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Palestinians steadfast as Israel steps up terror campaign in West Bank

We thought that (Palestinian Authority-PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas) Abu Mazen had succeeded in domesticating the Palestinians by inculcating them with a new spirit and new culture based on consumerism and love of life. We apparently were mistaken.

Al-Khalil (Hebron): Palestinians in the West Bank are showing spectacular steadfastness and resilience in the face of an unprecedented rampage of terror and vandalism by the Israeli occupation army.

The rampage, which began five days ago when three army-age settlers went missing and were presumed kidnapped by suspected Palestinian militants, is assuming unmistakable terrorist proportions.

This terror includes destroying homes by missiles, storming homes and blowing up gates and outer doors, vandalizing property, beating up innocent people and grossly mistreating children and women.

According to the Palestinian Prisoner Club, a body that monitors Israeli treatment of Palestinian detainees, Israeli troops have so far raided and thoroughly vandalized 750 homes in the Hebron region alone.

As many as 350 people have been detained, including 50 former political prisoners released from Israeli jails three years ago.

One Israeli commentator said the Israeli occupation army was tormenting each and every Palestinian as if they were personally responsible for the disappearance of the three settlers.

The no-holds-barred campaign, said the commentator, reflected the state of affair of a country which has gone mad.

I asked another veteran Israeli journalist to explain the conspicuous vengeance characterizing the current military campaign in the West Bank, especially in the Hebron region.

He said "the Israeli political and military establishment cannot fathom or come to terms with the fact that a defeated and largely demoralized enemy could still call the shots and hold the entire country hostage."

He added: "We thought that (Palestinian Authority-PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas) Abu Mazen had succeeded in domesticating the Palestinians by inculcating them with a new spirit and new culture based on consumerism and love of life. We apparently were mistaken."

Rampaging arrests

One of the main aspects of the ongoing campaign is the sweeping arrest of Palestinians deemed supportive of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic liberation group Israel is accusing of carrying the abduction of the three settlers.

Hamas has not claimed responsibility for the kidnapping but Israel is effectively saying that Hamas bears ultimate responsibility regardless of whether Hamas actually did or didn't carry out the presumed kidnapping.

Hamas is viewed by the Israeli political and security leadership as representing Israel's main ideological enemy.

"It is the ultimate anti-dote and neutralizer of the brashly racist Talmudic mentality prevailing in Israel these days," says Muhammad Hamza an Israeli Arab academic.

"Hamas is not hated so much because of what it does. The real reason behind Israel's hatred of Hamas is the group's ideology. Israel has more or less succeeded in neutralizing and softening up Arab regimes, Sissi, the Saudis, Fatah, etc. Only Hamas and the Muslim brotherhood are maintaining their principled rejection of Israel and Zionism.

"And the problem is that there are millions of Arabs and Muslims who listen to and believe these people."

According to the latest reports, newly-arrested Palestinians include lawmakers, former cabinet ministers, college professors, writers and intellectuals.

Many of the detainees have been sent to the notorious Kitziot internment camp in the Negev desert near the Egyptian borders, where they are subjected to degrading and cruel treatment.

Israel has held thousands of Palestinians in so-called "administrative detention,” a form of draconian punishment dating back to the British mandate era. Palestinians and human rights organizations refer to this open-ended incarceration as "politically-motivated captivity."

Some Palestinian inmates have spent more than12 years languishing in administrative detention, without being charged of any wrongdoing and certainly without being prosecuted by a genuine court of law.

A few weeks ago, a Palestinian college lecturer from Hebron who spent a total of 7 years in Israeli captivity without charge or trial, intimated to this writer that he had repeatedly appealed to the Israeli judge to "let me know why I was being held and what crime or wrongdoing I was accused of having committed."

"But the judge told me this: Don't you even dream of me telling you why you are being held in jail. This is a state secret I won't give you the privilege of knowing."

It is widely believed that the administrative detention policy is one of the main reasons behind the latest incident of kidnapping.

Propaganda war

In the meanwhile, Israel is waging a relentless propaganda war on the Palestinians, claiming the Israeli army has dismantled the "organizational infrastructure of Hamas in the West Bank."

The Israeli media has also been boasting about inflicting huge economic losses on the Hebron region as a result of the hermetic blockade imposed ever since the disappearance of the three settlers.

The Israeli propaganda war may succeed in assuring Israelis and boosting their morale. However, it is unlikely that the vociferous and gleeful ranting would seriously succeed in weakening Palestinian public support for Hamas.

Indeed, a fleeting look at Palestinian public reactions to the ostensible kidnapping of the three settlers suggests that virtually all Palestinians blame Israel not Hamas for the latest escalation.

What is next?

Israel is likely to make every possible effort in order to know the whereabouts of the kidnapped settlers. However, there is no guarantee that these efforts will produce a successful and happy ending for the Israelis.

Indeed, the likelihood that the three settlers would be found alive is dwindling with the passage of every day and hour. This really is forcing the Israeli establishment to contemplate bleaker scenarios, including negotiating a possible prisoners' swap with the presumed kidnappers.

This dilemma is causing the Israeli government and army to lose composure and vent their frustration by further terrorizing the local Palestinian population.

The terrorism, vandalism and repression, screened around-the-clock on Israeli television, are intended to appease the Israeli Jewish public, especially the more extremist segments which would want to see the Israeli security apparatus take Gestapo-like measures against Palestinian civilians.

As to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, he seems to think that by displaying a combination of submissiveness, obsequiousness and capitulation to Israeli whims, he might be able to wrest some achievements for his people from Israel's unimaginably parsimonious hands.

Abbas has condemned the kidnapping in the strongest terms, vowing to punish whoever stands behind the incident, which he said hurt Palestinian interests and gave Netanyahu an excuse to torment the Palestinians.

In his speech before the Arab foreign ministers' meeting in Jeddah on Wednesday, Abbas did ignore Palestinian grievances, including Israel's long-standing policy of arresting Palestinians for prolonged periods without charge or trial.

However, it is amply clear that Israel, especially under this manifestly fascist government of Netanyahu and Bennett, will continue to view Abbas and his nominally autonomous authority as no more than a mere servant of Israeli security interests.

Khalid Amayreh is a veteran Palestinian journalist living in occupied Palestine

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