There are increasingly chilling signs that September will be a very tragic month for Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank.
Last month, Ha’aretz reported that Israel is concerned about “the possibility of confrontations” with Palestinians following the expected vote in favor of Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly. So concerned, apparently, that the IDF is now training West Bank settlers and creating “readiness squads” in anticipation of any Palestinian demonstrations.
But as veteran Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery pointed out in a recent article, there is every reason to believe that these measures are not simply “defensive precautions” but rather preparations for a fait accomplis by the IDF and the settlers (between whom all distinctions have now become irrevocably blurred) :
In the next few weeks, the Palestinians will ask the UN to recognize the State of Palestine. They have already mustered a large majority in the General Assembly. After that, according to the official assessment of our army, all hell will break loose. Multitudes of Palestinians will rise, attack the “Separation” Wall, storm the settlements, confront the army, create chaos.
“The Palestinian Authority is planning a bloodbath,” Avigdor Lieberman cheerfully asserted. And when Lieberman predicts violence, it would be unwise to ignore him.
For months now, our army has been preparing for just such an eventuality. This week it announced that it is training the settlers, too, and telling them exactly when they are allowed to shoot to kill. Thus it confirms what we all know: that there is no clear distinction between the army and the settlers – many settlers are officers in the army, and many officers live in settlements. “The army defends all Israelis, wherever they are,” is the official line.
One of the scenarios the army is preparing for, it was stated, is for Palestinians shooting at soldiers and settlers “from inside the mass demonstrations”. That is an ominous statement. I have been at hundreds of demonstrations and never witnessed anyone shooting “from inside the demonstration”. Such a person would have to be insanely irresponsible, since he would expose all the people around him to deadly retaliation. But it is a handy pretext for shooting at non-violent protesters.
The settlers are, not surprisingly, taking their own “precautions” as well. Reuters has reported that settlers are receiving trained attack dogs from the “Civilian Dog Handlers Battalion of Judea and Samaria” (above) and just yesterday, Mondoweiss shared this chilling post from the French JDL website:
The JDL is organizing 19 to 25 September, a trip solidarity with our Israeli brothers living on the land of our ancestors Judea and Samaria.
This trip is for militants with military experience: The aim of this expedition is to lend a hand to our brothers face the aggression Palestinian occupants and thus enhance the security features of Jewish cities in Judea and Samaria.
Please keep these developments in mind as we watch events unfolding in the West Bank during the coming weeks. And let us pray for peace.
“the IDF and the settlers (between whom all distinctions have now become irrevocably blurred)”
The settlers would beg to differ. The more radical settlers hate the IDF with a passion.
This is true, but you’re talking about the most radical settlers. Apropos of this, Ha’aretz has just reported that some extremist settlers have vandalized an IDF base in response to the demolition of a West Bank outpost. The Yesha Council (the official umbrella of all the West Bank municipalities) was quick to condemn the act.
Yes, namely those who commit acts of violence. I wish you would be more careful in differentiating between radical, violent settlers and people who are just living there, even if you think their living there is immoral/illegal.
While the Yesha council does indeed issue statements condemning settler violence against Palestinians, I find these statements highly disingenuous coming from an organization whose leaders have made numerous incendiary statements, including a halachic ruling from its top rabbi that deemed it forbidden by Jewish law to employ or rent to Arabs:
This from an organization that purports to represent all Jewish municipalities in the West Bank.
It’s also important to point out that settler violence against Palestinians is a widespread phenomenon. Although it is not reported upon regularly by the mainstream media, settlers attack Palestinians and their villages literally on a daily basis. Here, for instance, is a sampling of incidents that were reported just yesterday:
Israeli settlers attacked on Monday a professor and a student from Bethlehem University while on the road in the West Bank, according to a university press release published Wednesday.
A group of settlers from Kiryat Arba settlement attacked on Monday the home of a Palestinian resident in Al Baqa’a area, east of Hebron, according to the local resident
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish settlers on Monday set fire to a mosque near Nablus area in the northern West Bank, Palestinian Authority officials said.
On Monday at noon, settlers of the Beitar Illit illegal settlement, south west of Bethlehem, flooded with sewage water Palestinian olive orchards that belong to residents of Nahhalin village, near Bethlehem.
Yes, some settlers are “just living there.” But this distinction is academic when you look at the toxic nature of the Occupation and the culture that it engenders. And I believe until the immoral/illegal nature of this Occupation is fundamentally addressed, personal ideological differences between individual settlers will remain moot. At the end of the day, this is structural violence.
‘between whom all distinctions have now become irrevocably blurred’
why do you say this when the idf just dismantled the outpost, migron?
The Migron outpost was established in 2001 and the IDF dismantled it only after years of protests. Despite Migron, numerous illegal outposts remain, even though Israel has pledged to dismantle all outposts in the West Bank as per the Road Map.
It’s also important to note that outposts are small proto-settlements established without government approval. Besides creating facts on the ground, they give the Israeli government cover to claim it is “removing West Bank settlements” even while it continues to build hundreds of new government-approved settlements with impunity. (BTW: it was reported yesterday that Israel is now building on the West Bank at twice the national rate.)
When I wrote that the distinctions between the IDF and the settlers are becoming blurred, I was referring to the point Avnery made in his article: many settlers are officers in the army, and many officers live in settlements. “The army defends all Israelis, wherever they are,” is the official line.
Obviously, settler violence is quite widespread. But most settlers are not violent. The vast majority of settlers are not attacking Palestinians.
Also, regarding the ruling you mentioned by R. Dov Lior concerning the propriety of renting to Arabs, I refer you to another ruling by R. Lior:
“Rabbi Dov Lior: Phones may be used on Shabbat to stop IDF evacuations.”
This is the same rabbi who advocated soldier refusal during the disengagement. Make no mistake – he is no friend of the IDF. (And he also likely supports terrorism – see the correspondence between him and another “settler,” by your standards, R. Aharon Lichtenstein concerning Baruch Goldstein in Tradition 28:4.)
Do you really think the difference between violently attacking a human being and living somewhere is just “academic”? Do you really think the difference between killing someone and raising a family peacefully is moot? Does this ideology not justify attacks on settler civilians?
One final anecdote: When I was in Hevron a few years ago, I witnessed the aftermath of an incident of settler violence. The vast majority of Hevron residents were outraged by the violence – some even doubted the possibility that a Hevronite would be violent. These settlers were worried that settler violence was jeopardizing their ability to stay there. Takeaway: there is diversity. Demonizing and caricaturing the settlers is no more defensible than doing the same to the Palestinians.
(An aside: I’m skeptical about the Beitar Illit story. See http://www.poica.org/editor/case_studies/view.php?recordID=235. I’m also curious why Ma’an is sure that the settlers were ultra-Orthodox if they never saw the attackers.)
Yes, R. Dov Lior has said some pretty nasty and crazy stuff – and this only proves my original point. Lior is certainly a dangerous crackpot – but he is also the head rabbi of the organization that represents ALL municipalities on the West Bank. This just underscores my claim that that the predominant culture in the settler movement is violent and intolerant.
In answer to your question, I would say yes, when it comes to structural violence, the difference between simple residents and perpetrators of actual violence is ultimately academic. During Jim Crow or apartheid S. Africa for instance, there were certainly good citizens living among the hooligans. But at the end of the day, they all lived within a corrupt and unjust system that normalized violent acts committed by those in power.
Regarding the worried settlers you met in Hevron: I would say to them it is not the violent settlers that are jeopardizing their ability to stay there – I would point to the oppressive and immoral system of Occupation that empowers and privileges them at the expense of non-Jewish residents.
Let’s see – The haredim certainly don’t look up to the tzioini Dov Lior. That’s already a decent chunk of settlers, as Beitar Illit and Modi’in Illit are by far the biggest settlements. According to this questionable website, they account for 26% of settlers. The secular settlers also likely don’t look up to a hardal rabbi. That’s another 16% of settlers.
That’s already 41% of settlers. Assuming every single non-haredi and non-secular settler looks up to Dov Lior, that’s only 59%. And they don’t. The vast majority of Gush Etzion residents probably consider him to be fairly nuts. I’d remind you that the Chief Rabbinate also supposedly represents all of Israel.
In any event, it’s fairly clear that Dov Lior is no friend of the IDF. So if you want to equate all settlers with Lior, you’ll have to also equate them with hating the IDF.
I really recommend that you meet some settlers and find out if they are violent people. That might upset the narrative you have constructed. But it’s always a good experience to meet the other side.
I’m actually shocked that you’re equating peaceful settlers with violent settlers, as if you don’t realize the implications. I’ll be blunt: do you think that it is OK to attack violent settlers? Peaceful settlers? Is attacking one more OK than the other?
You really aren’t getting this. You insist upon talking about individuals. I’m talking about systems.
The point of my post is that there is a dire and volatile situation developing on the West Bank. It is being whipped up by incendiary comments by Israeli leaders and a collusion between the IDF and the settlers. In light of all this, I’d say our little conversation here is just silly commentary.
I just watched the youtube. Mike Guzofsky is a Kahanist terrorist. He is on the FBI Terrorist Watch List. Israel does not allow him to possess guns, and he has been banned from entering the West Bank multiple times. He is open about his hatred for the IDF and Israel in general, complaining that the IDF and the Arabs collaborate to destroy his outpost’s synagogue.
Besides that, the people who live in his settlement (Kfar Tapuach), besides a small group (<10) of his followers, want nothing to do with him. They have attempted to kick him out of the settlement many times. He is not representative of the "predominant culture in the settler movement."
I’m worried about my family who lives in a West Bank village right next to a settlement road (with the settlement sitting right on top of the hill overlooking the village), and frankly, am not sure what to do. Every time the settlers are angry about something (and they’re angry now), my family keeps the lights off in their homes so as not to attract the settlers’ wrath. My family there, especially the kids, are afraid – and they have no protection and are completely vulnerable, which worries and enrages me. I talked to them recently when the settlers were upset about something else, and the kids were terrified – terrified – of every sound they heard around their home. They (the settlers) may or may not decide to use their weapons, but their collective terror is definitely felt.