The Complex Relationship Between Settlers and Jewish Terror

It’s doubtful whether settler leader Dani Dayan’s warning that those youths’ crimes are a much greater danger to the settlements than Arab terror was understood.

Protesters scuffle with police at a demonstration against the detention conditions of the Jewish terror suspects, Jerusalem, December 20, 2015.
Olivieh Fittousi

The absolute majority of West Bank settlers looked forward to the day the Shin Bet security service solved the Duma murder. As far as they were concerned, solving the case would help eliminate Jewish terror organizations and reduce the exploitation of hate crimes to denigrate the settlement movement.

But today, when it turns out the detainees – most of them minors – are being tortured with unbridled fury and burning hatred, compassion rises even among those who want to see the murderers brought to justice and their movement crushed.

Rabbi Ohad Krakover, the timid, modest rabbi of the Kochav Hashahar settlement, told me the case’s chief investigator told the following to him and Danny Spielman, the chairman of the settlement’s members’ council. The investigator said: In the same way the Arab population supports its terrorists, you are a population supporting terror.

The investigator even confessed to them that the Shin Bet knew in advance that the settlement’s youth coordinator – who was arrested, interrogated and humiliated for around two weeks – had nothing to do with the heinous organizations. The excuse for his long arrest was that during his activity in the Hebrew Shepherd initiative, an Education Ministry program to help “hilltop” and fringe right-wing youth, he met members of the hilltop youth.

Now the rabbi says he’s in therapy. Imagine, says Rabbi Krakover, what his trainees and members of other settlements now think of the Shin Bet.

The claim that the Jewish community in the settlements supports Jewish terror reflects, apart from slander, professional ignorance. For this alone the interrogator must go.

The cabinet may be putting on pressure and the media isn’t letting go. The fact that the Shin Bet chief and a few others in the agency’s top brass wear kippot increases the psychological pressure. But none of this justifies the torture and the slander, which is more than absurd, of the Jewish population in the West Bank.

Although the Shin Bet’s acts have pushed the Jewish population in the West Bank into an almost impossible situation, the settlers should not go easy on themselves, nor should their many supporters in the general public go easy on them. Rabbis who oppose the hilltop youths’ terror attacks on Palestinians and peace activists, and certainly object to murder, issued a statement.

It says, in essence: “According to the foundations of law and morality, a person suspected of – or interrogated about – an extremely serious crime must not be compared to terrorists who wage war against Israel. The struggle against the enemy is conducted in keeping with the rules of war, while the treatment of offenders is different, for they have civil rights.”

Of course, the interrogees have civil rights. The heart is saddened and outraged to hear about the acts of torture. And yet, only in the technical sense are the Duma murder, the arson cases that preceded it, the destruction of mosques and other hate crimes “criminal acts.” Basically they are terror acts. Based on political-religious motivations, their end – banishing the Arabs from the land – justifies the means, including, it’s a fact, murdering babies.

This naked truth was stated by intellectuals and public figures. But there was no one to translate it into acts. It’s doubtful whether settler leader Dani Dayan’s warning that those youths’ crimes are a much greater danger to the settlements than Arab terror was understood.

The rabbinical establishment, whose influence is far greater than that of elected public officials, uttered a feeble, sometimes sanctimonious denunciation. Those anarchists may not obey the rabbinical establishment either, but in the circles close to them, the rabbis still wield influence.

Rabbis, when they care, know how to get what they want. But no rabbinical body put up a real fight against the ticking bomb whose inevitable end was the Duma explosion.