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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, February/March 1994, Page 16

From the Hebrew Press

Israel's State-Assisted Terrorism: "Settlers" as Armed Combatants

By Israel Shahak

Since its inception, the Israeli regime in the territories has been, in some respects, worse than that of South Africa's apartheid regime at its worst. Nor has this changed with the signing by the Yitzhak Rabin government and the PLO of the Declaration of Principles of Peace.

On Jan. 9, 1994, Amnon Denkner described in the Israeli daily Ha 'aretz a radio broadcast of a few days earlier in which a Colonel Y. explained that the standing orders of the Israeli army in the West Bank are "never, under any circumstances, and in no case whatsoever, to shoot at any Jew."

“Then what will you do,” Colonel Y. was asked, “if you see a Jewish settler aiming his gun at an Arab, with a clear intent to fire at him?”

“In such a case,” responded Colonel Y. seriously, “I will run as fast as I can, and shield the Arab with my body, but under no circumstances will I use force against a Jew.”

Needless to say, therefore, Jews who beat up or humiliate Arabs, or vandalize their property, cannot be stopped by the Israeli army except, perhaps, by "interposing." Surely there were never such regulations in South Africa!

Denkner commented that "when an Arab is thought to be a danger to the life of a Jew, there is no problem. Just kill him and feel good."

Thus it is no wonder that violent assaults are perpetrated by Jewish settlers upon the Palestinians in the West Bank. They are aimed at innocent, randomly chosen individuals. Their avowed "purpose" is either "to relieve the feelings of distress of the assaulters," or "to teach the Arabs a lesson," or else somehow "influence" the Palestinian population to prevent future violence.

Regardless of whether the assaults cause injury to persons or "only" to property, they consist of recourse to violence against innocents for the sake of a political purpose. As such they can only be regarded as acts of terror, and the assaulters as terrorists. Accordingly, the organizations responsible for these assaults are terrorist organizations, although assisted financially and otherwise by the Israeli government.

The Israeli administration which abets this violence therefore can only be defined as a terror-supporting government.

A typical incident of settler terrorism was described in the Nov. 17, 1993 issue of Ha'olam Ha'ze by correspondent Amit Gurevitz, who did his reserve service in a paratrooper unit stationed in Hebron shortly before he wrote the article. The events described occurred after Hamas guerrillas killed a religious settler, Ephraim Ayubi, the driver of Rabbi Druckman, one of the most extreme leaders of the Gush Emunim Jewish religious settlers.

Gurevitz is careful to point out that "according to the unanimous view of the unit's officers, duly reported to the area's commanders, the murder of Ephraim Ayubi was a retaliation for the settlers' rampages on the previous day, in the course of which the settlers burned 15 Arab-owned cars in a single day. Right after that arson took place the soldiers were warned by their military superiors to 'expect an Arab retaliation."'

Incidents of Jewish settler terrorism usually are depicted in the U.S. media as retaliation for acts of violence by Palestinian guerrillas. However, the retaliatory character of these settler actions is in doubt.

Rather, as in Ayubi's case, they may provoke the Palestinians to retaliate. This is acknowledged by the internal communications of the Israeli army, which often admit that a given action of Palestinian guerrillas was "a retaliation." But the U.S. media seldom indicate that Palestinian violence is "provoked" by anything the settlers have done.

Gurevitz quotes "the unit's officers and soldiers" as saying of "the Jews living in Hebron that their behavior toward the Arabs is intentionally provocative. . . The soldiers testify that the settlers often harass

Hebron Arabs in front of Israeli army troops. They overturn the crates in the market, kick the elderly Arabs carrying the baskets, spit at people, spray insecticide on fruits and vegetables, overturn the carts loaded with tomatoes so as to crush them underfoot. Most shocking for the soldiers was an incident in which the settlers screamed 'Mazel Tov!' [Good luck!] at an Arab family burying their child within sight of an army equipment camp."

One of the unit's major assignments in Hebron was the guarding of the Patriarchs' Cave, a sacred site for both Jews and religious Muslims. Said "B.R., a soldier in the unit: 'In the Patriarchs' Cave the settlers keep trying to disrupt the officially imposed status quo between the Jews and the Arabs . . . The settler children keep spraying acid and scattering thumbtacks on the carpets of that Hall. The Muslims now have no choice but to collect the thumbtacks with a magnet before beginning to pray. "

Gurevitz reports that a unit officer told him "the soldiers are forbidden to arrest a Jew, except if he hits a soldier, or after he injures an Arab by shooting in the presence of an Israeli army soldier." Beating the Arabs, or humiliating them otherwise, or vandalizing their property before the very eyes of the army soldiers is not regarded as "a sufficient reason" for arresting a settler. Gurevitz quotes "another officer, T., who complained that an Arab is sent to jail the minute he is seen to throw a stone. But the settlers throw stones with impunity."

Not an Isolated Instance

That story by Gurevitz is by no means an isolated instance. Hanna Kim described in Hadashot of Nov. 9 a roadblock set up by religious settlers from the settlement of Yaqir, where "a local hero, Yehuda, nicknamed by his neighbors 'Crazy Yehuda,' reveled in all his glory. 'Do you want to watch how an Arab gets burned alive? Just point your camera at me,' he boasted to reporters .... Two conscript soldiers, one of them a lieutenant, and two reservists without indication of rank, were watching it unruffled. At a moment of quiet Crazy Yehuda told Kim that 'they [the Arabs] should be exterminated just as we [the Israelites] exterminated the Amalekites. (See Samuel I, Chapter 15.) Not only the males, but entire families, and their descendants no matter how remote. You just have to seek out all the descendants.' His buddy, Meir, who was holding an Israeli flag, upbraided the Israeli media for wanting to be on the spot in order to document his deeds. 'Hitler owed his successes to Goebbels. You are doing the same."'

Hillel Cohen commented in Kol Ha'ir of Nov. 12 on the apartheid curfews, saying that "When a curfew was imposed on Hebron, it affected only the city's Palestinian residents." After the army prevented Cohen from entering Hebron, he, along with his photographer, boarded the Hebron religious settlers' bus in Jerusalem. In this way, he entered Hebron undisturbed.

"On the way," he reports, "the religious youths from Kiryat Arba kept themselves busy slinging stones at Arab passersby, explaining their behavior by saying: 'We are the settlers, aren't we?' At the entrance to Kiryat Arba, an old graffiti inscription reading 'Only a sucker doesn't kill an Arab' was still visible."

Ha'aretz reported on Nov. 21 that two Kahanist militants, Baruch Marzel and Noam Federman, had been detained the previous day for a rampage during a visit to Kiryat Arba by Israeli President Ezer Weizman. Weizman's intention was to encourage the settlers, but Marzel and Federman nevertheless had abused him violently. When they were brought before the magistrate in Western Jerusalem (as settlers they have the privilege of standing trial in Israel rather than in the West Bank where they committed their crimes), the police asked to remand them on the ground that "they could not be found while they were wanted since Nov. I for an offense they were suspected of committing on that day."

Police authorities told the magistrate, Yehudit Tzur, that they suspected Marzel and Federman of "going in a rented taxi to the Arab village of Al-Hadar in the district of Bethlehem, in the company of some armed settlers. Upon arriving there they went to a local grocery. One of them aimed his gun at the grocer, while others burned the Palestinian flags on sale." Thereupon, the whole group crisscrossed the village, burning all the flags that could be found, and forcing the inhabitants at gunpoint to watch the fires.

Incidents of this type are common in the West Bank and the Israeli army dismisses complaints by villagers with contempt. In this particular case, however, the assault was recorded with a telescopic lens from a nearby Israeli army post—presumably by soldiers uninformed of what the army really wanted. They handed over to the police photographs clear enough to identify the assailants. The police, who already had Marzel and Federman under detention for insulting the president, asked that they be held for seven more days. Marzel and Federman, however, demanded that they be released on bail in view of the "petty" nature of the offenses with which they were charged. Accepting such "arguments," Magistrate Tzur freed the two on a minuscule bail.

A Recurrent Pattern

These are not isolated incidents. They follow a recurrent pattern. Day after day Palestinians are beaten up or humiliated by settlers, or their property is vandalized. Such incidents occur all over the West Bank.

Since mid-September, everyday conditions under which the Palestinians exist vividly resemble the conditions under which Jews lived under in viciously anti-Semitic countries. Since the signing of the agreement between Israel and the PLO, a large number of Palestinians have been beaten up or humiliated by the religious settlers, quite often under the gaze of Israeli soldiers who refused or were unable to intervene.

The most important conclusion warranted by the evidence is that Rabin's real policy is to support the settlements in order to guarantee continued Israeli domination of the territories. To pursue that policy, Rabin needs to bestow favors upon religious settlers, because they alone are willing to settle in places like Hebron. He also must condone their violence against the Palestinians.

Ruling a population which refuses to accord legitimacy to its rulers requires a continuous recourse to violence for the purpose of cowing the subject people and keeping them intimidated. This is what the religious settlers are doing, and this is also why nothing is done to restrain them.

The settlers should be regarded as a vital segment of the Israeli security system, on a par with the army and the Shabak (plainclothes security police), which are inhibited by the constraints of acting as official arms of the Israeli government. It is therefore unrealistic to expect Israel to take any meaningful action against the violence of the settlers.