Opinion |

Rewarding the Israeli Attackers in the Settlements

It’s a system – violence carried out with the army’s full backing and with the aim of expanding, on a daily basis, the area from which Palestinians are driven out

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Right-wing activists rally for a bill to legalize West Bank outposts outside Israel's High Court of Justice.
Right-wing activists rally for a bill to legalize West Bank outposts outside Israel's High Court of Justice.Credit: Emil Salman
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

It’s lucky that every few years they also attack Israeli soldiers. That makes it possible to again report on the regular, self-assured violence of those same Israeli Jewish West Bank “hilltop”settlers, with their ritual fringes and skullcaps and their love of the Almighty.

And when the day comes, and it will come, they will cause more serious injury to soldiers doing their mandatory army service than what occurred Sunday at the settlement of Yitzhar. You, the parents, have only yourselves to blame for permitting your sons to go and protect this state-sponsored thieving enterprise and the Israelis stealing West Bank land.

The rioters from the West Bank settlements and outposts should be grateful. Their numbers would not have grown, nor would their power have increased had the army, the police and the Israeli Civil Administration in the territories not for decades handled them with kid gloves, helping them take over another plot of land, to assault and drive out one more Palestinian and one more flock of goats from grazing land and to burn one more olive grove.

You want an example of this kid-gloves treatment? Just as I write this column Monday afternoon, Israeli soldiers are preventing olive harvesters from the Palestinian village of Burin from accessing their grove to harvest olives. I repeat: their land, their olive grove, their trees.

The grove is on the slopes of a hill where the illegal settlement of Yitzhar was built and where unauthorized and illegal outposts also stand. The grove is adjacent to the spot where last Wednesday masked Jewish Israelis attacked volunteers from Rabbis for Human Rights, including 80-year-old Rabbi Moshe Yehudai, with rods and rocks. The volunteers had joined the olive harvesters from Burin in the hope that their presence would ensure the Palestinians’ safety.

But as it transpired, the attackers from the outposts are not even put off assaulting the elderly or rabbis when faced with the desire to accomplish their holy task. Rabbi Yehudai was taken to the hospital, where it was found that in addition to the wounds to his head, he had suffered a broken arm.

The rabbi’s assailants had come from the Yitzhar settlement and its expanding number of nearby outposts. That is also where those who attacked Israelis soldiers twice within a week came from, most recently on Sunday. A day later, the Israeli army rewarded the assailants by doing precisely what they had wanted: It prevented the Palestinians from harvesting their olives.

A document entitled “Notice Regarding Land Closure (barring entry or presence)” was issued Monday to the Palestinian olive harvesters and to volunteers from Israel and abroad who had joined them. The land subject to closure was described as the “valley cemetery adjacent to Yitzhar.” It was signed by Col. Sagiv Dahan, Samaria Brigade commander.

Every Palestinian grove or pasture land that the Israeli army bars Palestinians from gaining access to becomes part of a land reserve for a future unauthorized outpost. How could outposts expand and multiply if it were not for army orders barring Palestinians from the land?

And it’s not just around Yitzhar. Another unauthorized, illegal outpost is currently expanding before our eyes in the northern Jordan Valley. It’s called Shirat Ha’asavim. It was established about three years ago at Al-Hima on land belonging to the Palestinian town of Tubas, it has been a thorn in the side of Palestinian shepherds and has limited the area on which they can graze their herds.

The Civil Administration issued stop-work orders against the construction work at the outpost, but it has continued to thrive. Two couples live there, apparently with a child or two, along with a flock of sheep and several horses, and soldiers are protecting them. After Yom Kippur, a bulldozer showed up and began plowing a path to Givat Salit, a legal bastard of a place, an illegal settlement that was retroactively authorized. The army received reports of the illegal construction on Palestinian land, which is also an act of violence, but the bulldozer continued its work.

This isn’t some wildcat act. It’s a system – violence carried out with the army’s full backing and with the aim of expanding, on a daily basis, the area from which Palestinians are driven out. The settlers are also soldiers carrying out orders from above: to steal. The difference is that they are generously compensated – with land, livestock, subsidies and a nice home later on.

When the day comes that a devout Jew emerges from Shirat Ha’asavim and assaults a soldier, this outpost resident will also be rewarded. Maybe an army truck will come and pick up the Palestinian shepherds and expel them to Jordan.

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