Settlers' aggression crosses line into terrorism; what is Israel doing?

September 20, 2011
Sarah Benton

Report: Settlers plan march to Palestinian towns
Ma’an News

TEL AVIV — Israeli settlers are preparing to march on Israeli army command offices and Palestinian towns in the West Bank starting Tuesday afternoon, Israeli media reported on Sunday.

Dubbed “sovereignty marches,” settlers are protesting the Palestinian bid for full membership at the UN, Israeli news site Ynet said.

Far-right activist Itamar Ben-Gvir told the site that settlers were “going to go out and make it clear to the Arabs who the home owners are.”

“We’re going to take the initiative and march towards Palestinian towns.”

The news site quoted a settlement security officer saying they were prepared to use live ammunition on Palestinian demonstrators, as settlers felt the Israeli army were “too trusting” of Palestinian security to deter potential marches on the settlements.

News reports said two weeks ago that Israeli forces were arming settlers with tear-gas canisters, stun grenades and trained dogs to counter potential attacks by the Palestinians around the bid for full membership of the United Nations.

Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib warned on Thursday that a serious increase in settler violence towards West Bank Palestinians threatened to escalate the situation ahead of the Palestinians’ bid for membership of the UN.

In a Nablus village under repeated attack from settlers, the local council has established a voluntary village guard to fend off settler raids into the community.

Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti has warned that settlers “could commit massacres against the Palestinians” following an escalation in settler attacks in early September.

Barghouthi said the attacks were “part of a plan” to use settlers to attack Palestinians.

Noting that the Israeli army was providing settlers with military facilities, he said the army was participating in “organized crime” with settlers in the West Bank.

Palestinians set up ‘settler attack’ watchdog
Ma’an News

NABI SALEH (AFP) — Palestinian and international activists on Monday launched a campaign to monitor what they said are growing attacks on Palestinians and their property by Israeli settlers.

The campaign, launched by activists from the grassroots Palestinian Popular Committees, would see a group of volunteers documenting attacks by Jewish settlers, spokesman Jonathan Pollak told AFP.

“The idea is that groups of volunteers — initially four — will be on call, ready to quickly respond,” Pollak said.

They would record evidence of any attacks or vandalism and make their footage and reporting available to media and rights groups, he said.

The campaign was launched after a recent surge in attacks following the Israeli army’s demolition of homes in illegal settlement outposts and rising tension over the Palestinian bid for full UN membership.

In the past 10 days, mosques, cars and agricultural land have been vandalised in at least nine separate incidents blamed on Jewish settlers.

In one attack, burning tyres were rolled into a mosque in an attempt to burn it down and Hebrew slogans were inscribed on the building’s walls.

Two other mosques and a West Bank university were targeted, as was the Jerusalem home of an Israeli woman working for an anti-settlement group, and vandals also damaged vehicles on an Israeli army base near Ramallah.

The surge in attacks comes as the Palestinians prepare to seek full UN membership for their state later this week in a move fiercely opposed by Israel.

The West Bank’s most radical settlers have for some time adopted what they call a “price tag” policy, under which they attack Palestinians and their property in response to Israeli government measures against settlements.

Mohamed Khatib, coordinator of the Popular Committees, said there was a growing need for monitoring of settler activity in the West Bank, pointing to settler interference with the campaign’s launch on Monday.

Organisers had planned a news conference at a spring they say is on private Palestinian land, but were prevented from accessing the location when settlers arrived at the scene, Khatib said.

“The recent increase in settler attacks and the army’s unwillingness to prevent them has forced us to organise to try to prevent and deal with them ourselves,” he said, stressing all action would be “peaceful and unarmed.”

“What happened today is a clearest example of that need… when the settlers arrived it was us that the army prevented from staying there, while ignoring the settlers.”

Hilltop marches threaten ethnic cleansing
Mustafa Barghouti warns of “massacre”
One Democracy

Apart from stoning and beating little kids on their way to school, trashing mosques, destroying crops and olive trees, and shooting up Palestinian villages, what are the settlers up to?

This has long been a question that lay in wait for true believers in the myth of Two-States-Side-by-Side. But now the question looks different, and is a serious concern for the next few days and weeks in the aftermath of the UN Palestine vote.

For those steeped in the Two States mindset, the “what are the settlers up to?” question has always been: would they undertake, and could they win, a confrontation with the IDF? Would Israel face civil strife if it seriously tried to withdraw, to end its occupation and grant a Ramallah state?

Instead of asking if the Settlers will ever clash with the IDF, we should ask what they are planning to do together against the Palestinians. This is a question that could become very urgent very soon, as the settlers plan to intervene in the coming confusion.

Creeping extension
The settlement “blocks” beyond the Jerusalem ring were specially designed to chop up the West Bank into bantustan-style sections. Starting as separate housing estates, they grew into towns that are now joining up. These are fully blessed by Israel’s law and are long established, but their creeping extension and their continual theft of land helps to keep their Zionist pioneer spirit fresh, and they are just as likely to engage in stoning and burning and shooting as the wild men of the periphery.

Israel’s establishment has treated these fascistic gangs (calling themselves the “hilltop youth”) as unauthorised and a bit of a nuisance. It occasionally slaps them down with a little demolition. To the cynics in government, they form a dispensible option to barter with, should there be any thought of disengagement.

Of late these thugs have responded to demolitions by hitting at the nearest Palestinians, using the sickening label of “price-tag”. Recent side dishes include breaking into an IDF base and vandalising vehicles; and death threats to left-wing Jerusalem activists. In another escalation, hundreds of settlers rallied at a main road near Nablus, closing the road and pelting Palestinian vehicles with stones. The UN reports that it expects settler violence figures to have doubled in the past year.

The hilltop role model
Their remit is not confined to the hilltop outposts: they are organised throughout Israel and in East Jerusalem, and their increasing violence acts as a model and sets the pace for their fellow religious-nationalists as they push to close the gaps and link up the grids and clusters of settlement blocks deep in the West Bank

While some pundits (and the Two Staters) worry about settler guns beings turned against the IDF, it’s far more worrying that Israel has these attack-dogs as another weapon against Palestinians.

They can use them to escalate violence, just as many regimes use undercover death squads or mercenaries to do their dirtiest work. Given the historic role played by the Irgun terror outfit in the state’s foundation, and the all-important “legitimacy” that Israel is trying to hang on to, these ultras make up a useful supplement to the “most moral army in the world”.

In the past couple of weeks the IDF has very publicly told the settlements to “defend” themselves against the dire threat of a Yes-vote at the UN, and has issued highly permissive rules-of-engagement sanctioning the shooting of Palestinian demonstrators.

Planned provocations
Now the settlers say they will mount a series of mass “sovereignty marches”, to “take the conflict into PA territory”, to “make it clear to everyone exactly who this country belongs to”. The fully armed marches will target Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron. This has all the marks of a planned provocation.

The major acts of ethnic cleansing and land acquisition in 1948 and 1967 were carried out under cover of war. Could it be that another such act is being planned during the confusion created by “sovereignty marches”?

Israel’s ruling Right openly plans to punish the Palestinians’ disobedience at the UN. Among other ideas (such as confiscating Palestinian tax money) they want to annex either all of the West Bank or the “Jewish areas”. Either option invites fast-track ethnic cleansing: what takes months and years with bulldozers and bureaucracy could be made to happen in days under the smokescreen of “unrest”.

Palestinian leader Mustafa Barghouti warns of a potential massacre. It all looks very strongly like a set-up: murderous rampages against Palestinians anywhere, let alone within the PA’s remit, could spark retaliation that will enable Israel to create panic and a war footing that unleash and cloak expulsions at gunpoint. They may not even leave it to chance: they are quite capable of creating a “martyr” or other such false flag incident to set their followers alight.

A deliberate plan?
The Hilltop “leading edge” (now dubbed terrorists by Shin Bet) have many friends in high places and a strategically placed following in the IDF. It would be very uncharacteristic for them not to have laid down detailed plans.

So instead of the “civil war” scenario of rebellious extremists pitted against an army trying to carry out a democratically decided disengagement, we could be looking at an organised act of collusion between the extremists and the army to secure more land, cleared of Palestinians, to incorporate into what the world will soon learn to call “Israel proper”.

Will it be “third time lucky” for the Zionists? Could they still pull this off in the era of the internet, the Arab Spring, and the mass international BDS movement?

If they try, then instead of a military schism, we must hope for a political schism, where Israel divides down fault lines between aggressive religious nationalism and normal, universal human impulses. The recent “social justice” mass movement had said “one thing at a time” when challenged that they omitted to include the gigantic social injustice done to Palestine. Now they may be faced with a more urgent challenge.

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