The Israeli government has finally admitted that an IDF soldier presumably shot her, but, incredibly, maintains that it was a mistake.
A wave of low-intensity armed rebellion has emerged against the occupation forces. A September 13 op-ed in Haaretz was titled “IDF’s Dilemma: Step Back and Allow PA to Crack Down on Violence, or Escalate?” The authors dismissed physical resistance against occupying armed forces as “terror or violent protests” but expressed satisfaction that right now there are “no widespread demonstrations.” This comment betrays Zionist fear of the kind of mass protest that occurred in May 18, 2021, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinian workers and shopkeepers, acting independently of Fatah and Hamas in a one-day political strike, stopped worksites and shops and marched in the West Bank, Jerusalem, Israel, and Gaza in protest of the air war against Gaza.
The Israeli government says there have been over 140 shootings at soldiers and settlers in the West Bank in 2022. Recently, three Palestinian relatives shot up a bus carrying members of an IDF brigade in the northern Jordan Valley, wounding six soldiers and the driver. A Haaretz writer states, “When the army enters [Jenin and Nablus], it often encounters dozens or hundreds of armed young people, but the Israelis’ use of armored vehicles has kept [their] casualties low.” The Shin Bet internal intelligence head said, “We have entered a sort of closed circle. Our people are making arrests every night, and are coming under fire.”
In fact, on September 8, outside Ramallah, an Israeli soldier shot dead a 17-year-old Palestinian who allegedly attacked him carrying a hammer and a knife. IDF forces raiding a refugee camp near Tubas shot dead a Palestinian whom they say threw a Molotov cocktail at them. Photos show youth throwing stones at armored cars during raids.
But there are also some newly formed, loosely organized groups of rebels armed with what guns they can obtain striking back at Israeli forces in Jenin and Nablus. Recently, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both reported on the new armed organization in Nablus named Arin al-Asoud (Den of the Lions) after 18-year-old member Ibrahim al-Nabulsi was killed by Israeli special forces disguised in civilian clothes and wielding rocket launchers. The Times reported that the group has shot at Israeli army checkpoints and is entrenched openly within Nablus’s Old City. The Journal reported on a 20-year-old member, Mohammad, who said, “We resorted to arms because there is no alternative. We waited for so long to see the peace that they have been calling for but the result is more killings and more checkpoints and more settlements.” Mohammad said he was jailed by Israel at the age of 12 for three months for throwing stones at Israeli forces. A photo of his assault rifle shows it to a be an IDF weapon made in the U.S. that fell into the Palestinian rebels’ hands.
Israeli soldiers and police have killed about 100 Palestinians in the West Bank 2022. Palestinian fighters acting in the West Bank have killed two soldiers and one border cop.
Haaretz has continually reported public and anonymous statements of Israeli officials on this crisis. The IDF chief of staff, the head of the Shin Bet, and government figures giving off-the-record interviews all explain the situation, as one columnist sums up, “as a result of the PA’s weakening grip.” In other words, the Israeli government is annoyed that the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas does not disarm, arrest, and halt the rebels in Jenin and Nablus. But Israel knows that the PA is losing authority.
Israeli officials spoke about three potential actions: to assist the Palestinian economy by allowing a larger number of West Bank Palestinians to do mostly low-wage work inside Israel proper (where wages are three to 15 times higher), to give funding to the PA, or to launch what they politely call a “limited military operation.”
One State with Two Main Territorial Sections
The separation of Israel and the West Bank is a political fiction. They are two sections of one Zionist state in Palestine. The Israeli town of Ariel, with 30,000 residents, is located virtually in the center of the West Bank. The IDF exercises full control over the rural Jordan Valley, nearly a third of the West Bank land area, thus completely surrounding the territory. Gaza, with 2 million people locked in a territory smaller than Chicago, is a ghetto of the Zionist state. What one Haaretz commentator refers to as “the growing fusion of Israel and the territories” has already created one state, which contains special zones with varying political rules. According to geographer Arnon Soffer working at Haifa University and for the IDF Staff College, the population of this whole territory includes just under 47 percent Jews and just over 50 percent Palestinians.
Israel controls migration and travel into (and out of) the West Bank. In addition to controlling border crossing points with “Israel proper,” Israel controls the West Bank border with Jordan and its only official crossing, the Allenby/Hussein Bridge. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a department of the Israeli Defense Ministry, controls all visa applications of foreigners to enter and reside in the West Bank, including even foreign spouses of Palestinians and professors invited to Palestinian universities. This military bureaucracy is the actual governing body of the West Bank in all matters, from immigration to land ownership to construction.
In 2000 the Israeli government demanded to annex settlements on 9 percent of the territory of the West Bank before it would agree to a Palestinian mini-state. Today, there are 670,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This settler minority lives under a different citizenship and legal regime from those of their nearest neighbors. composing just 20 percent of the overall West Bank population, a proportion equal to the Palestinian minority among Israeli citizens. Israel and the West Bank are not separate political entities but two segments of one state, one of which is ruled via COGAT based on the physical fact of the IDF.
What about the Palestinian Authority? The PA last held a presidential election in 2005 and a parliamentary election in 2006. Hamas won the latter by 44 percent against 41 percent for the ruling Fatah party, with a lopsided majority of seats. The U.S. and EU refused to recognize the resulting Hamas government. In 2007 there was a small-scale civil war that completely separated Gaza and the West Bank.
For the last 15 years there has been no parliament in the West Bank. PA president Mahmoud Abbas, now 87, has made laws and appointments by decree. His elected term expired in 2009, but he remained in office and is evidently president for life.
Recently, when the Palestinian Bar Association called a protest against presidential decree rule, riot police blocked the lawyers from approaching the prime minister’s building. In 2021 a squad of PA police entered the home of blogger and politician Nizar Banat, who accused the PA of systemic corruption, in the middle of the night, and beat him to death.
The PA governor of Nablus told the Wall Street Journal, “Israel wants us to be a weak tool in their hands.” Haaretz reports Israel directly controls the amount of weaponry it permits the PA to import.
As some Palestinians in the northern West Bank undertake armed resistance, the Israeli government plans to double the size of the Har Gilo settlement south of Jerusalem and just inside the West Bank border with a new neighborhood of 560 houses. Israel would almost completely surround the adjacent Palestinian town of Walaja (where COGAT prohibits new housing construction) with a 20-foot-tall fence.
COGAT is also moving to legalize a majority of the unofficial settlements called farm outposts. According to Haaretz, pioneering sheep farms set up by the Israeli settler movement in rural zones under IDF occupation control 4 percent of the territory of the West Bank. COGAT is moving to officially legalize most of them, arguing that it has jurisdiction over all public land in the West Bank.
The Left in the United States must study the reality of what Israel’s ongoing occupation. It must break completely with the Democratic Party. Joe Biden, who kept the U.S. Israel embassy in Jerusalem where Donald Trump moved it, has fully supported the Israeli state through this year of raids and even the murder of Abu Akleh.
We must draw political attention to Israel’s ongoing acts of aggression and de facto annexation. Let us demand the unconditional release of the arrested Palestinian fighters who fired on the bus carrying IDF soldiers in the Jordan Valley.
On September 22, Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid gave a speech at the UN saying he wants “an agreement with the Palestinians [for] two states for two peoples.”
There is already, after decades of conquest and humiliation of the Palestinians, one Zionist state in Palestine. That state should be overthrown, dismantled, and replaced with a multiethnic, democratic, secular state. This is possible through resistance by the Palestinian masses, class struggle, and revolution in the larger countries of the Middle East, and working-class socialist solidarity in all countries.