Who's to Blame for the Acts of Israel's Extreme Right Fringe?

Those who accepted the legal anomaly of the settlements from Day 1 and even encouraged them are suddenly looking in the mirror at the ugliest parts of their faces.

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A view of the Israeli settlement of Kedumim, near the Palestinian town of Nablus.
A view of the Israeli settlement of Kedumim, near the Palestinian town of NablusCredit: AFP

The eye rolling and the right-wing government’s condemnations of the shocking wedding video, at which hilltop youths brandished rifles and knives and stabbed a photo of the murdered toddler Ali Dawabsheh, reflect a hypocrisy that is disingenuous and lacking awareness. Those who encourage constant violations of the law, defend land thefts and maintain different laws for two populations living under the same regime; those who embrace a movement like Im Tirtzu, which disseminates fascist propaganda, and who themselves periodically incite against Arabs and leftists, in the end must take responsibility for the behavior of the deranged hill-dwellers, Israel’s right-wing extremist fringe.

Right-wing elected officials have been expressing support for the Shin Bet security service in recent days, after the agency was accused of torturing suspects under interrogation, and have been cursed by their constituents for this. Beyond the fact that demanding justice in the name of democracy is absurd coming from Itamar Ben-Gvir and his ilk, they cannot be absolved of responsibility for this situation. Those who accepted the legal anomaly of the settlements from Day One and even encouraged them are suddenly looking in the mirror at the ugliest parts of their faces.

Also responsible for the Islamic State-like mutation that has emerged from the hills of Judea and Samaria are the legal authorities, who have allowed Israel to be raped by the right; the diplomatic echelons who enthusiastically populated the settlements established with their approval, or who were persuaded to approve them retroactively after the settlers established facts on the ground; and the courts, which fearfully refrained from acting as a brake by refusing to decide the question of whether the settlements were legal under international law. The outposts that sprung up during the 1990s have turned the territories into a lawless twilight zone that breeds criminal messianic anarchism, and there remain elements in the government who encourage this and call for it to be recognized.

The report on the outposts written by attorney Talia Sasson in 2005 at the request of then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, determined that the outposts were erected in violation of the law and with the support of government ministries (like the Housing Ministry) and public agencies (the World Zionist Organization’s settlement division). But the report was addressed in a most limited fashion; while it stopped the establishment of new outposts, it did not result in the destruction of a single one. That report was subsequently superseded by the Edmund Levy report, which in 2012 determined that settlement construction, including the outposts, is legal.

Only yesterday, by the way, with the shock caused by the wedding video still fresh, the Knesset passed into law a bill sponsored by MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) that delegates governmental powers to the World Zionist Organization’s settlement division, giving it the freedom to fund the settlements, contravening the legal opinion of a deputy attorney general that forbade the transfer of funds to the division.

Left-wing governments, whose ideology should have halted the anarchy in the territories, succumbed to fear. After the massacre at the Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994, then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin weighed evacuating the Jewish community of Hebron, which was itself established by deceiving the authorities on Passover eve in 1968. In the end he was persuaded not to do this, for fear of causing a civil war. Rabin was assassinated without removing a single person from his home, and the result of the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre was the closure of one of the city’s main streets, Shuhada Street. It was purged of Palestinians, who are not allowed to traverse parts of it in order to create a safe space for the settlers. These are just a few examples of the weakness and hesitation shown by Israel’s legal authorities – whether out of fear or out of consent and encouragement – in the face of the settlers’ consistent violations of the law.

The right, which encourages the settlement enterprise, and its partners in the center, which grovel before it, have no business rolling their eyes. The youths brandishing knives were not delivered by the stork from some distant land. They, like the murderers of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir, epitomize the norms of popular hatred and contempt for the rule of the law and democracy. He who flouts the law or ignores it will see his children celebrating the murder of infants.

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