The following is an interview conducted by marxist.com with a Palestinian teacher, living in the West Bank. They provide a powerful eyewitness account of the brutal violence being enacted against Palestinians by illegal Israeli settlers, backed up by the IDF. They also express frustration towards the Palestinian Authority, and the ruling elites in the Middle East, who are abandoning Palestine to its fate; in stark contrast to huge solidarity from the masses of the region. The interviewee has asked to remain anonymous, for security reasons.
Hello and welcome. Would you mind telling us a bit about yourself?
Yes, thank you for hosting me today. I teach in a high school. And I’m here today to talk about the situation in the West Bank.
How has the situation changed since 7 October?
It has changed in many aspects regarding the behaviour of the PA [Palestinian Authority] and regarding the behaviour of the [Israeli] soldiers, and also regarding the behaviour of the settlers who are everywhere surrounding every village and town in the West Bank.
The support of the Israeli government [for the settlers], and especially in terms of money and arms, has massively increased. The National Security of Israel, as it is called there, is equipping settlers with more than 10,000 new weapons that are being used to attack Palestinians, and they have stated that they are ready to attack.
I would like to bring attention to the declaration of [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu that they are in a state of war and giving the green light to Israelis to kill Palestinians, providing all the legal cover for these acts.
The settlers are seizing the chance to attack any Palestinian not only in the main streets, but also, as this war started, in synchronisation with the olive picking season here in the West Bank.
Palestinian villagers in this period travel to their olive groves to pick olives, and so there is a higher risk of encountering Israeli settlers, backed up by Israeli soldiers. They attack any Palestinian villagers they encounter, who have nothing to defend themselves with and have nothing but what they need to pick the olives.
If I were the President of Palestine, I would declare war, because the enemy has done so, and this would provide some balance to the situation. But here President Abbas has not even declared an emergency situation. He is pretending that everything is OK here in the West Bank.
Unfortunately, the Minister’s Council here in Palestine is telling every employee, every teacher, every nurse, every doctor, to do their best to reach their workplaces. They have also issued written statements saying that there is nothing critical here in the West Bank. And yet two days ago teachers were shot, and injured while going home from their schools.
Shot by soldiers or by settlers?
Yes, well over 100 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since 7 October. Have you been witness to any of the increased violence yourself?
Yes, I’ve witnessed the transporting of the bodies of those martyrs because a nurse called me from a village near where I live and I saw everything while going there to support them with medicines. I was told by those who were there that many settlers, more than 10 settlers supported by Israeli soldiers, attacked one house that is outside the village, on the outskirts.
So while the people were trying to hide, the Israeli settlers broke into the house and started attacking those who live there. People who live nearby and those travelling through the area heard the screams of their neighbours. They rushed to help them, but the Israeli soldiers and settlers started shooting at them, not using rubber bullets, for example, or tear gas bombs.
They started using live bullets and they started aiming at their vital parts.
Killed by settlers?
One boy who is studying at the school where I teach was shot under an olive tree, but he didn’t die immediately. When his friend came to help him and get him to a safer place, to an ambulance, he was also shot. Both of them were left until they died under the olive tree.
Yes, according to witnesses. It was one settler who is a sniper. He uses one bullet to kill Palestinians, not multiples, because he is very skilled at using the gun.
Then there was the whole process of taking the bodies to an official and to a hospital, and then burying the body or the bodies after two days. The Palestinian Ministry declared that people are allowed to take the bodies of those martyrs. But on their way back to the village, this one group of Israeli settlers declared that they would block the road to teach those Palestinians a lesson.
They blocked the road, attacked the ambulances and some of the cars that were driving with them, and they took the corpses from the ambulances and threw them on the street. So one of the angry relatives of those martyrs got out of his car to take the bodies back to put them in the ambulance. But the settlers shot him on the spot. His son rushed to check if he was OK or whether he was dead, but he too was shot and killed, thus adding two more to the dead.
People from the same village, relatives of the dead, found themselves tragically having to bury more martyrs.
You have spoken about the behaviour of the settlers becoming more violent and about the attacks intensifying. You also say the behaviour of the Israeli soldiers has changed. In what way has it changed?
In the past 20 years, let’s say as long as I can remember, when settlers came to attack Palestinian villages or cars on the main streets, Israeli soldiers needed to stop them, to gather around them. But recently Israeli settlers are using the power and equipment of the Israeli soldiers to achieve their plans.
Settlers have plans to be more brutal against Palestinians and to do whatever they like.
You were mentioning before we started recording that you’d seen Israeli soldiers use live rounds rather than rubber bullets and other less lethal methods in the past, but has that increased in the last few weeks?
Yes, of course. I have been teaching in the same school where half of the episodes of harassment in the West Bank from settlers or Soldiers in schools has taken place. So it was a hot spot of violence. I don’t remember many cases of Israeli soldiers or settlers using live bullets, maybe 10 episodes at most. But these days whenever you listen during the night, you hear live bullets everywhere. Any Palestinian that takes any road that he or she is not expected to take will be attacked by Israeli settlers and sometimes by Israeli soldiers.
They’re using live bullets to kill, and this is my view, my humble view. I’m not an analyst or a politician, but it does appear that they have received permission to kill, to attack any Palestinian. Their aim is not to injure but to kill. I guess they see this as their chance to show their power and to harass Palestinians as much as they can.
Obviously the Israeli government and army use the excuse in Gaza that they are killing thousands of civilians because they’re trying to fight Hamas who they say use civilians as a human shield. Of course, that’s an absurd excuse for obvious collective punishment against Gaza. But the West Bank isn’t controlled by Hamas. So these attacks are just pure terror. They’re intended to terrorise and intimidate, and show force against Palestinians, right?
Yes. Definitely. Yes, I agree with you 100%
You’re a teacher, so you must be in touch with the attitude of young people, of young Palestinians in the West Bank. What’s the attitude? What’s the mood amongst your students?
We feel we are all helpless and powerless. We can do nothing here, nothing. If we are attacked, for example, in our houses, we cannot defend ourselves. And this is very sad because the PA is absent. Abbas is doing nothing. He has a national army; he calls it a national security army, but they are all asleep in their houses. They’re doing nothing. They’re not defending anything. They are not present at the entrances of the villages, towns and cities and camps. They are not there.
I’m also a municipality member and I always feel responsible in one way or another, to be a part of the crisis itself in the area. That is why I have been called to provide medical support to the other villages, because I’m active here.
I discuss with many young people that we should watch the entrances and the exits of our village or our town. The answer is very logical, but we have nothing to protect ourselves with. How can we go to the entrances, when one mad settler, one mad settler youth, comes and shoots at us all and then we are all gone, because we have nothing to protect ourselves with? So it becomes illogical. To be here is like being in a prison.
So we are defenceless. Although we supposedly have an army, we are helpless. Although we have a government here, and this might seem an odd thing to say, both governments are working together in my opinion
The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, you mean?
Yes, they are all both working together and the only difference is that the Israeli government is taking good care of their citizens by buying, for example, new technologies, such as the Iron Dome and many more new things, and they’re giving new weapons to them, not only to protect themselves but also to attack Palestinians.
The PA on the other hand, locks up any Palestinian who criticises the role of the Authority and calling for them to be investigated. They are asked, “Who are you working with?” One of my friends was called in the other day, and when he turned up, even though the roads are very dangerous, he told me that the centre is full of Palestinians. And when he chatted with them, he found that all of them had been called because they had posted [online] something against the government.
I say to them, “you’re doing nothing, either to protect us or to defend our lands, our lives; you’re doing nothing and saying nothing. You’re powerless and useless, and you shouldn’t be in your positions anymore.”
It sounds like in addition to feeling defenceless, people in the West Bank are also feeling extremely angry, angry with Israel, of course, but also angry towards the PA?
Let’s look at this. What is, in my view, the PA? If I go to a psychologist, for example, maybe I discover that I’m suffering from many disorders these days because I have started biting my nails and pulling my hair out from time to time. And this is unconscious because of the situation here. I can do nothing. I am angry all the time. I’m checking, for example, social media to be sure that not all of Gaza – which is a part of Palestine – has gone. Where is the free part of Palestine? We are all occupied, but Gaza is the only part that is, or has been, working for their freedom, for the freedom of Al-Aqsa mosque, as they say, not for themselves.
They are suffering from the lack of water, lack of electricity, lack of many things, and we are enjoying some things, enjoying the luxury of being able to drink water whenever we need it, while many of them, maybe thousands of them, have spent days in demolished houses. When I think about this I go mad because this is unbelievable and I can’t sit in the same chair for one hour.
Imagine staying days in the darkness and having no hope of being found alive. This is crazy and our anger is also not solely against the Israeli government, or the soldiers, or the settlers or the PA., but also against the surrounding Arab countries. They have armies and they could do something. They could help to free Palestine, but they prefer not to.
Maybe this is a cultural difference between our culture and yours, but we are Arabs and if we meet, for example… I will tell you a real story. In 2020 I went to the United States. And I went straight to a coffee shop to smoke hookah. When I entered, some person recognised that I was Arab and he came to me. He asked me, “where are you from?” I replied, “I’m from Palestine and you?” He said, “I am from Syria, that’s great.”
He was the owner of the place we sat together, and he introduced me to his team who were playing cards. We have a strong bond wherever we go. We feel something towards each other, a kind of responsibility or duty to protect each other, wherever we go, or to help each other.
This continues to be true, but it applies only to people, not to governments. Maybe you’ve heard about the hundreds of thousands of Jordanians marching towards the border because they wanted to break through and help to protect Palestine, or free Palestine? Also, many, many Egyptian people here and there, in the East and in the West are defending our cause and they are clarifying things on social media. Are they clarifying things on official channels like the BBC or CNN, etc?
The only blame is on those decision makers like Al-Sisi in Egypt and King Abdullah [not ordinary people]. The rulers have armies. They can do many things but they’re doing nothing, unfortunately.
Well, it goes to show who the real friends the Palestinian people are. It’s not the these reactionary rulers; it’s the ordinary working people, the poor people, the young people coming out in their hundreds of thousands, enraged as you say, feeling that sense of great indignation at the terrible crimes being inflicted on Palestine and indignant and angry at their governments. It’s why we and the IMT say that there needs to be a new Arab Revolution, a new revolutionary wave sweeping the Middle East, not only to free Palestine, but to free all the people of the Middle East from poverty and despotism and war.
On this question of solidarity, it’s not just in the Middle East, but in the imperialist countries. Obviously, my government, the British government, has a horrendous position towards Palestine. It backs Israeli crimes to the hilt. America is the main imperialist supporter of Israel and it protects it from any reproach for any of the crimes that it commits. But they’ve been big demonstrations in America, in London, and in many other countries.
Just recently we saw 500,000 on the streets. You know in France where protests in favour of Palestine have been banned, and in Berlin similarly. So it’s not just in the Middle East that Palestine is a beacon of resistance. It also is a beacon to working people, to oppressed people all over the world.
So the last thing I want to ask you is do you have a message to the ordinary people, the ordinary working people, the young people and poor people around the world who are, in spite of the propaganda and the repression of their governments, coming out in support of Palestine?
Yes. First of all, do not depend on one TV channel to find out what is true, and always think about things again and give it another thought, because the facts are very clear. Anybody can find out what is real and what is false. This one message and the other message is: do not underestimate the role of spreading the word.
Alright, well, thank you so much for joining us today: solidarity and free Palestine, intifada until victory, revolution until victory.
Thank you so much. We appreciate this very much. Thanks a lot.