Editorial |

The Settlers’ Brigade Commander

Haaretz Editorial
A settler scuffles with Israeli soldiers while peace activists attempt to open a road near the Israeli Jewish settlement of Mitzpe Yair, in the West Bank, in May.
A settler scuffles with Israeli soldiers while peace activists attempt to open a road near the Israeli Jewish settlement of Mitzpe Yair, in the West Bank, in May.Credit: Nasser Nasser /AP
Haaretz Editorial

When the commander of the Samaria Brigade attends a civilian conference in a settlement and says, to resounding applause, that “the army and the settlements are one,” it’s no surprise to learn there has been a steep rise in settler violence against Palestinians in his sector in recent months. That’s what happens when the settlers feel there is no law and no judge.

The Judea and Samaria Division has identified several key sites from which settlers launch attacks on Palestinians. The most notable falls under the responsibility of the Samaria Brigade’s commander, Col. Roi Zweig, who is now completing his second year on the job.

The list of incidents in his sector includes dozens of settlers attacking Palestinians in the village of Qusra; a 2-month-old baby who was pepper-sprayed near Sebastia; settlers starting a brawl with Palestinians in the village of Urif, throwing stones at a local mosque and breaking its windows; and settlers entering a café in Hawara, vandalizing the property and destroying merchandise.

Under Zweig’s command, Hawara has become a major venue both for settler pogroms against Palestinians and for stone-throwing by Palestinians. For weeks now, an utterly senseless “flag war” has been raging, after Zweig decided to insert the army into the campaign against flying Palestinian flags in the West Bank. The army exacerbated the situation by blocking roads to the village for around a week, taking over buildings and hanging Israeli flags.

Moreover, two of the most significant incidents to have occurred in the West Bank in recent years took place in Zweig’s sector – the establishment of the settlement outpost of Evyatar and the entrenchment of a yeshiva on the site of the evacuated settlement of Homesh.

Zweig is additional proof of a dangerous process that the army is undergoing. A few months ago, he gave a messianic speech to soldiers before they entered Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus to provide security for its renovation after it was vandalized by Palestinians. Moreover, the operation was conducted in violation of an order by the head of the army’s Central Command, under pressure from opposition Knesset members and the head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan.

Yet even though Zweig violated an order, gave in to political pressure from MKs and settlers and endangered lives for no reason, he wasn’t punished. Therefore, it’s no wonder that in Elon Moreh last month, he unveiled his warped worldview that the army and the settlers are one and the same. In that case, he was asked to explain his actions, but the incident ended with nothing but a comment in his personnel file.

The political system, which is wooing rightists, enables the ill wind that Zweig represents – the idea that it’s better not to tangle with the settlers, not to arrest Jews, to ignore attacks on soldiers and certainly attacks on Palestinians. This dangerous folly must be stopped immediately. Ousting Zweig would be a good place to start.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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