Silence in the Face of Demolition and Pogroms

Zehava Galon
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Palestinian vehicles allegedly set on fire by radical Israeli settlers near the Dead Sea, April 14, 2020.
Zehava Galon

Two campaigns are now taking place in the territories: demolition of homes and structures, and pogroms by the “hilltop youth.” Last Friday an Israel Defense Forces soldier shot Haroun Abu Aram, a Palestinian from the South Hebron Hills, in the neck. Shooting in the neck is unusual for the IDF, but it is symptomatic of what is happening in Israel’s backyard.

The first campaign: According to the figures of B’Tselem, in 2020 Israel demolished 152 residential units and 412 structures (not including demolitions in East Jerusalem). It is Israel’s insistence on destroying unwanted communities that has led to a situation whereby a soldier shot an unarmed man in the neck, although the victim did not represent a danger and was only trying to hold onto a generator.

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The reason for this campaign is obvious: Israel was forced to retreat from the plan to annex Area C (60 percent of the West Bank), of which the prime minister had boasted (remember the “cabinet meeting on Sunday” that never took place?). The agreements with the Gulf states led to a donkey’s burial for the annexation.

But the government is still stuck with Israel’s strongest pressure group, the settlers, and is attempting to implement a de facto annexation – because a de jure annexation would exact an overly high price. Villages that Israel manages to erase or shrink will become additional areas of outposts. That may take a year, but that’s how the method works – with possible deception, with a suspicion of theft, under cover of darkness, with government immunity. And we have to work fast before U.S. President-elect Joe Biden enters the White House and possibly puts an end to the festivities.

That’s one arm of the unofficial annexation. The second campaign: repeated pogroms by the “hilltop youth,” the military arm of the settlement enterprise, against Palestinians. Pogromchiks enter the heart of Palestinian communities, sow destruction and attack residents. About a week ago, according to a report by Yesh Din: Volunteers for Human Rights, they wounded a 13-year-old girl in her bed in the village of Kifl Haris; she was hurt by a stone that smashed into the balcony of her home.

The pogroms take place almost every night. They are documented and the IDF is aware of them – often the army arrives to escort the pogromchiks home. So they won’t catch cold, God forbid. Senior defense establishment officials have warned that the settlers’ rampaging has gotten out of control. The statistics are familiar to them, if not to the public.

The Israeli media, which is ostensibly independent, has barely reported on the two campaigns. Why should it get into trouble with the settlers and with Yair Netanyahu? Fear of the online lynch mob on the right is paralyzing the politicians as well. Nobody expects anything from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Benny Gantz, perhaps the most pathetic figure in the history of Israeli politics, who is playing the role of defense minister, is also silent. All right, he already has enough notches on his belt, why should he keep others from having their fun?

But to my regret, Yair Lapid, Ofer Shelah, Avi Nissenkorn and Ron Huldai are also maintaining silence – the cowardice of centrists who are afraid of losing two voters still trying to decide between them and Gideon Sa’ar. Sa’ar’s troops on one side, an annexation policy on the other, and a cowardly silence in the middle.

When Election Day arrives, remember what is being repressed. Remember that you are first of all human beings, and not people making strategic calculations. When you vote, think about who will take steps to combat this lethal pincer movement, which is operating without any public discussion. You must be part of the public discussion – before desperation overcomes fear, and we plummet into bloody days once again.

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