From the first moments after the May 2021 Sword of Jerusalem (Saif Al-Quds) battle subsided, Israeli anger began to be directed at Palestinians inside the territories occupied in 1948.
These are the Palestinian Muslims and Christians who, for better or worse, remained within Palestine after the 1948 unilateral declaration of the state of Israel, and are referred to as Israeli-Arabs, or more popularly today, as ’48 Palestinians.
For Israelis, nothing was more shocking than ’48 Palestinians joining the multi-front fight last May, triggered by Israel’s attempt to evict six families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem.
In 12 short days, the battle had undone the walls Tel Aviv had spent decades erecting: Jerusalem was once more the focal point for Palestinians everywhere, the ‘heart’ of their cause; and ’48 Palestinians had broken through a carefully-constructed psychological barrier and jumped back into their national struggle.
During ‘peace’ negotiations that followed the battle, the Israelis refused to include the ‘48 Palestinians in any discussions. Nor did they easily accept the inclusion of Jerusalem in those negotiations, according to senior Palestinian officials who spoke to The Cradle.
While Israel was eventually forced to accept a freeze on home evictions in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, the sources say that it became intensely agitated at any mention of the ’48 Palestinians: “As soon as we raised the issue of our Palestinian brothers at home, the Israelis went crazy and refused to discuss it, saying that they were an ‘internal’ Israeli affair.”
This may be the reason for Israeli reprisals that began immediately after the conflict ended. They launched unprecedented arrests of some 1,550 ’48 Palestinians, who they believed had participated in popular revolts during the May unrest.
A ‘problematic’ population
For Israel, the 1948 Palestinians – officially, Israel citizens – are intensely ‘problematic’.
Israeli authorities have historically used different methods in dealing with the Palestinians of ‘48. One of these methods was the constant threat of home demolitions under the pretext of non-licensing.
But the most dangerous tactic Israel has focused on during the past two decades is the stealthy promotion of organized crime within the community of ’48 Palestinians.
After the May conflict, two new developments took place: first, the crime rate among Palestinians suddenly – and very unusually – escalated. Second, a wave of Israeli raids were launched last October under the pretext of fighting this alleged ‘spike in Palestinian crimes.’
The Israeli media dubbed this new maneuver, ironically, ‘The Safe Path.’
The Safe Path to serious crimes
Over the last five months, the form and nature of crimes reached unprecedented extremes.
On 22 November, the headmistress of Bukhari School in the city of Araba, Rudeineh Nassar Shalata, was injured after being shot in front of her students.
On 25 November, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Rasha Stawi was killed in front of her children in Bethlehem.
On 14 November 2021, Soroka Hospital in Beersheba became a battlefield of clashes between two families. Two days later, gunmen targeted two people walking at a funeral inside the cemetery of Galjuliya. One of the funeral walkers died immediately and the other was seriously injured.
In a subsequent emergency meeting at the local town council in Galjuliya, blame was placed squarely on the Israeli police. Demands were made to close major streets to protest the increase in crimes.
Such crimes have not been without their odd occurrences, such as the theft of donations to newlyweds in the middle of a wedding at gunpoint, or the killing of brothers and cousins of the same family over the years.
Taking advantage of the crisis situation, the Israeli government seemed more concerned with promoting crime among Palestinians.
The chairman of the High Follow-up Committee, Mohammed Baraka, said that Israel’s goal is to “penetrate Arab society under the pretext of fighting crime.”
“Would spraying gasoline on fire extinguish it?” Baraka cynically asked.
The Israeli security connection
After the May conflict of 2021, the confessions of security and police officers in the Hebrew press revealed Israel’s own involvement in contributing to crime against Palestinians.
Agencies, such as the Israeli Public Security (Shabak), have strong ties to organized crime and criminal families within Israeli society.
The majority of weapons thefts reported by army soldiers are to cover up the sale of weapons by Israeli soldiers to crime organizations.
In addition, a press investigation broadcast by Israel’s Channel 13 reveals that Shabak’s own investigators use threats against young Palestinians to make them confess to crimes they did not commit.
The TV broadcast reveals how young ’48 Palestinian boys from Jaffa, arrested during recent events on charges of ‘assaulting an Israeli soldier,’ were told that if they do not confess to carrying out the attack, a family member would be killed.
While Palestinians are aware of these occurrences, the Israeli government has worked to show that the issue of crime has become serious and must be urgently addressed.
On 11 August 2021, Israel announced a plan named ‘Sword Strike,’ for which a budget of 2.5 billion shekels has been allocated over five years. The plan provides for the launch of a special branch of the Police Saif (Sword) Division to eliminate crime.
Even if this recognition is sincere, it is too late. There is much evidence of this. The first is the clear confirmation that, in 2003, authorities were able to quickly dismantle Jewish criminal organizations when it was found that some of them were facilitating large sums for some Palestinian operations.
Other evidence reveals that the occupation authorities have not acted for two decades against Palestinian crime groups, despite having precise knowledge of them and their weapons storage sites.
Yet further evidence from human rights organizations and family statements reveals that many victims informed Israeli police that they had been threatened, and had presented evidence, only later to be found killed – with no subsequent investigation by Israeli police.
A fundamental reason why the Israelis are enraged is because the weapons that they funneled, through mafias, to sow violent crimes among Palestinians, were turned against Israeli security forces during the May events.
Despite investigations into the hundreds of young men arrested for participating in ‘violent events’, no evidence has ever been found of their involvement in any criminal activity.
Despite lacking evidence, authorities used the opportunity to deploy cameras and surveillance in places where they could previously not, or had no urgent reason, to deploy them.
Israel also began establishing new or additional security centers in ’48 Palestinian cities and towns.
It had become clear that, previous to the May uprising, security forces had not anticipated needing or developing a strategy in dealing with rebellion and civil disobedience from inside. During the 12-day conflict, Israel had to resort to calling in border guards to supplement their internal police forces.
But this increase in security centers would instead serve only as “headquarters for recruiting agents and closely monitoring Palestinians … even managing the crime to suit the enemy,” say various Palestinian sources inside the 1948 boundaries.
And there is yet another side to the Safe Path campaign: fighting ‘economic’ crime.
Israeli authorities say police will cooperate with the tax authority to provide Palestinians suspected of committing crimes with capital recognition forms. The next step is for the police and the tax department “to examine tax entries in comparison with the standard of living, as part of their activities to dry up the sources of crime and fight tax evasion.”
Once again, this is little less than another form of collective punishment.
In addition to security and economic measures, there is a clear psychological component to Israeli actions aimed at intimidation and subjugation.
In order to achieve this goal, Israel implemented a number of measures and imposed new laws, the most important of which allows its police forces to break into private homes – within the 1948 boundaries – without judicial authorization.
These forces also carried out raids on homes using hundreds of soldiers to terrorize the residents – as has happened, and is still happening, in the southern region of Negev against the country’s Bedouin citizens. As part of its fear campaign, Israel forces even rappelled down from helicopters onto the roofs of Palestinian homes.
After the crime, the explosion
In summary, Israel acts on revenge. What is happening today is little less than a test, Palestinian sources say, “a trick that does not fool those whose demands have for decades been ignored by authorities, but which authorities themselves have simulated as criminal activity, released among those whose lives have become unrelenting commiseration.”
Meanwhile, the scale and frequency of crimes continue to rise. Last November, criminal activity claimed 113 Palestinian lives, according to the Aman Center (Arab Center for Safe Society).
Any further pressure through punitive measures will no doubt lead to an explosive outcome.
This was the case of the 1948 Palestinians whose acts of defiance and protest during the May war surprised not only Israelis, but Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza as well.
Another war may not be needed for that explosion to occur. Israel’s forceful and deceitful handling of fabricated crimes through its own criminal actions can only lead to one thing: an intifada.