Text size

The behavior of those among the settlers dubbed "the hill youth" is reminiscent of the skinheads in Europe and the United States: They are loutish, violent and uninhibited brawl-mongers. The various groups of skinheads have all kinds of excuses for unloading their aggression - from racist ideology to frustration at a soccer game result - and in Israel of 2002, hundreds of knitted-skullcap-wearing punks do it for the love of the motherland.

The day before yesterday, the young louts returned to Havat Gilad to prevent the final stages of its removal and to foil the state authorities' decision. Two days prior, they had unleashed their rage indiscriminately on anyone they caught sight of: Palestinians harvesting olives, policemen, soldiers, journalists.

This young rabble has succeeded in imposing its will: The security forces don't dare confront it, the heads of the Yesha Council of Jewish settlements are unable to call it to order, and it does not listen to the rabbis. At the same time, the wanton boisterousness of these thugs is becoming the spearhead of the current protest, determining both its character and results. The bullying and forceful nature of their behavior is sweeping others to follow in their footsteps.

The Yesha Council claims it is helpless when it comes to coping with these skinheads. It sees them as weeds which have grown out of its control - or which arrived from outside the settlements - and so denies responsibility to call them to order. Yesha leaders see these hooligans as juvenile delinquents that the state institutions must take care of. Some settler leaders say they are ashamed to be identified with the group these thugs are part of. Others say these gangs represent a definite stream among the settlers - youngsters who see settling the country above all and believe that, for this end, it is justified to use violence, spurn the law and even rebel against the rabbis.

The damage caused by "the hill youth" is evident not only in protest actions such as those at the end of the week but also in the despicable harassment of innocent Palestinians and the violent attacks on the merchants of the Hebron market. And one day, possibly, there may arise a need to investigate whether some of them have been involved in the random murders of Palestinians over the past months, which remain unsolved.

The Yesha Council is not exempt from responsibility for these youngsters' transgressions. Indeed their conduct has a universal element of violence for its own sake, but whoever claims that that has nothing to do with the environment in which it is demonstrated is being naive. The boys who ran around Havat Gilad last week are not just a bunch of individuals driven by personal emotional distress to beat up people they do not know, to vandalize property, to show contempt to the representatives of the state authorities; they are also the products of a society which has placed bullying at the center of its existence and forced its will on the entire State of Israel.

From its beginning, the settlement project in the territories was a derivative of the violent approach of a minority dictating its world view to the majority. The first settlements were built initially against the government's will, as a result of rowdy demonstrations. This pattern of behavior has continued to this day: One by one the governments of Israel have folded in the face of the settlers' violence and granted validation to their settlement initiatives, against their will.

"The hill youth" is sprouting up in a climate in which the settler leaders are not cooperating with the law enforcement authorities to indict the violators of public order. Their rabbis recommend they disobey orders to take down settlements, and the prevailing ideological code regards the halakha, not the laws of the state, as the binding command. Yesha leaders are therefore acting with hypocrisy and false piety when they try to wash their hands of these punks.