People still pretend that Palestine is made of the West Bank ghettos and that Ramallah is the capital of Palestine. Some people remember that there is the Gaza Strip too, but it’s a lost cause because Hamas is in control there, they choose not to pretend that it, along with the two million people in it, doesn’t exist. However, try as they may, they cannot avoid the reality that Palestine borders Syria and Lebanon in the north and the Gulf of Aqaba in the south. It stretches from the River Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the West.
Israeli politicians know that this is the case, and therefore they are hard at work to “Judaize” East Jerusalem, the Galilee and the Naqab, all of which are heavily populated by Palestinians. The existence of Palestinians outside of the West Bank Ghettos and the Gaza Strip make it very difficult to pretend they do not exist.
A tweet by Israeli Minister of Finance, the racist, Palestinian hater and homophobe, Bezalel Smotrich tweeted that his office will extend tax breaks and offer incentives to residents of Akka and Tabariya. These two cities, according to Smotrich, are part of the “northern periphery” and deal with “serious demographic challenges.” This is code for areas that have a large Palestinian population and/or poor Israeli Jews of Arab descent. Therefore, Smotrich adds, they need incentives in order to attract a “strong population.” But what does “strong population” possibly mean? Just as in any other settler colonial environment, the term “strong population” refers to white people, people of European, and, in this case, Jewish origin. Donald Trump is not the only one who believes there are “shithole countries.”
Akka is still relatively heavily Palestinian, even though for decades the Israeli government has been investing in schools and housing for Jewish settlers. Still, with all this and the city’s incomparable beauty, it is not considered attractive enough to attract a “strong population.”
In 1948 Tabariya had been subjected to a thorough campaign of ethnic cleansing, and so its original Palestinian population is long gone. The “weak population,” in Tabariya today are mostly Israeli Jews of the lowest socio-economic levels. These are people whose parents came from Arab countries or the former Soviet Union. This beautiful city which sits on Lake Tabariya is a great place for the “strong population” to come for a short vacation, but not a place fit enough for them to live in.
Coincidentally, both of these cities were part of the legacy of Dhaher Al-Umar Al-Zaidani. He ruled over most of Palestine for most of the eighteenth century. Dhaher established Tabariya as a city, and although Akka was already an established port for centuries, he made it into his center of power and it became an economic powerhouse. Along with much of Palestine under his rule, both these cities prospered. So it is interesting that now, under the Zionist rule they are both considered “periphery,” which means underdeveloped and undesirable – and in need of a boost of “strong population.”
Smotrich has on many occasions made fun of Palestinian names. He likes to point to names like “Masri” and say, “You are from Masr, (Egypt in Arabic), so go live there.” He conveniently ignored it when I tweeted back to him and reminded him that as his name suggests, he is from Smotrich, a town in Ukraine, and so naturally he should go back to live there. But Ukrainian Smotrich is “strong” whereas anything that is Arab, even if it is Jewish, is weak and undesirable.
New sheriff in action
Itamar Ben-Gvir, another renowned racist who is arguably the most popular politician in Israel today, has made his presence known in many ways. In January 2023, his armed police stopped the Jordanian Ambassador from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque – the third-holiest site in Islam. The Ambassador was on his way to pray, as he had done many times before, but this time Ben-Gvir sent him a clear message: While Jordan might be the formal custodian of the Holy Sanctuary, as far as Ben-Gvir is concerned, he is the one and only boss and the place is his to rule. The ambassador was pushed and shoved and rudely made to leave.
Now Ben-Gvir has issued new orders in regard to “benefits” that Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails “enjoy.” The first was closing down the bakeries that had operated in the prisons and offered fresh bread to inmates. “It is time to end the summer camp that terrorists enjoy in prison,” Ben-Gvir said in a video as he enjoyed fresh pita bread. “No more fresh lafa (another name for Pita) for terrorists!”
The latest order has to do with showers. The all powerful minister decreed that prisoners will have no more than four minutes to shower, after which the water will be shut off. One can bet safely that this will bring about a strong reaction from prisoners and their family members and supporters. Ben-Gvir knows this, and there can be little doubt he will use that as an opportunity and use all the means in his power to violently and mercilessly suppress any Palestinian reaction.
The edge of a precipice
Palestine stands at the edge of a precipice, and although this may result in some loss of life of Israelis, it is they who will suffer the brunt of the bloodshed. As Secretary of State Blinken and members of the U.S. congress sit idly around, more images of violence against Palestinians surface. The latest video came up just as these words were being written. Palestinian human rights defender, Issa Amro from Hebron, Al-Khalil was attacked, thrown on the cement and kicked by an Israeli soldier.
Soldiers are rewarded by settlers for their brutality towards Palestinians. Knowing how poorly they are paid and treated in general, and knowing how miserable the conditions in which soldiers live, the settlers are known to reward the soldiers that abuse Palestinians. This latest attack is arguably one case in which the soldier knew he would be rewarded. In a country where violence against Palestinians is rewarded, what may Palestinians expect moving forward?
Feature photo | Images by the Associated Press | Editing by MintPress News
Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”
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