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Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Israeli Settlers: Never Shy About Taking The Law Into Their Own Hands
By Paul Mutter
member Michael Ben-Ari of the far-right National Union party coalition has
announced a call to action for Israeli settlers in the West Bank to march out
and confront anticipated Palestinian demonstrations in the Occupied Territories
this month, which he describes as delegitimizing provocations by “the Arabs”
and Israel's "far-left.” He has prepared an outline for his campaign
titled “September: The Threat of an Opportunity - Changing the Rules of the
Game." This announcement follows a recent spate of "price
taggings" reportedly committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinians,
the IDF and Peace Now activists in the run-up to the controversial Palestinian
bid for recognition as a state through the UN.
the IDF is providing both training and weapons to Israeli settlers (and the
Israeli courts have effectively immunized settlers from prosecution if they
shoot Palestinian "trespassers"), Ben-Ari anticipates a scenario
where the security forces will be overwhelmed, and thus cut and run: “[I] doubt
that the security forces can effectively protect every settlement, in the event
that demonstrations break out simultaneously all across the region. In such
cases, the result will be [a retreat] – resulting in the abandonment of Jewish
territory, looting [by Palestinians], property damage, and worse.” Ben-Ari has
said that the settlers who flock to his banner must make every effort not to
give an inch in the face of the "enemy" -- that is, both Palestinians
and the Israeli government, which he accuses of being willing to let the West
Bank to become a "terrorist state" rather than endure the
"burden" of the settlements any longer.
is (my) English translation of Ben-Ari’s manifesto as reported on by Israeli
news outlet Arutz 7:
[Palestinians’] September demonstrations present an opportunity to tell
everyone, whether they want to hear it or not, that Judea and Samaria are our
here! This is the legacy of our forefathers!
here to stay forever!
here! For the people of Israel!
security forces have amply demonstrated that going into the anticipated
September protests [by the Palestinians], they do not share the settlers’
concerns. Undoubtedly, this is the result of a political consensus that views
the settlements as a “burden.” Even though the security forces have the option
of working with the settlers to protect their homes and property, there has
been minimal preparation by the security forces to mobilize them.
is the settlers’ chance to declare that they are here.
are 330,000 settlers in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem)! Settlers’
[security] squads, security coordinators and patrol vehicles are permanently on
alert. And settlers have knowledge of the area and know the weaknesses of the
believe that if the settlers do not act to defend the settlements, no one else
will. Ehud Barak and Netanyahu desire the establishment of a terrorist state on
Israeli soil; they will not defend the settlers.
plan is to organize hundreds and even thousands of kids, children, women and
old men (with the assistance of reinforcements) from the settlements and walk
right up to the Palestinian demonstrators, waving Israeli flags as we march
across Israeli territory.
actions will repeat themselves across Israel; the settlers will face down the
opposing forces. No more [Israeli] soldiers and border guards in front of
groups of Arab women and children. But children with children, boys with boys
and women with women – it will destroy the “effect of September” and this will
change the equation on the ground forever.
campaign staff will include representatives of all relevant bodies, mayors,
community leaders, and residents' committees . . . representatives of the
hilltop youth, and the like. When this goes down it will run effectively, but
we will struggle in some areas:
headquarters unit will be headed by an operations officer and team
coordinators. Staff will unite all the existing workforce . . . [and] will
prepare an operational plan based on the independent agenda of the settlers,
and [staff will] organize marches and mass rallies outside the villages but
also will be responsible for sending a response force for each locality where
the event takes place against the terrorists.
logistics team will ensure the supply of equipment for the marchers and a
regular supply of food and water. The equipment provided will include legal
“self-protection equipment” which would allow activists to defend themselves
and retaliate in case of assault.
of the enemy’s campaign is going to take place in the media. Arabs run the
media campaign, and at the disposal of the Arabs and leftists are not only most
of the media establishment, but also many skilled speakers. The communications
team will be based primarily on the Forum speakers in the West Bank with the
assistance of the observation unit.
and jurists that will handle legal challenges arising from the defense minister
should he try to argue that these actions will harm the residents of Judea and
Samaria. If any settlers are arrested during the events, the legal team will
come to their assistance.
Arutz 7 reporting obliquely references the necessity of reaching out to foreign
organizations to carry out this campaign. It is not clear what organizations
Ben-Ari and his supporters have in mind, though the French Jewish Defense
League (JDL) has announced that it is coordinating the dispatch of volunteer
"guards" who have military training with five West Bank settlements.
The JDL, and the banned far-right Israeli political party Kach/Kahane Chai,
were both founded by ultra-nationalist Israeli politician Meir Kahane. The JDL
itself is allowed to operate in the U.S. and the EU, where it has ties to the
anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic British Defense League.
seems to envision that the Palestinian effort at the UN -- which Ramallah
argues is a necessity in the face of the Israeli government's refusal to return
to peace talks -- will eventually lead to the same sort of withdrawal the
Israelis undertook in Sinai and Gaza. A collective warning from the Israeli
intelligence community urging the government to reevaluate its recalcitrance
over returning to peace talks with Ramallah suggests that a schism is growing
among Israeli elites about how to respond to the Palestinian initiative at the
National Union holds that the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is an
integral part of Israel (referring to the Occupied Territories by the Biblical
designation of "Judea and Samaria"). It has frequently butted heads
with Netanyahu's policies in the past -- because they don't go far enough
(i.e., formally annexing Israeli's post-1967 territorial gains). Given the
likelihood of a pro-Palestinian vote from the UN General Assembly by the end of
the month, and the growing number of prominent Israeli voices expressing
opposition to the Tel Aviv's response to the vote, Ben-Ari and the settlers
seem determined to be resorting to the tried-and-true tactic of changing the
"facts on the ground," lest a resumption negotiations scale back
their gains (and, in the event of a binding UN resolution, allow a host of
lawsuits against the Israeli government, settlements and security forces in the
West Bank to proceed).
It is not entirely clear if the Hebrew text presented by Arutz 7 is Ben-Ari's
report itself, or a condensed version edited by Arutz 7, though other Israeli
news outlets have quoted pieces of the Arutz 7 text below as Ben-Ari's own
-This commentary was published in Foreign Policy In Focus on
-Paul Mutter is a graduate student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute
at NYU and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus