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Don’t Dare Speak Ill of the Settlers

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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Masked settlers hold clubs to attack Palestinian and activists, by the town of Surif near Hebron, last November
Masked settlers hold clubs to attack Palestinian and activists, by the town of Surif near Hebron, last NovemberCredit: Shai Kendler
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev is the latest person to join the honored club of people with bodyguards. He was preceded by Deputy Minister Mansour Abbas, Knesset Member Idit Silman and Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana, on top of the select number of officials who normally have bodyguards – the president, prime minister and defense minister.

Bar-Lev expected his war on crime in the Arab community to set Arab organized crime rings against him. After all, that’s the way of the world, cause and effect. But, as Bar-Lev tweeted on Monday, “I’m not being threatened by Arab criminals; I’m being threatened by Israeli Jews.”

The defense minister is supposed to be at risk from foreign enemies. An Arab lawmaker who dared to join a rightist governing coalition is supposed to be threatened by other Israeli Arabs. The religious affairs minister is supposed to be threatened by secular people, and an Arab security guard at a parking lot may find himself facing the barrel of a Jewish lawmaker’s gun. Each community has its own target.

Until suddenly, things go topsy-turvy and the rules of the game run amok.

Nevertheless, Bar-Lev’s tweet is a lie. Assuming he thought about his words before launching them into the public square, he understood that he had to soften some edges. The correct, symmetrical sentence would have been “I’m not being threatened by Arab criminals, I’m being threatened by Israeli Jewish terrorists.” And these terrorists have names and addresses, since the reason for the threat defines the community to which they belong.

The minister’s offense was daring to tell U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland that he takes settler violence seriously. That, too, is a lie. Nevertheless, Bar-Lev dared to violate one of the ironclad laws that keep this government alive – he spoke poorly of the settlers.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who was the first to identify the threat he posed, sealed his fate. “You’ve gotten confused; the settlers are the salt of the earth, heirs to the pioneers of the valley and the hill,” she said, referring to people who established new Jewish communities in pre-state Israel. “The violence that should shock people is the dozens of incidents that take place every day in which stones and Molotov cocktails thrown at Jews.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett quickly fell in line, too. “Every community has marginal elements, but we must not generalize about an entire community,” he said. In other words, Bar-Lev, align yourself with the right!

The accepted norm is that the only community about which we can and should generalize is the Arab community. By consensus, “Arab society” is one that murders its children and “the Arab sector” is one to be suspicious of, a producer of domestic terrorists. To fight “crime in the Arab community,” the state is prepared to spend billions to raid Arab towns, carry out staged chases and arrest as many suspects as possible.

But in the settler community – which shelters criminals who commit hundreds of crimes a year against both human beings and nature, criminals who threaten Arabs, harass them, assault them, uproot hundreds of trees and terrorize soldiers and police – the treatment surgical. Despite hundreds of incidents, only 369 cases have been opened in the last three years and only 11 indictments have been filed. Truly a fringe element.

The army and police haven’t raided any settlements to seize illegal weapons, and only in the rarest of cases do they come to a settler’s home in the middle of the night to arrest him. No large-scale operation with a bombastic name – like “Safe Passage” or “Sword Thrust,” which have been launched against the Arab community – has ever been launched in the settlements. After all, there is no “settler community,” just a few “wild weeds.”

When Bar-Lev says he is being threatened by “Israeli Jews,” he himself is committing the sin of generalization. He has been targeted specifically by the settler community and all its satellites inside Israel, including in the cabinet and Knesset.

As long as he is afraid to point the finger of blame in the right direction by providing a name and address for these Jewish terrorists, choosing instead to dilute them among the broad community of “Israeli Jews,” he will be capitulating to this terror. Anyone who “takes settler violence seriously” without using all the power at his disposal against it shouldn’t be surprised if he ends up needing bodyguards.

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