Israel has expanded the severe measures in its playbook–all aimed at erasing, disenfranchising and dehumanising Palestinians.
An escalation of Israeli military raids in the occupied West Bank coupled with an unprovoked, deadly three-day assault on besieged Gaza in August has made 2022 the deadliest year for Palestinians since the end of the Second Intifada (Palestinian uprising) in 2005.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Israeli forces have killed over 251 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza this year, including at least 47 children.
The year started out with unprecedented international analyses of Israel’s rule over Palestinians. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem exposed the country’s “apartheid system” in a January report and Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both conducted their own reports, concluding in February and April, respectively, that Israel’s policies effectively constituted “apartheid”.
However, even with Israel’s entire system of dominance thoroughly documented and made public via international human rights organisations, Israel has continued to benefit from impunity caused by the international community’s silence throughout its ongoing aggression against every aspect of Palestinian existence and resistance under its decades-long occupation.
Demolitions, evictions and displacement
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), during the first eight months of 2022, Israel demolished 590 Palestinian-owned structures and displaced 707 Palestinians across the occupied West Bank.
In addition to Palestinian-owned structures, Israel has, this year, demolished 97 structures provided to Palestinians through donor-funded humanitarian aid, effectively cutting off access to crucial services for thousands of Palestinians.
Perhaps one of the most notorious eviction cases this year was that of the Salem family, who have lived in the predominantly Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem for over three generations.
The family of 12 — including six children and their elderly mother, Fatima Salem – faced intimidation, harassment and aggression from Israeli authorities and settlers alike for resisting the eviction order, which forced them out of their home to make way for illegal Jewish settlements.
After freezing the eviction order on February 22, the Israeli Magistrate’s Court in Jerusalem decided, on April 25, to extend the freeze after accepting an appeal by the Salem family.
While the Salem family may be temporarily graced with an eviction freeze, they are but one of 218 Palestinian families — comprising 970 individuals, including 424 children, living mainly in the neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan — that are constantly facing the threat of forced eviction by Israeli authorities.
In early May, after a two-decade legal battle, Israel’s high court issued a ruling allowing the Israeli army to evict some 1,000 Palestinian residents of the Masafer Yatta area of the occupied West Bank and repurpose the newly depopulated land for Israeli military use.
It was one of the single biggest expulsion decisions since Israel seized the UN-mandated Palestinian territories by force in 1967 and began its decades-long occupation.
Within Israel, discriminatory policies deny the legality of some 35 Palestinian villages in the Negev Desert, allowing the Israeli army to repeatedly demolish them.
Israel began building Jewish settlements in the Negev as early as 1947 in response to the British Morrison–Grady Plan which would have allotted the area to the Palestinian state. The area was then allotted to the Jewish state a year later by the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine.
In 2005, the Israeli government adopted the Negev Development Plan which aimed to unlawfully increase the Jewish population in the region from 535,000 to 900,000 by 2015.
As of mid-November, Al Araqib, one of the 35 unrecognised villages, has been demolished 209 times. The residents are Arab citizens of Israel. According to legal rights group Adalah, they were displaced in 1951 shortly before the area was declared “state land” by Israel.
They returned in 1998 and have fought through the courts for planting of a forest on the land by the Jewish National Fund.
Military raid on Al Aqsa Mosque Compound
On April 15, the second Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, Israeli forces stormed the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound as thousands of worshippers were gathered for early morning prayers.
Palestinian cameraman Rami al Khatib, who witnessed the raid, said, “They [Israeli forces] brutally emptied the compound. They were attacking the mosque staff, normal people, elders, young people.”
But, Israeli police said they entered the compound — the third holiest site in Islam — to break up a “violent” crowd that had stayed behind after the morning prayers had concluded.
Israeli police said they arrested at least 300 Palestinians during the military raid. However, Palestinian sources put the number at 400, while medics reported at least 158 Palestinians had been injured.
Israeli forces continued to raid the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound during Friday prayers throughout the month of Ramadan, injuring approximately 30 Palestinians, including three journalists, on April 22 and at least 42 Palestinians on the last Friday of the month, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.
Israel’s power to revoke citizenship
In July, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the state had the power to revoke the citizenship of a person convicted of any offence that amounts to a “breach of loyalty,” even if the person would become stateless as a result — a violation of international law.
This decision has fabricated a vulpine legality for revoking the citizenships of Palestinian citizens of Israel.
At present, Israel’s definition of a “breach of loyalty” is based on its Counter-Terrorism Law, which permits it to classify different offences as “terrorist acts”.
Under the law, merely protesting can be classified as an act of terrorism — as was witnessed in the aftermath of the mass demonstrations in May 2021, when Israel arrested thousands of Palestinian protesters and filed indictments against hundreds, ultimately charging 167 of them with terrorist accusations.
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in July, the protesters charged with terrorism all face the threat of having their citizenships revoked and being left stateless.
According to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, 500 Palestinians have been arrested per month this year, amidst 4, 760 Palestinians in total in prison – 820 of whom have been detained without charge.
Shireen Abu Akleh
On May 11, Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot in the head and killed at the entrance of the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank while wearing a press helmet and west in course of covering an Israeli military raid.
Israel was quick to deny responsibility for the incident and blamed the killing on armed Palestinians in the area instead.
In the two months following the killing, leading global media outlets conducted in-depth investigations based on video footage filmed at the scene before, during and after the shooting, as well as through video soundtrack analysis and eyewitness accounts.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and B’Tselem also investigated the incident.
These investigations all concluded that the shots that killed Abu Akleh were fired by the Israeli army from a spot where military vehicles were positioned, some 200 metres away.
The investigations found no records of any armed Palestinian located between the Al Jazeera journalists and the military vehicles, discrediting the Israeli military’s account.
Following the investigations, Israel’s army switched lines, saying that there was a “high possibility” that Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by “wrong fire” from its soldiers who were shooting at Palestinians during the military raid.
Abu Akleh’s family and colleagues have asserted to UN investigators that she was deliberately targeted as part of Israel’s “wide-scale war” on Palestinian media workers and they continue to call for accountability and justice.
In September, the family submitted an official complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to demand justice for her death. And on December 6, Al Jazeera reported that it had submitted a formal request to the ICC to investigate and prosecute those responsible for killing Abu Akleh.
Assault on Gaza
On August 5, Israel launched a three-day unprovoked attack on Gaza as a “preemptive” measure against the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, saying the attack was meant to ward off any possible retaliation from the group in Gaza after arresting several of its members, including top officials, days earlier in the occupied West Bank.
During the three-day assault, Israel killed 51 Palestinans, including 17 children, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
One particular incident involved an Israeli air strike that killed five children who were sitting next to their grandfather’s grave in the Falluja cemetery in northern Gaza.
The five victims were Jamil al Din Nijm, 3; Jamil Ihab Nijm, 13; Mohammad Nijm, 16; Hamed Nijm, 16; and Nathmi Karsh, 15. According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, three of the boys had participated in a support programme for trauma victims in Gaza.
The Israeli army spokesperson’s unit said that during the three days of fighting, the army “made every reasonable effort to minimise, insofar as possible, harm to civilians and civilian property.”
However, an investigation conducted by journalist Yuval Abraham for +972 Magazine revealed that ahead of each military operation, the Israeli army is well aware that it will be killing non-combatants, often children.
Interviews with a number of former soldiers from the Israeli Intelligence Corps exposed that there is an “allowed” number of children that is permissible for the army to kill. As long as this amount is not exceeded, the killing of children can be approved in advance.
On October 25, Amnesty International called on the ICC to investigate possible war crimes following Israel’s most recent “unlawful attacks” on Gaza.
In a June report, the Britain-based Save the Children Fund revealed that four out of five children in Gaza — who make up nearly half of Gaza’s population of 2.1 million — suffer from emotional distress 15 years into Israel’s blockade.
Furthermore, the report stated that, since 2018, symptoms of “depression, grief and fear” have risen from 55 percent to 80 percent, with 800,000 young people in the territory never having “known life without the blockade.”
Save the Children’s director for the occupied Palestinian territories, Jason Lee, said: “The physical evidence of their distress — bedwetting, loss of ability to speak or to complete basic tasks — is shocking and should serve as a wakeup call to the international community.”
Attacks on human rights organisations
On the morning of August 18, mere days after Israel’s assault on Gaza, Israeli forces broke into, ransacked and sealed off the offices of seven Palestinian human rights and humanitarian organisations in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
The property of the organisations was confiscated and destroyed and military orders dictating the closure of the offices were left at the premises.
Israel accused the organisations — without citing any evidence — of funding terrorism, designating them as terror organisations and claiming they were unlawful.
The incident caused a diplomatic backlash and drew criticism from the UN, the European Union and the US.
OCHA released a statement condemning the army’s actions, asserting that: “Counter-terrorism legislation must be in accordance with obligations under international law, in particular, international humanitarian law and human rights law, which include full respect for the rights to freedom of association and expression.”
Israel/Palestine: Designation of Palestinian Rights Groups as Terrorists https://t.co/3eqVi5j1ZJ
— Human Rights Watch (@hrw) October 22, 2021
Investigations into state of the occupation
The UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner released a report on October 20 concluding that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory was and is unlawful under international law “due to its permanence and the Israeli Government’s de-facto annexation policies.”
Weeks later, on November 11, the United Nations’ Special Committee on Decolonization adopted a draft Palestinian resolution requesting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Israel’s decades-long occupation.
The resolution approved at UN headquarters in New York requests that the ICJ “urgently” weigh in on Israel’s “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory,” which it stated were violating Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al Maliki said in a statement that 98 countries supported the resolution, 52 abstained and 17 voted against.
Al Maliki welcomed the vote and described the resolution as a “diplomatic and legal breakthrough” that will “open a new era for holding Israel accountable for its war crimes.”
On December 3, the European Union called for an investigation into the killing of Palestinian civilians by Israeli military fire in the occupied West Bank.
“According to Int’l. law, use of lethal force is strictly limited to situations in which there exists a serious & imminent threat to life & limb. Civilian casualties must be investigated & accountability ensured,” the EU said in a tweet.
While the ICJ has yet to voice its opinion, an ICC investigation meant to cover events that have transpired in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza since June 2014 was formally opened on March 3, 2021, and remains ongoing.
?The ?? General Assembly has just adopted draft resolution A/77/L.26 to reiterating its call for the achievement just & lasting peace in the Middle East on the basis of relevant UN resolutions & an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967, including of East Jerusalem. pic.twitter.com/Wye7mNKxFi
— UN Palestinian Rights Committee (@UNISPAL) November 30, 2022
Expectation of growing violence
Palestinians across the occupied territories, as well as those within Israel, are expecting a further escalation in Israeli aggression as the most right-wing government in Israel’s history is poised to be installed in the coming weeks, with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returning to power.
Under Netanyahu, extremist politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has a long record of violent anti-Palestinian rhetoric and behaviour, will become Israel’s next minister of national security.
Among many controversial remarks, Ben-Gvir has frequently referred to his Arab colleagues as “terrorists.” He has also called for the deportation of his political opponents and in his youth, his views were so extreme that the Israeli army banned him from compulsory military service.
Before Netanyahu’s election win, the Israeli government confirmed Major General Herzi Halevi, a former military intelligence head who led forces along the Gaza border, as the country’s next military chief.
Palestinians see the appointment of Halevi — who lives in Kfar HaOranim, an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank — as a deepening of the army’s relationship with settlers in the occupied territory. He is expected to begin his three-year term on January 17.
Netanyahu’s alliance with Israel’s right-wing extremists is a natural progression in the country’s political history — as is the rise of the far right.
In Israel’s March 2015 elections, Netanyahu said that there would be no Palestinian state so long as he is prime minister.
Seven years later, Palestinians fear 2022 might pale in comparison to what’s ahead of them with Netanyahu back in power and a group of right-wing extremists holding the country’s reins.