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With Fire and Laser Beams, Palestinian Youth Resist New Settlements in the West Bank

Palestinian youth continue their fierce resistance in the wake of the Israeli occupation forces’ recent murders of child protestors. The ongoing demonstrations in the West Bank village of Beita should signal to the world that the youth are not willing to accept the destruction, displacement, and confiscation of their land and lives.

Emma Lee

June 23, 2021
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Photo: Abbas Momani/AFP

In the West Bank, protesters are condemning the latest encroachment upon Palestinian land and livelihood — an illegal settlement outpost in Jabal Sabih in the northern West Bank. According to residents, the occupied hilltop is owned by Palestinian families from the neighboring town of Beita, who rely on harvesting the olive groves there to survive. The outpost sparked regular protests in Beita in early May. Protestors have faced tear gas and live ammunition. Five people have been killed by Israeli forces, including two children: Ahmed Shamsa (age 16) and Mohammed Hamayel (age 15), Zakaria Hamayel (age 28), Tarek Sanawbar (age 27), and Issa Barham (age 42).

The latest protests are happening in the context of a broken ceasefire between Hamas and Israel that went into effect on May 21, which was preceded by massive demonstrations of global solidarity on Nakba Day. Last Wednesday and Thursday (less than a month after the agreement), Israel violated the cease-fire by launching airstrikes which they claimed were aimed at Hamas training camps.

These were the first strikes carried out by the new government led by Neftali Bennett. The new prime minister, a former aide to Benjamin Netanyahu with politics even further to the right, has made no attempt to hide his contempt for Palestinians. He has stated that he would support a “shoot to kill” policy for Gazans — including children — who attempt to cross the border. His agenda toward Palestine is a jingoistic continuation of the status quo: annex ever-greater territory in the West Bank while continuing to isolate it from Gaza.

Despite the ceasefire violation, Hamas has not retaliated. Doing so could bring a disproportionate counterattack by Israeli forces, all while Gaza is still recovering from the May offensive which killed over 200 Palestinians. Indeed, ceasefires do not fundamentally alter the power imbalances involved in what is frequently mislabeled a “conflict”: a US.-backed, heavily militarized settler state decimating an isolated and stateless population, almost half of which is composed of children under the age of 15. 

Yet the Palestinian youth are far from weak. The residents of Beita have held out their protests for five consecutive weeks, and are now reportedly engaging in what are called “night confusion” activities. These include “shining lasers and lights at the illegal settlement, starting fires and amplifying loud noise to prevent the settlers and [Israeli Occupation Forces] from sleeping and getting any rest” in the hopes of forcing them to evacuate. Protesters have also burned tires and played national Palestinian songs on loudspeakers to ensure the settlers don’t get too comfortable.

According to Linah Alsaafin, night confusion activities originated in Gaza Strip, where youth would get as close as possible to the eastern fence and make a ruckus, playing nationalist songs and the Quran on loudspeakers, and releasing “incendiary balloons.” These balloons were used as the pretext for the latest round of Israeli bombings.

The mismatch in resources is stark — the tools that Palestinians must use to defend themselves are wildly inadequate compared to the advanced weaponry employed by Israeli military. As an occupied people, Palestinians have the right to defend themselves by whatever means possible. Importantly, the deficiency of their resources should not be conflated with their spirit. The Palestinian people — and, most powerfully, the youth — continue to demonstrate they are not willing to stop fighting until Palestine is free.

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Emma Lee

Emma is a special education teacher in New York City.

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