Opinion |

The Israeli Settler Who Knows Where the Barbarians Are Coming From

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Yossi Dagan, chairman of the Samaria Regional Council speaks at a demonstration, December 2018.
Yossi Dagan, chairman of the Samaria Regional Council speaks at a demonstration, December 2018.Credit: Oren Ben Hakoon
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Every murder of an Israeli in the West Bank – and even before suspects are found – is an opportunity for the settlement dignitaries to preach their powerful victimhood and plant another partial picture of a fake reality in the mind of Israeli Jews.

On Monday morning Yossi Dagan, chairman of the Samaria Regional Council, already knew that the people who murdered Esther Horgen from the settlement of Tal Menashe were “the barbarians of the Palestinian Authority.” The Israeli ear is accustomed to generalizations in which an individual’s terrible act or negative characteristic is identified with an entire community – as long as it’s not about Jews (because then it would be antisemitism). Therefore, in an interview on Kan public radio, Dagan repeated this generalization uninterruptedly.

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Interestingly, Dagan didn’t say the “Palestinian barbarians” but focused on portraying the PA as the collective monster whom his listeners are requested to despise. The PA is a strange political-geographic entity – a limited self-rule dispersed among some territorial patches and surrounded by a large expanse destined for Jewish settlement and development. The PA (in effect it should have been the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is stripped of all authority and power) is supposed to manage the political and diplomatic battle for the return of more territory and theoretically, for the establishment of a state.

Therefore, despite its disability, adaptability and weakness, the settlers see it as the political enemy that must be combated. All the efforts by the right – headed by the settlers – are focused on the constant weakening of that patchwork and fragmented entity that the Palestinian public considers a subcontractor of the Israeli occupation.

Dagan said that Horgen was murdered “in the center of the State of Israel.” Well, no, she wasn’t. She was murdered in the Barta’a enclave created by the separation barrier west of Jenin, which covers 18,000 dunams (4,450 acres). Seven Palestinian villages have been penned inside it between the separation barrier and the Green Line, cut off from the neighboring villages and the rest of their land.

The Palestinian residents of the enclave need an Israeli permit to live in their own homes, and the two checkpoints through which they’re permitted to travel eastward aren’t open at night. Entry into Israel is also possible only with a special permit. While the four settlements in the region are expanding, Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank is restricting the right of the Palestinian villages to build and develop.

With a few exceptions, Palestinians from other parts of the West Bank are not allowed to enter this enclave, nor are they permitted to hike in its Mandate-era forest and enjoy the lovely views. The barrier was built with a security-related excuse whose objective is obvious: to de facto annex a huge area to Israel, just because it’s a land reserve for Palestinian communities and the internationally envisaged state.

An important dimension of the fake reality is the appropriation of the adjectives “cruel,” “barbaric” and “despicable” only for the murder of Jews by Palestinians. These adjectives (and the verb “murder”) used by Dagan in interviews Monday are erased from every death of an unarmed Palestinian caused by an Israeli, whether it’s an infantry soldier or a pilot, gunner, police officer or settler. That’s how Israel’s Jews are trained to think that the death of a Palestinian isn’t so terrible.

If Horgen’s murderer is a Palestinian, and if he is captured alive, he will probably claim that he acted out of patriotic motives. He and his extended family will be harshly punished. It has already been proved that murders do not prevent Israel from grabbing more land from the Palestinians, so nobody can claim a political “benefit” from the murder.

If the murderer is Palestinian, is there a connection between his deed and the cumulative cruelty of Israeli policy, which has stabbed and wounded him every day since he was born? If so, it’s a cruelty that millions of Palestinian experience personally from the cradle to the grave, one that stokes wrath and disgust in every one of them.

But only very few of them vent their anger and hatred on an older woman running in the forest. The fact remains: Many more Israelis have killed and are killing many more Palestinians.

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