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.