Far below the public’s radar, settlers have been carrying out a violent campaign of vengeance over the last five weeks in response to the death of one of their number, Ahuvia Sandak, who was killed in a car accident during a police chase. The victims of this revenge campaign, as usual, are Palestinian residents of the West Bank, who had nothing to do the settler’s death.
According to information released by the B’Tselem organization on Thursday, over the last five weeks its researchers have documented 49 violent incidents, including 28 physical attacks on Palestinians that wounded 15 of them, including four children. Palestinian cars were torched, thugs invaded their homes, dogs were sicced on them and people were deliberately run over. In at least one case, an elderly man was beaten with a baton until he bled.
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All this happened as Israeli soldiers and police officers, who are supposed to maintain law and order in the territories and protect residents and their property, in most cases looked on without lifting a finger against the assailants. Nobody has been indicted, despite dozens of incidents. In at least 26 cases, members of the security forces were present and watched the violence, yet B’Tselem said that instead of arresting the rioters, the security forces attacked the victims, shooting at them and wounding them. In 21 other cases, they didn’t do enough to stop the attack.
The Palestinians thus find themselves helpless against their attackers. The Palestinian police are forbidden to intervene, while the Israeli police are a police force for Jews only. Had Palestinians attacked settlers with similar brutality, the picture would be reversed: Palestinian villages would be closed off, dozens of people would be arrested and the guilty parties would quickly be brought to trial, after which they would be given draconian sentences.
The lawbreakers see the security forces’ behavior as a green light to continue their violent lawbreaking. And they’re right; that is indeed the message. Afterward, when the Palestinians get fed up, are no longer able to tolerate their lives and property being fair game and start fighting back to protect themselves, there will be an outcry against “terror” and “terrorists.” Responsibility for the coming bloodshed rests on the shoulders of the Israel Defense Forces, the police and the government. If they don’t immediately stop the settlers’ rampage and put the lawbreakers on trial, they won’t be able to escape blame for the new situation that will almost certainly arise.
- Israeli defense officials alarmed by rise in settler violence against police, soldiers
- No indictments after a month of assaults on Palestinians in the West Bank
- Palestinian child injured by stones thrown by settlers
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.