Several facts cannot be disputed: The Palestinians in the territories, especially the rural folk, are a population at grave risk, with no defender. In recent months their condition has worsened. Settler attacks have become more violent, methodical and frequent, and their lives have become a nightmare. There isn’t a Palestinian farmer who isn’t afraid to go out to work his land, and many have had to give up their plots for fear of the settlers.
The IDF, which is responsible for their safety, doesn’t even dream of standing up in their defense. Its soldiers stand by, almost always protecting the attackers, sometimes supplying them with guns. The high command encourages this conduct through its silence and inaction, even if recently a lip-service directive says otherwise. It is unlikely to be put into action. The Israel Police likewise does nothing, and the Palestinian Authority Police is not allowed to lift a finger to defend its people. Thus, the population is left more defenseless than it has ever been.
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One can of course accept it with a shrug, as one does the entire apartheid reality, and do nothing. Haim Shadmi, a journalist and radical left-wing activist, thinks otherwise. He thinks just like the settlers: Where the IDF does not do enough to protect the residents, another force must enter the picture. This is how the settler militias – whose legal arm is called the “ravshatzim” (a Hebrew acronym for “ongoing military security coordinators”) – came to be, They are paid by the state, armed by the military and permitted to do almost anything in the name of protecting the settlements.
And indeed they do. They terrorize the Palestinians, at times harming innocents, in the name of self-defense. The "Hashomer Hachadash” organization has emerged for a similar purpose: Where the police do not do enough, a civilian organization has arisen in Israel with a jeep-mounted unit, a motorcycle unit and a volunteer Border Police unit; just what the brutal official Border Police needed. “The State of Israel doesn’t protect its land – we’ll protect the state’s land for it,” the organization’s home page declares.
Shadmi thinks the same way: A helpless population must be defended. His conscience is roused: The left must stand up in defense of those attacked. That, by the way, is what some white people, many Jews among them, did in South Africa in connection with the black population. Just imagine the cowardice of the settler thugs when confronted with armed Israelis, IDF veterans, standing up to them.
At a Knesset symposium on settler violence organized by the left this week, Shadmi voiced his proposal: “If you can’t do it,” he told the lawmakers, “please, give us the authority to use weapons. We’ll do the job for the Palestinians and protect human life.” In other words, “ravshatzim,” or Hashomer Hachadash, under the auspices of the state, to defend the helpless. Shadmi added, “We won’t hurt anyone,” but nobody wanted to hear anything by that point.
The uproar was telling. Mustn’t talk like that. First was the most left-wing, most Arab member of the center-left government, Esawi Freige. “Uncalled for. You’ve gone too far, too far, too far.” Why uncalled for? And who has gone too far? And who will protect your brethren in the territories? Then came the storm online, from left and right, violent, hyperbolic, incendiary, distorting Shadmi’s words: The left is threatening murder.
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Comic relief was provided by the chairman of the Yesha Council of Settlements, David Elhayani, who called on the police commissioner to “detain Shadmi for questioning regarding threats and incitement to murder.” The sensitive Elhayani, who knows a thing or two about violence, is scared of the left’s threats. Funny.
Hardly anyone supported Shadmi’s proposal, one of the most spot-on to be raised on the left in recent years. If there was a left, that’s what it should have done long ago. The problem with this imaginary salvation army, never to be established: Who will volunteer for it? The children of the candles? The Hapoel labor squads? Meretz Youth?