Residents of the Palestinian communities in the southeastern West Bank have experience with settler attacks – when they graze their flocks, work their fields, or even have a picnic on their own land. But they cannot recall an attack like the one experienced Tuesday by the small communities of Khirbat al-Mufkara, al-Rakiz and al-Tuwani. On Simhat Torah, dozens of young Jews, most of them masked, conducted what can only be described as a pogrom.
The attackers, armed with batons and daggers, threw stones and wounded nine Palestinians, including a three-year-old boy, stabbed four sheep to death, overturned parked cars and smashed their windshields, overturned and smashed solar panels and broke windows, including those of a mosque.
One group of attackers came from the Avigayil outpost, and one from the Havat Maon outpost, both of which are affiliated with the religious-Zionist community. According to residents, some of them came in a vehicle, and five shot pistols toward the ground, near the feet of some of the Palestinians. One Israeli, armed with an M-16 rifle, came in an all-terrain vehicle from Havat Maon and fired in the air.
The attack began with some of the masked Israelis trying to steal sheep from one of the residents. Soldiers tried to prevent them from doing so, the Palestinians say, and threw gas grenades at them and at the flock. The sheep dispersed. But afterward, when the attackers invaded the built-up areas of the three communities, the soldiers gave them cover, throwing tear gas grenades and stun grenades – and even directing live fire and sponge-tipped bullets – at the Palestinians seeking to protect their homes. Families fled to the nearby wadis to avoid injury.
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From the beginning of the year through September 20, the United Nations has documented 333 settler attacks on West Bank Palestinians, 93 of which resulted in injuries. The plethora of attacks point to a pattern with a clear aim: To expel Palestinians, both shepherds and farmers, from the agricultural and open lands of the West Bank that are designated Area C (under full Israeli control). The settlers are trying to expedite the quiet expulsion that the state is attempting to conduct through bureaucratic and planning methods.
The Israeli government and its leader must stop burying their heads in the sand and think that the malignant occupation and its metastases will disappear on their own, so as not to harm the integrity of the coalition. This government includes Yesh Atid, Kahol Lavan, Labor, Meretz and the United Arab List. They must make it clear to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that they won’t remain in the coalition if this government doesn’t wake up diplomatically and morally, won’t crack down on those carrying out pogroms in the territories, assure the Palestinians’ safety and won’t stop trying to expel them in contravention of international law. There’s a limit to the concessions one can make at the expense of others’ lives.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.