Rightist 'Day of Rage' Showed Police Holding Own Against Settlers

The protest, spurred by the demolition of illegal structures at the West Bank outpost Havat Gilad, was the brainchild of far-right activist Baruch Marzel.

Right-wing activists who organized a “day of rage” on Thursday were hoping to deter the government from dismantling outposts, but the protest appeared to show instead that the police are quite capable of holding their own.

The protest, spurred by Israel’s demolition of illegal structures at the West Bank outpost Havat Gilad, was the brainchild of far-right activist Baruch Marzel.

A right-wing activist at a protest
Emil Salman

Marzel announced a week of rage on Monday, including rallies and road obstruction. The same day, settler committees blocked roads leading from the West Bank to Jerusalem. By yesterday, though, support for the activists organizing the events seemed to have dissipated.

The demonstrations in the run-up to the 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip showed that it takes about 30 to 40 people to effectively block a road, and such activities were often undertaken by high school students or other organized groups of young people.

But without the galvanizing motive of preventing the Gaza withdrawal, high school students largely stayed in their classrooms, leaving just a few hundred activists nationwide to participate.

The demonstrators did have a few brief successes yesterday.

Some blocked the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, near Latrun, for a brief time. Others were spotted by a police helicopter blocking train tracks near Modi’in. Police ordered train service halted in the area until they removed the protesters from the site.

And at El Al Junction, near Ben-Gurion International Airport, Border Police officers removed 20 women, all recent graduates of the same religious high school in the West Bank, Ulpana Ma’aleh Levona.

Protests were negligible at other sites. Tires on the road at the entrance to Jerusalem were removed in seconds. Latrun was quiet in the evening, despite earlier threats. No one showed up at Kastina Junction in the south.

There had been morning announcements of plans to block the VIP checkpoint at Beit El, which serves Palestinian diplomats and public figures, but just 13 people showed up there. A military officer on the scene reached a compromise with the activists, who were allowed to distribute flyers to the diplomats passing through.

The officer even provided security for one of their representatives, who went into Ramallah to give interviews to Palestinian media.

At Havat Gilad itself, all was quiet yesterday, though a few young people did re-erect a tent and rebuild a demolished house. The outpost is trying to raise NIS 75,000 to rebuild, much of which has already been collected. The rest of the funds are expected to come through on Sunday.

One right-wing activist said that though protesters did not show up en masse yesterday, that won’t spell easy defeat for the settler movement in real time.

“It is true that we didn’t have thousands showing up, but we proved that 100 people can deter the police,” he said. “Imagine what will happen the day they try to demolish a building in [the West Bank outpost] Amona, what power thousands in the streets will have.”

Meanwhile, the police yesterday arrested Akiva Hacohen, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar and veteran right-wing activist.

Hacohen said his arrest came a few hours after he failed to arrive at a meeting with a Shin Bet officer. Friends said it was not clear what he was being accused of and called the arrest an attempt to muzzle him.