Violent Israeli settlers classified as terrorists by US
Photo by Shirat Granot
A Palestinian mosque vandalized in a “price tag” attack in the West Bank village of Jaba, June 19, 2012.
In annual report on terrorism in foreign countries, U.S. government report defines so-called ‘price-tag’ attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank as acts of terror
By Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz
August 18, 2012
For the first time, the U.S. State Department has cited violence by settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank under the heading “terrorist incidents” in its annual Country Report on Terrorism.
The 2011 U.S. Country Report – which profiles terrorist activities around the world – cites seven “2011 terrorist incidents” in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Along with rocket attacks from Gaza, the report identifies three “price tag” incidents – a term which has come to describe, among other things, attacks against Palestinian property in revenge for violence against settlers. The report cites the 2011 vandalism of the Muslim Mamilla Cemetery in Jerusalem, an arson attack on a Jerusalem mosque in December, and another arson attack on a mosque in the village of Burqa in December.
The report also states that 10 mosques in the West Bank and Jerusalem were vandalized or set on fire in 2011, and that these attacks were believed by Israeli authorities to have been “perpetrated by settlers, up from six such incidents in 2010 and one in 2009.”
The report, released July 31, states that GOC Central Command Avi Mizrahi has referred to attacks against Palestinians and Palestinian property as terror.
The State Department also refers to the December attack on the Israel Defense Forces Ephraim Brigade Headquarters in the section on “Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism.” It notes that the incident “sparked a public debate in Israel on the phenomena of settler violence” and that “political and security officials pledged to implement several steps to curb and punish these violent attacks.”
Meanwhile, on Friday, a U.S. State Department official strongly condemned the firebombing of a Palestinian taxi the day before, which injured six people, including two children. Jewish extremists are suspected of carrying out the attack.
“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms yesterday’s attack on a Palestinian taxi in the West Bank,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Friday. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the victims, among them children, and we hope for their speedy recovery. We note that the government of Israel has also condemned this heinous attack and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice. We look to Israeli law enforcement officials to do so expeditiously. We urge all parties to avoid any actions that could lead to an escalation of violence.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Friday in a radio interview that settler attacks on Palestinians were taking place “in the shadow of the protection given them by the Israeli occupation army.”
Abbas said the IDF could stop the attacks if it wanted to do so. He added that the attacks were “proof of the racist policy that still nestles in the mentality of this army and the settlers.”
Following concerns in Israel that the attack would lead to widespread violence in the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bureau said the prime minister’s envoy Isaac Molho took the unusual step of telephoning Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to inform them that Netanyahu had instructed security forces to make every effort to arrest the perpetrators. Molho also reportedly told the Palestinian leaders that Netanyahu intended to personally follow up on the victims’ medical treatment in Israel.
In previous price tag incidents, including the arson attacks on mosques, Netanyahu made do with public condemnation of the attacks.
Israeli leaders condemn recent extremist violence, the growth of which human rights groups blame on lack of law enforcement
Harriet Sherwood, guardian.co.uk,
August 20, 2012
Jerusalem–Violence by Jewish settlers has been cited for the first time in a US state department list of “terrorist incidents”, as Israeli political leaders condemned a string of recent attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
The inclusion of assaults on Palestinian targets in the annual report on terrorism reflects growing concern in Israel and internationally that violence by a minority of Jewish extremists could trigger a new cycle of conflict and further damage the prospects of a peace agreement between the two sides.
“Attacks by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian residents, property and places of worship in the West Bank continued,” said the Country Reports on Terrorism 2011. It referred to “price tag” operations, meaning violence committed by radical settlers against Palestinians in retribution for actions by the Israeli government or army deemed to be “anti-settler”.
US and European officials have become more vocal in criticising settler violence amid fears that the actions of a minority of Jewish extremists could provoke a militant response from Palestinians. According to the UN, violent attacks by settlers on Palestinians and their property, mosques and farmland has increased by almost 150% since 2009.
On Friday, the US state department condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the firebombing of a Palestinian taxi near Bethlehem, in which six people – including four-year-old twins – were injured. It urged expeditious action by Israel to bring the perpetrators to justice and for “all parties to avoid any actions that could lead to an escalation of violence”.
The attack was widely blamed on settlers, with military sources suggesting “Israeli civilians were responsible”. A second firebomb was found near the scene. No arrests had been made by Sunday afternoon.
Israeli politicians were also swift in their condemnation. The prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said it was a “very serious incident”, and on Sunday, Moshe Ya’alon, minister for strategic affairs, described it as “a terrorist attack”.
He linked the firebombing to a separate incident in Jerusalem at the weekend, in which a Palestinian youth was severely beaten by dozens of Jewish teenagers, who witnesses said were searching for Arabs to attack.
“The hate crimes committed over the weekend against Arabs in Judea and Samaria [the biblical terms for the West Bank] and Jerusalem are intolerable, outrageous and must be firmly dealt with,” Ya’alon said. “These are terrorist attacks. They run contrary to Jewish morality and values, and constitute first and foremost an educational and moral failure.”
Jamal Julani, 17, from East Jerusalem, was admitted to hospital in a critical condition and placed on a respirator in the intensive care unit. A 19-year-old Jewish man was arrested, and further arrests were expected. A police spokesman described the incident as a brawl, and said it had no connection to settlers.
The Country Reports on Terrorism cited several incidents of settler violence during 2011, including attacks on Israeli military personnel and a base. Over the year 10 mosques in the West Bank and one in an Israeli-Arab town were attacked, it said.
Human rights groups which monitor settler violence say it routinely includes assaults against individuals and groups of Palestinians, harassment, uprooting trees, burning fields, attacks on livestock and damage to cars and houses. It usually peaks during the autumn olive harvesting season.
According to the UN office for humanitarian affairs, the number of settler attacks causing casualties or damage to Palestinian property has increased by 144% between 2009 and 2011(pdf). Three Palestinians were killed and 183 injured by settlers last year; about 10,000 trees were damaged or destroyed; and more than 90% of complaints filed with Israeli police were closed without charges being brought.
“One of the key factors in the growth of settler violence is the lack of effective law enforcement,” said Sarit Michaeli of human rights group B’Tselem. “The Israelis have been calling settler violence ‘terrorism’ for a while now, but that in itself is not a guarantee that they will fulfil their obligations to protect Palestinians.”
According to B’Tselem, Israeli security forces often fail to intervene to stop settler violence when alerted to it or already present at the scene. In May, a video posted by B’Tselem on Youtube showed settlers shooting at a group of Palestinian protesters while soldiers and police officers stood by.
A recent article published by Foreign Affairs last week, The Rise of Settler Terrorism, attributed the increase in attacks to “the growth of a small but significant fringe of young extremists, known as the ‘hilltop youth’, who show little, if any, deference to the Israeli government or even to the settler leadership … These settlers – likely no more than a couple of thousand, a small but dangerous minority within the broader community – are the ones leading the ‘price tag’ attacks against Palestinian civilians and Israeli soldiers.”
The US state department report also said that in 2011: “Israel faced terrorist threats from Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, particularly from Gaza but also from the West Bank, and from Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
Among the terrorist incidents it listed for 2011 were the murder of five members of the Fogel family at their home in a West Bank settlement, the death of a British national and the injury of 50 other people in a bomb explosion at Jerusalem’s central bus station, and the killing of a resident of the Israeli city of Ashkelon by a rocket fired from Gaza.