After outpost evacuation, settler youth say 'don't mess with us'
Some 3,000 rightists take part in violent rampage following demolitions of Shvut Ami in West Bank.
Minutes after security forces completed demolishing the wooden structures in the illegal West Bank outpost of Shvut Ami B, cellular phone text messages and e-mails were already circulating among rightist activists delivering the appropriate message.
No one was told to torch Palestinian fields, block roads or vandalize Israel Defense Forces property. The messages contained two dry facts: Shvut Ami B has been evacuated and the future home of Rivka Meirtchak and David Cogan, a couple set to be wed next month, has been demolished.
But that sufficed, and a response came within a few hours when a Palestinian olive grove near the settlement of Kadum was set ablaze and Highway 60 was blocked for an hour.
Every time the IDF evacuates an outpost, or Palestinians attack settlers or their property, rightist youths set out on a rampage and damage Palestinian, police or IDF property.
Security forces believe this retaliatory policy has been orchestrated by illegal outpost residents who have been removed from their dwellings by order of the army, at rightist gatherings. Of course, the settlers and their supporters deny these accusations.
"It's about time that our side has crazies too," said A., a 17-year-old settler from Yitzhar. "It's about time that we also have people whose 'irrational responses' cannot be controlled. That the Arabs and the IDF say they're majnunim (crazy in Arabic) - you don't want to mess with them. That way will show that both Jews and Arabs can be turned into punching bags, and people will think twice before they hurt us."
In comparison to settlers' former responses, this time their retaliation was relatively minor. Shvut Ami B is a small and unimportant outpost near Shvut Ami A, built on land confiscated by the IDF after the 1967 Six-Day War for the purpose of building an army base.
Had it not also been the future home of Meirtchak, 29, of Kiryat Ata, then a response might never have come. But Meirtchak is well known among settlers for having refused bail, and as a result remained in police custody for four months rather than recognizing the authority of Israel's courts. Meirtchak was originally arrested for refusing to be evacuated from Shvut Ami A after it was declared a restricted military zone. She was eventually sentenced to a shorter period in jail than she had already spent in custody, but her story made waves among settlers and she became a local celebrity with the settler youth. She was nowhere near Shvut Ami B Thursday, but just mentioning her name sparked a fire.
About 3,000 activists, mostly youths from national religious settlements in the Hebron hills area or Yitzhar, actively participate in these punitive actions. Their modus apparatus comes almost naturally: When a nine-year-old boy was stabbed by a Palestinians in Yitzhar, they set nearby Palestinian fields on fire; when the Yad Yair outpost was evacuated by the IDF they blocked Highway 60 for several hours.
The vast majority of the West Bank's 300,000 settlers do not participate in such retaliatory measures. Most of their rabbis and leaders, including the Binyamin Regional Council chairman, have strongly rebuked them. But much of the settler youth consider the measures to be reasonable and effective in preventing Palestinians and the IDF from taking action against them. Or, in the words of the 17-year-old youth A. from Yitzhar, "They should learn not to mess with us."