What happened in Huwara was neither new nor unusual.
Earlier this month, Israeli settlers set fire to the Palestinian town of Huwara, near Nablus, in what many described as a pogrom. Sameh Aqtesh, a 37-year-old Palestinian father of five, was shot dead, dozens injured and many homes and businesses destroyed. Since then there have been successive attacks on the city and adjacent areas.
The Western media has taken an interest, but has portrayed what happened in Huwara as a matter of a draw between Palestinians and Israeli settlers. As a result, coverage of the pogrom in the West ignored not only months of escalating settler violence, but also the realities of Zionist colonialism.
Supposedly liberal Zionists and Israelis who consider themselves on the left side of the political spectrum also expressed interest in Huwara. Since the pogrom dozens of Israeli activists descended into the city to demonstrate. A small minority of the tens of thousands of Israelis who attended the “pro-democracy” protests against the coalition government’s reform plans have also uttered anti-occupation slogans in the aftermath of the attack on Huwara. Others have begun to write publicly about the shame of what happened and are currently claiming that “To love Israel is to condemn it”. “This is of concern to Judaism around the world,” said British Jewish historian Simon Schama. “It’s absolutely, utterly horrifying.” Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence — “a noble document, promising equal civil rights to all religious and ethnic groups” — had fallen apart, he said.
For these Israelis and Zionists, what happened in Huwara is simply seen through the prism of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition government. In other words, as a regrettable symptom of the Israeli regime’s shift to the right and the inevitable encouragement of Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
This is an amazingly misleading view of reality.
Indeed, portraying Israeli settlers in the West Bank as completely separate and inherently different from the rest of Israel is a demonstration of cognitive dissonance par excellence. You don’t have to dig that deep to discover that the burning of Palestinian villages is not a new tactic in the Zionist playbook, but rather a core feature.
In 1948, the year of the Nakba, more than 450 Palestinian towns and cities were wiped off the map by Zionist militias and as a result, 800,000 Palestinians were forced into exile. Indeed massacres like those in Deir Yassin and Tantura remain etched in the Palestinian collective memory.
Today, some of the Israeli regime’s most important landmarks are located where Palestinian sites once stood, from Tel Aviv University to Ben Gurion Airport. Many of the Israeli activists who came to demonstrate in Huwara came from their homes, hipster bars and artisan bakeries in Tel Aviv, atop devastated Palestinian villages. Far from Schama’s description of a noble document, the Israeli Declaration of Independence institutionalized Zionist colonialism and the destruction of Palestine.
In the decades following the Nakba, the destruction of Palestinian villages remained a central part of the Israeli regime. In 1967, when it conquered the West Bank and Gaza Strip, more villages were wiped out and once again hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced into exile. In the old city of Jerusalem, an entire neighborhood – the Maghreb district – was leveled to the ground. The year 1967 also marked the beginning of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, led by an Israeli Labor government, not a right-wing government, as some might have thought.
While the discourse of the far right in recent years has undoubtedly led to more attacks by settlers on Palestinians in the West Bank, such as the one in 2015 when Israeli settlers raided the village of Duma, south of Nablus, and set fire to the home of the Dawabsheh family killing an 18-month-old Palestinian baby – erasing the Palestinian people is the essence of the Israeli regime. Separating the actions of settlers in the West Bank from the rest is an attempt to hide the reality of Israeli colonialism, which exists from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Therefore, the pogrom in Huwara should be understood as a simple continuation of a settler’s colonial legacy.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial view of Al Jazeera.