The settlers of Yitzhar in the Nablus district of the West Bank are a stereotype of the worst sort; violent, racist, convinced they are kings of the mountain where the writ of the police does not run. On April 8th, Israeli police set out to assert their authority by demolishing some of their illegal structures. Obviously, the settlers – who believe they are directed by God from their ‘sacred’ yeshiva – fought back and demolished an IDF outpost. The reaction in Israel ranges from shock through outrage to hysteria.
In the latest of David Shulman’s illuminating reports, Ta’ayush volunteers try to engage in discussion the settlers and soldiers who are driving the Palestinian herders away. These men know nothing of international – or national – law; they live by the word of God (their unique interpretation) and of their commanding officer. In their ignorance of law, the soldiers terrify the shepherds by threatening to shoot them if they don’t go.
The Palestinians protest. The officer from the Civil Administration lays down the law. I can’t contain their grief and bewilderment—it is, after all, their land—and I can’t bear seeing them humiliated like this, ordered here or there or anywhere that is not the fields they have worked for centuries.At the summit we see the notorious settler-widow. She’s an orthodox Jewish woman, but she’s violating the Shabbat today, since the greatest of all God’s commandments is, it seems: “Humiliate as many Palestinians as you can”. David Shulman reports.
Israeli control over the Jordan valley has long been an Israeli sticking point in any talks about talks. Why? Netanyahu says ‘security’ but he would wouldn’t he. The small number of settlers like the cheap agricultural land and labour, but they wouldn’t die for it. Its population is largely Palestinian though the IDF – there for practice and as as a policing agent rather than defence force – keep them under constant check and harassment. Yariv Oppenheimer says the aim is to keep the area safe for settlers but it might as well be to ensure Palestinians get no benefit from it.
Kristallnacht was the largest state-organised pogrom of Jews, their businesses and synagogues to have taken place in Germany/Austria. Over 90 Jews were killed, 30,000 arrested and put in concentration camps. For the first time, the western world was horrified. Every olive harvest season settlers wreck Palestinian groves, sometimes helped by the IDF, destroying their means of living. Unlike Kristallnacht, few pay attention to this annual rampage.
We often post distressing news of settlers uprooting, burning or wrecking the olive trees of Palestinians. There is such a report from Sarta, in the north-west West Bank in this post. But first we post some lovely photos from Palinfo.com of Palestinians – men and women, young and old -picking and sorting their olives in settler-free Gaza.
In theory, Israel is gung-ho for market capitalism. In practice, the elaborate rules they have imposed to enforce their colonial dominance prevents the market from working. So settlers are secretly by-stepping the rules in order to employ labour (Palestinians) and sell their produce. And draconian control over water and land may support the zionist project, it doesn’t help productivity. Amira Hass reports.
The European Commission’s guidelines on the consequences of the Israeli occupation have shocked Israelis. The angry response marks the huge gulf between words – for years, EU bodies have been issuing statements condemning the settlements, and actions – making favourable trade deals with Israel. So Israelis ignored the criticism. Now in their anger they have rediscovered the Kerry peace mission (hitherto ignored) which they say the EU is threatening, and complaining that Palestinians will get uppity. Fatah has expressed ‘joy’ at the decision.
Palestinian boys don’t have guns. They show their defiance of settlers and soldiers by throwing stones – with increasing frequency since Operation Pillar of Defence says one source, though ‘terror attacks’ are down says another. A car crash has prompted Avigdor Lieberman and settlers to press the IDF to change its rules of engagement so that they treat stone-throwers as persons using guns.
Yair Lapid was the great white hope of the centrist middle class in Isreal; his party, Yesh Atid, came 2nd, winning 19 Knesset seats. He has, says an angry Gush Shalom, squandered the power and hope vested in him by pursuing marginal issues, leaving power in right-wing hands. He is the TV showman with no principles.
A day before the deadline, Netanyahu put together a new government – keeping the foreign ministry open for himself and his feared ally Avigdor Lieberman. Ultra-Orthodox have been excluded but powerful posts for Yaalon, Naftali Bennett and Yuli Edelstein ensure illegal settlements will continue with state backing. UPDATED
Israel’s boycott law allows settlers to sue anyone who calls for a boycott of settlement products. Gush Shalom has appealed against this law, hearing on December 5th. (3) A settler argues that boycott is collective punishment, or ineffectual (2). Jerry Haber takes apart his argument (1) UPDATE Report of hearing.
Viewing the photos of a 15-year-old youth after he was attacked by a settler the judge spoke of his shock and dismay at the trauma caused. Five years later the assailant, Zvi Struck, is sent off to serve his 30 month prison term by a supportive, applauding crowd, to whom he is a hero. Rabbis led the celebrations for this sadistic thug.
There have been several reports this week about the huge disparity between fresh water supplies for Israelis and for Palestinians. We post three of them here, following AFP’s summary of a key report from the UN’s OCHA last March on the seizure by West Bank settlers of dozens of fresh water springs. Piped water in Gaza is too contaminated to drink. The denial of fresh water to Arabs is deliberate policy on the ground..
Dani Dayan, chairman of the council for West Bank settlements, claims in an op-ed piece in the NY Times that Israel’s seizure of the West Bank was morally necessary as a defence against Arab aggression (!) and the settlers will expand their control (2nd). Lara Friedman, (1st) disputes his argument and conclusion as immoral and wrong; lastly, Richard Falk asks whether his realpolitik is not to be admired.
Settler violence seems like mindless thuggery. But, says Jonathan Cook, there is a clear purpose – to threaten the Israeli state with mayhem if Palestinian citizens receive any state protection. Palestinians may be the victims but the destruction of any hope of an egalitarian state is the settlers’ bigger aim. Is this what a ‘Jewish state’ looks like?
Fig-leaves for the institutional players, a naked emperor for the wishful thinkers, all metaphors for the ‘peace process’ convey it is not real. The ICG focuses on new forces, like religion, on possible new actors , Palestinian diaspora, settlers, and on agents, like the Quartet, to be discarded.
Despite UN and EU condemnation, only resistance on the ground is putting up a fight against the rapid and repeated destruction of Palestinian homes, community buildings and amenities. ICAHD on what you can do to help the resistance, plus reports from Jeff Halper, the Alternative Information Center and Ma’an news
Too commonplace to make the news most of the time, the death and injury of Palestinian people in the occupied territories (oPt), the destruction of their property and seizure of their land accelerated during 2011. The UN office OCHA publishes the aggregate figures for the year. We add their most recent weekly report.
The greatest threat to Israel is inside its bosom — the cherished settlers in the occupied West Bank and the MKs who defend them against the IDF despite their continuing violence. It reminds Richard Silverstein of the slavery-defending South in the USA.