The mass arrests have nothing to do with criminality and everything to do with dishing out retribution.

“Israeli forces are carrying out revenge attacks against us [Palestinians],” a long-time friend in occupied East Jerusalem told me last night. 

He was describing what he called a “wave” of assaults and arrests of those who participated in protests against the violent expulsion of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, violent raids on Al Aqsa Mosque and the bombardment of civilian targets in Gaza.

“We knew this is how they [Israeli security forces] would behave the moment they think the world is no longer watching,” he said, suggesting the Gaza ceasefire was a cue for the international news media to avert its gaze away from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, once again.

Palestinian social media accounts show heavily armed Israeli soldiers and police officers carrying out night raids on Palestinian homes, chasing and beating Palestinian Israeli citizens in the streets of Jerusalem and Lod. There are several images of these forces shoving them to the ground and then kneeling on their necks, reminiscent of the way in which George Floyd was murdered by Minnesota Police in the US last year.

One video shows an Israeli soldier ordering a 16-year-old Palestinian girl to go into her family home in Sheikh Jarrah, before shooting her in the back with a rubber-coated steel bullet and then throwing a stun grenade as she lays screaming in agony on the ground. She’s now in hospital recovering with a fractured spine and bruised lungs.

There’s really no level of moral depravity the Israeli Government will not stoop to when it comes to dishing out cruelty and collective punishment to its restive Palestinian population.

This wave of retribution against Palestinian protesters within Israel’s 1948-borders is being carried out under the auspice of what Israeli security forces are calling “Operation Law & Order", which was launched in the early hours of Monday morning, with the stated goal of arresting 500 Palestinian suspects, and inferred goal of “settling scores,” according to Israeli media.

“The official goal is to arrest rioters in riots in the past two weeks, but in practice the police intend to ‘close an account’ with criminal elements in the Arab sector, including some senior targets,” according to Ynet News, which also claimed the operation will involve thousands of police officers from all districts and units, including border police, reserve IDF companies and special units.

This mass arrest operation has nothing to do with criminality and everything to do with dishing out revenge and retribution to a Palestinian population that has resisted an Israeli campaign of ethnic cleansing in occupied East Jerusalem, violent intimidation over worshippers at Islam’s third holiest site and the killing of more than 250 Palestinians, including 58 children, in Gaza. Israeli  police officials admitted their policy of “deterrence” had been “severely damaged.”

In short, nothing terrifies Israel more than the prospect of a Palestinian population unified in its resistance to occupation and apartheid. 

The “Unity Intifada” and the manifesto on which it is built reads as the sum total of Israel’s greatest fear in promising to release Palestinians from their “Oslo Prison” in the West Bank, “Jerusalem Prison,” and “Gaza Prison.”

“In these days, we write a new chapter, a chapter of a united Intifada that seeks our one and only goal: reuniting Palestinian society in all of its different parts; reuniting our political will, and our means of struggle to confront Zionism throughout Palestine,” reads an excerpt.

On the flip side, the Israeli Government also seeks a “one and only goal” – that being to use whatever means necessary, including violence and arbitrary arrests, to prevent the reunification of Palestinian society. It’s Orwellian and the comically named “Operation Law & Order” is the tool to achieve that objective.

“The massive arrest campaign announced by Israeli police last night is a militarised war against Palestinian citizens of Israel,” Dr Hassan Jabareen, general director of Adalah, a human rights group for Israeli Palestinian citizens, said in a statement.

“This is a war against Palestinian demonstrators, political activists, and minors, employing massive Israeli police forces to raid the homes of Palestinian citizens. These raids are intended to intimidate and to exact revenge on Palestinian citizens of Israel – ‘to settle the score’ with Palestinians, in the Israeli police’s own words – for their political positions and activities,” he said.

Whether Israel succeeds in crushing and quelling this Palestinian uprising remains to be seen, but what we do know is this – that this younger generation of Palestinians have lost all faith and trust in international institutions and nation-state alliances. Neither the United Nations, Arab League nor brokered peace deals have brought an end to their suffering, injustice and humiliation. They have been betrayed and stabbed in the back too many times by friend and foe, alike.

This a generation adept at social media and familiar with the potential power global solidarity movements hold for effecting positive change. Their voices are now being heard on the streets. They will remain on Israel’s streets to make their case for freedom and peace before the world.

It’s not like Israel can imprison 2 million of its own citizens without permanently setting itself adrift from the “rules based” international community, and thus why these mass arrests and mass assaults are meant only for intimidation.

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