On July 14, the Israeli army launched the biggest attack on Gaza since its devastating assault on the coastal enclave in 2014. Israeli warplanes dropped bombs on what many call the world’s biggest open-air prison, killing two teenagers, 15-year-old Amir al-Nimra and 16-year-old Louay Kahil.
Five days later, on July 19, the Israeli Knesset passed the “Jewish Nation-State Law,” a bill defining Israel as a state for Jews—and Jews only. The bill passed despite the fact that at least 20 percent of all Israeli citizens are Palestinian, and the fact that there are at least 2.5 million Palestinians in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, where the bill will also apply. The move codifies a set of Israeli practices that deny Palestinians equal rights and privileges Jews over Palestinians.
Then, on July 20, Israeli bombs once again pummeled Gaza after Palestinian fighters from the militant group Hamas killed an Israeli soldier. Four Palestinians were killed. Those deaths included one protester, Mohammad Sherif Badwan, who had joined marches at the fence that encages the coastal area.
It was a head-spinning week of escalation across Israel-Palestine, and portends more bloodshed in the near-future.
The bombings of Gaza and passage of the nation-state law are two separate events that, when taken together, clarify why Israeli violence is the norm in the region. While the nation-state law does not apply to Gaza, an isolated enclave that Israel has deliberately cut off from other Palestinians, both the law and the assault share a common culprit: an Israeli government that is violently bent on maintaining a regime of ethnic privilege and separation at the expense of all Palestinians, whether they live in Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank or Gaza.
Nadia Hijab, co-founder and board president of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, tells In These Times that there’s another connection between the two events.
“The two are linked in a way that has marked the creation of Israel from the start. Israel needs external enemies [like Hamas] to cement control of mandate Palestine, empty the land of the indigenous Palestinians and make it a majority Jewish homeland,” says Hijab. “External threats are key in masking the reality that the entire Palestinian body politic recognized Israel in 1988 and was willing to accept a state in just 22 percent of mandate Palestine, with the Islamist movement Hamas coming on board in recent years.”
“This Palestinian consensus has been eroding,” Hijab continues, “as it is clear that Israel is determined to annex the lands it occupied in 1967, hive Gaza onto Egypt, discriminate against the Palestinian citizens of Israel and keep Palestinian refugees from ever returning home.