Israel Is Waging a War on All Palestinians, Not Just Gazans

Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza is part of its war of annihilation against the Palestinian people carried out with increasing fervor across historic Palestine, including the West Bank, under the most right-wing government in Israeli history.

Palestinians evacuate following an Israeli air strike on the Sousi mosque in Gaza City on October 9, 2023. (Photo by Mahmud Hams /AFP via Getty Images)

As it lays waste to Gaza, slaughtering tens of thousands of Palestinians and forcing nearly two million people to flee their homes, the Israeli government is also barreling toward de facto annexation in the occupied West Bank.

Settlement expansion and killings by the Israeli military and settlers have skyrocketed in the months following October 7. In this context, Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza must be understood as part of its larger war of annihilation against the Palestinian people, one being carried out with increasing fervor across historic Palestine under the most right-wing government in Israeli history.

Last year was the deadliest for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since the United Nations (UN) started counting the dead, in 2005. After October 7, that violence only got worse: 299 of the at least 507 Palestinians murdered in the West Bank in 2023 were killed by Israeli forces and settlers between October 7 and December 31. In the seven months since the Gaza genocide began, Israeli forces and settlers have murdered over four hundred Palestinians, more than one hundred of whom were children.

Illegal Israeli settlements are also expanding at lightning speed. Between November 2022 and the end of October 2023, the Israeli government advanced over twenty-four thousand illegal housing units in already-existing settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, which UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said “risk eliminating any practical possibility of establishing a viable Palestinian State.”

The months following October 7 have seen an explosion in settler activity, with nine new settler “outposts” established in the last three months of 2023 alone. These outposts are illegal even under Israel’s warped conception of international law, but that hasn’t stopped its ultra-right-wing government from “legalizing” a record number of settlement outposts.

In April 2024, Israel’s finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, who once remarked that there is “no such thing as the Palestinian people,” announced that an additional sixty-eight outposts were to be treated as so-called legal settlements, despite the fact that all settlements on occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law.

As illegal settlements expand across the occupied West Bank, settlers are being emboldened by Israel’s government to take up arms against Palestinians and steal their land. When the Israeli government launched its genocidal war on Gaza, it called up over five thousand settler military reservists, armed them, and assigned them to “defend” the West Bank, giving them free rein to terrorize and murder Palestinians with impunity.

In the months following October 7, settlers have carried out hundreds of attacks, displacing over 1,200 Palestinians across over a dozen different communities. Seven Palestinian communities in the West Bank have been completely uprooted as a direct result of settler violence. Hundreds of other Palestinians were displaced after the Israeli government demolished their homes because they lacked government-issued building permits, which are notoriously difficult for Palestinians to acquire.

A War on All Palestinians

Israeli violence against Palestinians is getting worse, but this violence is not new. Yet the US government insists on treating this violence as an aberration from, rather than the center of, the Zionist colonial project.

Earlier this month, ProPublica revealed that US secretary of state Antony Blinken had been balking for months at recommendations from fellow State Department officials to cut US funding to an Israeli military battalion that committed rape, murder, and other grave violations against Palestinians.

Almost immediately, reports emerged that the State Department would soon announce a ban on US funding to Netzah Yehuda, the Israeli battalion in question, in accordance with the Leahy Law, which prohibits the transfer of US weapons to foreign militaries accused of serious human rights violations.

In December 2023, the State Department said it was adopting a “new visa restriction policy” targeting individuals believed to have been involved in undermining peace, security, or stability in the West Bank.” In February, the State Department imposed financial sanctions on four Israeli settlers, and in March, it sanctioned an additional three settlers and two settler outposts.

As welcome as these steps toward accountability are, the administration’s piecemeal approach belies the systematic nature of Israeli crimes against Palestinians. As if to prove that very point, war cabinet minister Benny Gantz immediately condemned reports that the State Department may cut US funding to Netzah Yehuda, insisting that it was an “inseparable part” of the Israeli military.

An indefinite military occupation cannot be maintained without extreme violence. Though this violence has become more pronounced since the most right-wing government in Israeli history took power, and especially after October 7, it is not unique to the current Israeli government, nor is it unique to the last seven months.

Some of the most well-known abuses committed by the Netzah Yehuda Battalion — the murder of an eighty-year-old Palestinian American man and the rape of a Palestinian teenager in their custody, for example — took place in 2021 and 2022, shattering any illusion of “peace” before October 7.

In one settler pogrom last June, Illinois state representative Abdelnasser Rashid was forced to barricade himself inside his family home as hundreds of armed settlers, accompanied and protected by Israeli soldiers, rampaged through the Palestinian village of Turmus Ayya, shooting live rounds and setting homes and cars on fire. A twenty-seven-year-old father of two was killed.

The State Department was quick to condemn the attacks in Turmus Ayya and demand “full accountability” for those responsible, but Palestinians aren’t counting on it. Why should they? For seven months, the US government has armed and funded their butchers.

What’s happening in Gaza cannot be understood outside the context of the war being waged against Palestinians across historic Palestine. Instead of sanctioning individual extremists, the US government should cut off the state arming and enabling them.