Israel's Weakness Against Lawbreakers

It’s not hard to guess what would have happened to people attacking civilians and soldiers with stones and clubs had they been Arabs rather than Jews

The state’s utter helplessness in the face of Jewish lawbreakers in the territories was once again revealed last Friday, when a group of settlers was filmed beating activists from the Ta’ayush organization bloody, without let or hindrance, as they were escorting Palestinian shepherds near the West Bank outpost of Baladim. The video shows the masked assailants running down the hill and screaming as they brandished clubs and rocks, then beating and cursing the activists and demanding that they leave.

Five of the activists, including Rabbi Arik Ascherman, were wounded and needed medical treatment. The security forces did not prevent the organized attack, and as of when this article went to press, not a single suspect had been arrested.

Settler aggression has recently been on the rise in the West Bank. That same weekend, a Palestinian woman and an Israel Defense Forces officer were wounded by stones thrown during clashes between settlers and Palestinians near the village of Hawara, south of Nablus. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, dozens of settlers were involved in this disturbance. Similar clashes took place on the outskirts of the Palestinian village of Urif. And just a week earlier, settlers were filmed throwing stones at a group of soldiers patrolling near the Baladim outpost. Yet no arrests have been made in any of these cases, either.

It’s not hard to guess what would have happened to people attacking civilians and soldiers with stones and clubs had they been Arabs rather than Jews; the history of the Israeli occupation is filled with examples of selective law enforcement in the territories. While the government is investing huge sums of money in an all-out war against anyone who dares to warn about the creation of “apartheid systems,” it continues to create and preserve two separate law enforcement systems in the territories, one for Arabs and one for Jews, which cannot be described by any other terms.

At the same time, politicians trying to pick up another few votes from the right have embraced idiotic equivalencies about “extremists from both right and left” while ignoring the unequivocal evidence: Right-wing activists are the ones violently assaulting left-wing activists, and not vice versa. By bowing to this equivalency, these politicians distort reality, capitulate to the right-wing narrative that the problem is “extremists on both sides,” lie to the Israeli public and prevent any solution of the problem.

Law enforcement agencies must stop these outbreaks of violence by settlers in the territories. The IDF, which is the sovereign power in the West Bank, must find the guilty parties and put them on trial, while the politicians must state the problem clearly rather than blurring it in the name of a fictitious balance. Otherwise, no Strategic Affairs Ministry will be able to help Israel hide the stain.

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