Benjamin Netanyahu - Olivier Fitoussi  - 05122011
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Ever since dozens of settlers rioted at the Binyamin Brigade's base in the West Bank last week, several people, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have compared the rioters to those who gather weekly at Bil'in to protest the separation fence. Netanyahu compared the two again this week, during the lighting of the first Hanukkah candle at the brigade's headquarters. This is an unfounded and outrageous comparison.

For several years now, Bil'in has been the scene of a stubborn protest by Palestinians and their Israeli and foreign supporters against the fence, which has split the village in two and dispossessed the residents of their land. Their struggle was even acknowledged by the High Court of Justice, which ordered the government to adjust the barrier's route. And the demonstrations at Bil'in do sometimes get violent, both because the Israel Defense Forces and the Border Police take harsh measures against the protesters and because the protesters throw stones.

Over the past few years, more than 20 Palestinians have been killed while protesting against the barrier in several Palestinian villages. The latest was Mustafa Tamimi, who was killed this month in Nebi Saleh by a tear gas canister fired directly at his head. Dozens of protesters have been hurt or arrested, some for lengthy periods.

Thus any comparison between them and the rioting settlers is certainly groundless with regard to how the IDF and Border Police deal with the two groups: They display leniency and turn a blind eye to pogroms conducted by settlers, while using harsh, violent and sometimes even deadly measures against the left-wing demonstrators.

Moreover, in contrast to the settlers, the Bil'in demonstrators do not take their wrath out on innocent people through "price tag" attacks. They do not harass or threaten their neighbors, don't uproot orchards, don't torch synagogues, fields and houses and don't set cars on fire. They are fighting against what they consider a crying injustice - and which even the High Court of Justice has at least partially recognized as such.

It's true that the settlers are also rising up against what they see as injustice: the evacuation of settlement outposts. But these outposts are patently illegal, and the High Court of Justice has ordered them dismantled.

Therefore, there is no room for such a comparison. A vast gulf lies between Bil'in and Binyamin.

Read this article in Hebrew