On 23 January, Israeli bulldozers razed some 15 dunams (3.7 acres) of Palestinian agricultural lands in the Wadi al-Samn area of southern Hebron in the occupied West Bank.
Days earlier, in the village of Battir, Israeli bulldozers razed and leveled another 15 dunams of Palestinian agricultural lands, uprooting about 60 olive trees. Battir is on the UNESCO world heritage list for its terrace farming and irrigation channels.
Also in January, Israeli settlers chopped down 40 Palestinian-owned olive trees in al-Mughayyir village in Ramallah. The village has come under increasing attacks by Israeli settlers, according to the Ma’an News Agency, including the running-over of flocks of sheep, uprooting of trees, seizure of land, and burning of local mosques.
The escalation of settler violence was evident again this past week, when Israeli settlers attacked Mughayyir. The UN human rights office said it was “deeply concerned about the protracted and extremely violent attack” that led to the killing of Hamdi Naasan, a 38-year-old father of four.
Since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967, more than half a million Israelis have moved into Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, in violation of international law.
Settler violence has social and economic effects, with the UN noting: “Olive-based livelihoods in many areas of the West Bank are undermined by Israeli settlers who uproot and vandalize olive trees, and by intimidation and the physical assaults on farmers during the harvest itself.” The number of violent incidents has been on the rise.
According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, “settler violence and vandalism takes place with full backing by the Israeli authorities. Sometimes soldiers take part in the assault; at other times, they stand idly by. The police [make] no substantial effort to investigate the incidents, nor … to prevent them or stop them in real time.”
Settler-colonial violence in the West Bank benefits Israel because it has “gradually dispossessed Palestinians of more and more areas in the West Bank, paving the way for a state takeover of land and resources”.
In our new book, Palestine and Rule of Power: Local Dissent vs. International Governance, we explore the structures and processes that explain these expressions of violence and Palestinian resistance. In particular, we examine the impacts of settler-colonialism and neoliberalism in Palestine today, along with forms of everyday resistance to both.
Legacy of settler-colonialism
As the opening stories illustrate, the role of land is central in settler-colonial struggles. Our book takes a close look at the legacy of settler-colonialism in Palestine - how it has destroyed in order to replace, and renamed in order to erase.
The second expression of power our book considers is the neoliberal political and economic order defining appropriate behaviour in late modernity, seen most clearly in Palestine in the state-building project. Over the last quarter-century, since the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, the rule of power has been displayed through institution-building agendas and commitments, and expressed in terms of humanitarianism, foreign aid and dependency.