What Israel’s judicial overhaul means for Palestinians
Palestinians in the aftermath of an Israeli military raid on Nur Shams refugee camp in Tulkarem, July 24, 2023. (Photo: Mohammed Nasser/APA Images)
Key developments (July 20 – 24)
On Monday, July 24, the Israeli Knesset passed the third and final reading of a law
limiting the power of the Supreme Court, a landmark moment in the
Netanyahu-led government’s judicial overhaul. The so-called
“Reasonableness Law” will curtail the ability of the Supreme Court to
overturn government policies it considers “unreasonable.” The law’s
passing has been met with widespread protest by the Israeli liberal
establishment, including former army Generals, intelligence figures, and
army reservists, while the White House commented the law’s passing was “unfortunate.”
Also on Monday, a large Israeli military force invaded Nur Shams
refugee camp in Tulkarem in one of the most extensive invasions since
the Jenin operation in the beginning of July. Army bulldozers tore up
streets and dug deep trenches while Israeli soldiers raided the house of
a 28-year-old former Palestinian detainee in the camp, arresting him. According to Wafa,
the Israeli force also raided several more houses in the area,
including a mosque. Tulkarem and its neighboring refugee camps have been
the focus of Israeli intelligence and military counterinsurgency
efforts since the rise of the Tulkarem “Rapid Response Brigade” last
March. In the early morning hours of the same day, the Israeli forces
also raided Aqbat Jabr refugee camp on a search-and-arrest operation but
ended with no arrests after the person wanted by the army was not found at home.
Israeli settlers burned down dozens of olive trees in the West Bank town of Burin, south of Nablus. According to Wafa,
the settler group was from the nearby illegal settlement of Yitzhar,
and carried out its arson with the protection of an Israeli army escort.
The attack comes three days after the killing of a Palestinian driver
in the Nablus region, 18-year-old Fawzi Makhalfa from the town of
Sebastiya, north of Nablus. According to Middle East Eye, the Israeli army claimed that it opened fire on the driver due to an alleged car-ramming attempt.
The first part of the judicial overhaul passed today.
The liberal Israeli establishment is predictably in an uproar as the
illusion of its Zionist democracy has begun to unravel. But beyond the
liberal panic at the shattering of the “shared fiction”
that helps prop up the U.S.-Israel relationship, the question remains
what sort of meaningful difference will this make for Palestinians?
Mondoweiss has touched upon
the answer several times. The rightwing government has already formed a
hardline “private militia” as a result of the judicial tug of war; it
has already proposed draconian laws that aim to clamp down on
Palestinian resistance; and it has already approved the construction of
more settlements in the West Bank. What comes after would only intensify
this trend. The eventuality of the judicial overhaul’s success — today
being a milestone in that potential trajectory — would ramp up the rate
of Israeli territorial annexation of land in the West Bank, and in doing
so, it will let its territorial ambitions go beyond the hitherto
gradualist policy of creeping annexation championed by liberal Zionists.
The difference for Palestinians, therefore, is not so much
qualitative as it is a difference in degrees of intensity. Previous
liberal governments have been no less brutal in their colonial designs
on Palestinian land, and the greatest acts of territorial takeover and
ethnic cleansing in the history of Zionism were carried out by the
doyens of Labor Zionism. The difference lies in the doctrine guiding the
modus operandi of colonial rule. The reigning Israeli
philosophy in how to best rule and administer the West Bank has, over
the decades, remained consistent in orientation: to deploy a combination
of “soft power” and “military power” that adopts a policy of
incremental colonization in conjunction with economic pacification
measures. Liberal Zionists consider this “carrot and stick” the tried
and true method of maintaining a “status quo”
of relative stability. This stability will, in their view, ensure the
longevity of the colonial project, and so many from the
military-security establishment have sounded the alarm, believing that the hardline approach of the right-wing government will eventually lead to a “security disaster” for Israel.
Concretely, what will this mean? It means that if the government
successfully votes the death penalty into law for “terrorists,” the
Israeli Supreme Court will be unable to enact the “reasonableness”
clause — effectively, a veto for laws it deems unreasonable — to
override it. It means that if the government decides to ethnically
cleanse an entire Palestinian village — instead of the incremental and
silent displacement of individual families from that village — it will
do so without much opposition from those who might assume that such
drastic actions might incite Palestinians to resist.
Naturally, they will. The Palestinian Authority’s legitimacy will
erode further, while the popularity of the armed resistance groups will
reach new heights. Settler attacks and pogroms will incite revenge
operations from resistance fighters and lone wolves alike, while future
settler provocations at Al-Aqsa will drag other actors into the arena of
struggle outside the West Bank (Gaza, Lebanon, and perhaps beyond). The
concept of the “unity of fields” will only continue to gain traction, while normalization agreements will stretch at the seams as Arab states find it increasingly difficult to justify doing business with such an openly hostile settler-colonial regime.
But beyond all this, it will bring the Palestinian struggle closer to its moment of truth,
doing away with the common fiction that Zionism is anything other than a
movement at war with the indigenous population. That is when the true
nature of the anticolonial struggle will become readily apparent to the
part of the world that refused to see it for so long.
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