We should call settler violence what it is … terrorism

YOSSI MEKELBERG January 30, 2022

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When Israeli Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, in a meeting with a visiting US diplomat, dared to express his concern over “settler violence,” the entire settlement movement’s PR machine, including right-wing politicians and media, embarked on a concerted campaign of incitement against him, even threatening his life.

In social media he was called a murderer and a traitor, ignoring his many years of service in the military.  A leading right-wing member of the Knesset accused him of “spilling blood in a nasty manner and participating in a false and antisemitic campaign that besmirches settlers … Shame on you, little man.” And all for speaking the plain truth. No surprise, then, that the police assigned him round-the-clock protection from Jewish extremists.

Those who protest that Bar Lev, whose job is to ensure law and order, is defaming their reputation by pointing out that there is Jewish terrorism, are apparently incapable of seeing that by calling for him to be lynched they are proving his point in the most powerful way. This irony probably escapes them entirely. Furthermore, Bar Lev, and rightly so, has never described the entire community of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem as violent or terrorist, but simply claimed that there are such elements among them, which is no more than stating what we already know. He should have probably acknowledged too, as ample evidence demonstrates, that in many cases the Israeli authorities are turning a blind eye to those who terrorize innocent Palestinians, and there are cases where the security forces have actively supported them with barely any legal repercussions.

Although the very act of occupation and imposition of the will of one political entity on a defenseless population through superior military force is an act of violence, and most definitely feeds into the minds (and the mindlessness) of some of the settlers, it could conceptually be treated separately from the very acts of terrorism which are committed by the most radical elements among these settlers and some of their allies from within Israel proper. This phenomenon is not new and was already under way in the 1980s, with  assassination attempts against Palestinian West Bank mayors; an attack on the Islamic College in Hebron that claimed the lives of three students and injured a further 33; a plot by some radical messianic Jews to blow up the Dome of the Rock, including Al-Aqsa mosque; and the murderous attack by the contemptible religious extremist settler Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinian Muslim worshippers in the holy place of the Cave of the Patriarchs, also in Hebron —to mention just a few such atrocities.

Furthermore, it was an Israeli-Jewish terrorist who killed Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin in cold blood, in the middle of the Oslo peace process, with the sole aim of ending the prospect of peace.

It is time for all Israelis to hold an open and honest discussion about settlers’ violence against Palestinians and to stop excusing their behavior, as it is morally reprehensible, and without a consensus against it the entire country is implicated in their terrorist crimes.

Yossi Mekelberg

Therefore, to deny the existence of Jewish terrorism is to ignore reality. By any definition of terrorism, these and other acts of political violence constitute terrorism committed by Jews, which is a reflection of their extreme and much distorted version of Judaism and Zionism. The Israeli security services have an entire division dedicated solely to combating Jewish political violence and protecting politicians who are threatened because they oppose the occupation and the settlements.

After all, there is conclusive evidence of settlers shooting at Palestinians, hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails at cars and houses, illegally entering Palestinian homes and vandalizing them, torching fields and destroying crops. In very few of these cases are any of the perpetrators brought to justice and in many cases they commit these crimes while protected by Israeli soldiers. Only last week in the West Bank village of Burin, dozens of masked Jewish extremists torched a car and beat up Israeli and Palestinian peace activists with batons and shovels; the activists had come to help local Palestinian villagers plant trees. And this was not an isolated case. In 2021 alone the UN reported 496 attacks by settlers or Jewish extremists against Palestinians, 126 of them resulting in in physical harm.  There is only way to refer to this violence, and that is to call it by its name – terrorism.

Despite the attacks on Bar Lev for calling a spade a spade, those who should be most worried about Jewish terrorism and be the first to condemn it are the settlers themselves, the vast majority of whom do not engage in violence. At the end of the day, this relatively small group among them tars their reputation and puts at risk whatever peaceful coexistence they might have with their Palestinian neighbors. Almost the entire international community considers all settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illegal and in violation, if not in contempt, of international law. At the same time there is also a recognition that in no future peace deal will all settlements be removed, and consequently most settlers will stay in place. It is, then, in the interest of the settlers themselves and their supporters in Israeli society to be in the forefront of those condemning Jewish terrorism against Palestinians, to demand that the government put a stop to these criminal activities without delay, using the full force of the law, and to entirely banish the phenomenon.

Whatever the nature of disputes in Israel about its future relations with the Palestinians of the West Bank, if Israel wants to be regarded as a respected member of the international community, and especially of the democratic world, there must be wall-to-wall condemnation of any form of violence against Palestinians, who are already living under an oppressive occupation and have done so for many years. Those who do not denounce these brutal attacks against innocent people just because they are Palestinians, those who turn a blind eye to such activities or those who vitriolically attack people such as Bar Lev who speak the truth, are just as complicit in these crimes as those who commit them.

It is time for all Israelis to hold an open and honest discussion about settlers’ violence against Palestinians and to stop excusing their behavior, as it is morally reprehensible, and without a consensus against it the entire country is implicated in their terrorist crimes.

  • Yossi Mekelberg is professor of international relations and an associate fellow of the MENA Program at Chatham House. He is a regular contributor to the international written and electronic media. Twitter: @YMekelberg

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source https://www.arabnews.com/node/2014531

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