This month was marked by Israel’s killing of 19 Palestinians, bringing the total number of Palestinians killed by Israelis since the beginning of 2023 to more than 200. The Israeli government also took further action to Judaize the Naqab, foiled its own attempt at normalizing relations with Libya, and perhaps inadvertently shift the mainstream narrative on Israeli apartheid.

Nineteen Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces and settlers this month. The dead include 6 minors and 1 who succumbed to injuries sustained during the Israeli raid on Jenin refugee camp on 3 July. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces so far this year; the dead include 35 children.

The escalation of settler violence and impunity for settler killers received a lot of media attention in August. On 4 August, some 50 settlers from the Oz Tzion settlement raided Burqa, killing 1 Palestinian, injuring 4 others, and vandalizing Palestinian property, in what the U.S. called a “terror attack.” The murderer and an accomplice were arrested, but it quickly became evident that they would not face justice. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir called the settlers “heroes” and said they should receive a medal of honor. The accomplice, Elisha Yered, worked as a spokesperson for MK Limor Son Har-Melech of the Jewish Power Party earlier this year, and he was released to house arrest on 9 August; Yehiel Indore, the suspected killer, was released to house arrest on 15 August. Four Palestinians were also arrested in connection to the settler raid in what appeared to be an Israeli effort to spread blame for the raid to Palestinians. They were released to house arrest on 10 August under the conditions that they pay bail and remain in Burqa for one week.

The Israeli National Planning and Building Council approved the establishment of 5 new communities in the Naqab, including 4 exclusively for Jews. A memorandum discussed during a committee meeting July revealed that the purpose of the new towns was to prevent the expansion of Bedouin communities along Route 25 and to further Judaize the Naqab. As part of this Judaization policy, Israeli authorities demolished Palestinian homes in Tell ‘Arad in the Naqab on 28 August. Ben-Gvir and Construction and Housing Minister Yitzchak Goldknopf travelled to Tell ‘Arad to oversee the demolitions; speaking to reporters, Ben-Gvir described the demolitions as “sacred work.”

Several developments in August were related to Israel’s efforts to normalize relations with Arab countries. Senior Israeli officials held several meetings with U.S. officials to further discuss Saudi-Israeli normalization, which still seemed to be advancing at a slow rate. Axios reported that the Palestinian Authority had decided to engage with the normalization effort; it informed Saudi Arabia and the U.S. what it would want in return for not opposing the effort. Israel’s foreign minister, Eli Cohen, decided to publicize a meeting he held with Libyan foreign minister Najla Mangoush in Rome; she was promptly fired by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh and fled Libya on a private jet. Dbeibeh later visited the Palestinian embassy and assured the Palestinian representative that Libya will not normalize relations with Israel.

Palestinians and leading human rights organizations have long maintained that Israeli policies toward Palestinians amount to apartheid. As the Israeli government pushes for a side-lining of the judicial branch of government, Palestinian charges of Israeli apartheid were acknowledged by some in the Israeli mainstream. In what might be seen as a paradigm shift in mainstream discussion in Israel, an open letter (“The Elephant in the Room”) signed by more than 2,000 mostly Jewish and Israeli academics and former officials described Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as apartheid. Former Israeli military commander Amiram Levin also called the situation in the West Bank “total apartheid,” likening it to Nazi Germany. The charges in the letter received an extra boost when the international media reported National Security Minister Ben-Gvir’s statement during a panel discussion that his right to freedom of movement in the West Bank is more important than Palestinians’ right to movement, which implies a right to place Palestinian communities under lockdown and exert violence so that Israeli settlers can roam freely.

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