I suspect Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to be Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s true friend. It is his continuing atrocities against the Syrian populace that have completely diverted the world’s attention from the continued acts of aggression and land usurpation by Netanyahu’s government against the Palestinian people.
Netanyahu must be counting his blessings that Al Assad had provided the much-needed diversion during Netanyahu’s tenure to enable him to transform all of the occupied Palestinian land into a Zionist enclave. By the time he would get through, the damage would have already been done.
Recently, more illegal colonies in Israel gained legitimacy without much protests on the world stage. The government decided to legalise these outposts in the West Bank in spite of their illegitimacy. The outposts which included Bruchin, Rechelim and Sansana have had no legal standing since they were created out of usurped lands. According to government sources, a ministerial committee “decided to formalise the status of three communities which were established in the 1990s, following the decisions of past governments”.
Netanyahu’s spokesman said “the committee’s decision does not change the reality on the ground nor does it establish new colonies or expand existing colonies”. However, peace activists in Israel, who are close to the action, were not so easily fooled. Hagit Ofran of the Israeli colony watchdog, Peace Now, denounced Netanyahu’s government for encouraging and legitimising new colonies “in a deceitful way”. In a reported statement, she said: “The Israeli government is proving its true policy, that instead of going to peace, it is building new coloniess. This is the first time since 1990 that the government of Israel decides on establishing new colonies, and the government’s manoeuvre, of establishing a committee to establish the colonies, is a trick aimed at hiding the true policy from the public. All the years these outposts weren’t legal, the state said they aren’t for real, and now they suddenly are.”
While these subtle changes were taking place in the legislative journals of Netanyahu’s government, with the intention of bringing respectability and legitimacy to illegal colony outposts, which the international community has viewed as unlawful, the Palestinian people were not spared of colonists’ atrocities either.
A Palestinian man was seriously injured in the West Bank town of Hebron after some Jewish colonists barged into his home and beat him up. According to an eyewitness who took 41-year-old Marwan Burkan to the hospital: “Several Israeli colonists came and knocked on his door and beat him up at this house in Hebron and told him to vacate under threat of more terror.” On hearing about the incident, Palestinians gathered in large numbers outside Burkan’s house to protest this latest in a series of never-ending incidents, but, Israeli soldiers used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Hebron houses several illegal colony enclaves that keep expanding in size and population of Jewish colonists with the passage of time.
In another incident aimed at terrorising Palestinian homeowners and convincing them to desert their lands, several vehicles were burnt and the neighbourhood mosque was defaced with graffiti in Deir Istiya, a Palestinian village a few kilometres southwest of Nablus, by colonists. One terrified homeowner, who is also the village chief recalls: “Three colonists came in a red car with Israeli plates around 1.40am and wrote inflammatory and hateful words on the wall of the mosque. They poured [some] liquid on the cars and set them affire and then quickly drove off.” He added that Deir Istiya was “surrounded by nine colonies” and periodically came under such attack by colonists.
Among the vile expressions on the mosque walls was ‘Death to the enemy, freedom for the homeland, price tag Migron, vengeance against Arabs, regards from those banished’. ‘Price tag’ is a phrase used for hate crimes by Israeli extremists with Palestinians and Arabs being the obvious targets. Although the Israeli police claim to track down criminals, the perpetrators are rarely caught. Before that incident, a Palestinian and his eight-month-old son were killed when their car went off the road after it was stoned by Jewish colonists.
The colonists also spew venom at Christian residents. Earlier this month, they defaced a Franciscan monastery in occupied Jerusalem, just outside the Old City, with blasphemous words against Jesus.
A month earlier, a Christian monastery near occupied Jerusalem was broken into and set on fire, with objectionable and disrespectful graffiti made on the monastery walls. The list goes on.
These are real crimes that are taking place and yes innocent people are getting killed. Unfortunately, Netanyahu is making full use of Syria’s civil war to legalise all territorial expansion from right under the world community’s nose.
And in that, he could not have found a better ally than Bashar Al Assad.
Traiq A. Al-Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.