The Jewish settler movement has been growing like a cancer for decades. It is partly organic and partly inorganic, made up of Jews born inside and outside Israel, respectively. It has become a real threat to peaceful solution of the Palestinian problem.
As I have noted a few times before many of the rank and file of this menacing movement come from the western world. They are financed by rich Jewish donors and the Christian evangelical movement – the latter more properly known as the Christian Zionists – from the USA and Europe. They are more radicalized than most Israeli Zionists who were born inside Israel, and consequently, have been terrorizing Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
So religiously charged these settlers from the western countries are that most of them prefer to settle inside the Occupied West Bank creating newer illegal, Jewish settlements there while making the lives of ordinary Palestinians simply miserable.
It is worth mentioning here that though the Israeli government considers these settler outposts in the West Bank unauthorized, it provides them with electricity, running water and security. (The international community, rightly, considers all the exclusively Jewish settlements Israel has established in the territories it conquered in the 1967 Six Day War to be illegal.)
The criminal activities of the members of the settler movement, although known inside Israel, has been almost a taboo in the west. Last week (Jan. 11, 2016), Naomi Zeveloff, the Middle East correspondent of the Jewish daily – Forward – wrote an article about them in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Many of the young Jewish American settlers live with the so-called hilltop youth, a loosely affiliated group of Jewish settlers in their teens and 20s who live away from their parents on the hilltops surrounding established settlements. The hilltop youth are now an established entity. Several hundred adolescents from both sides of the Green Line — including some girls — roam the West Bank hills. Some are yeshiva dropouts. Others are students of Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh of Od Yosef Chai yeshiva, in Yitzhar. Ginsburgh, a prominent scholar of Kabbalah and a member of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, has concocted a potent ideological brew for this new generation of Jewish radicals, spouting mystical admonitions to live in nature and Kabbalah-based rationales for Jewish racial superiority and violence against Arabs.
Meanwhile, two other prominent rabbis at Od Yosef Chai have given the hilltop youths’ penchant for attacking Arabs even stronger religious legitimacy. In their 2010 book, “The King’s Torah (Torat Hamelech), Part One: Laws of Life and Death between Israel and the Nations,” Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur declared, “The prohibition ‘Thou Shalt Not Murder’ applies only ‘to a Jew who kills a Jew’.” Non-Jews, they wrote, are “uncompassionate by nature” and assaults on them “curb their evil inclination,” while infants and children of Israel’s enemies may be killed, since “it is clear that they will grow to harm us.” It is worth noting that up until 2013, Od Yosef Chai yeshiva received government funding and support. It has also received money from American donors.
Members of the hill-top youth group have perpetrated so-called “price tag” attacks, using firebombs and spray paint to damage Palestinian property.
Many of the Jews living inside Israel are willing to overlook such crimes by their fellow youths. Even any interrogation by the Shin Beth is unwelcome, as they say: “Jews don’t torture other Jews. Stop the inquisition.”
The hilltop youth have always had power, which they wielded through violent acts, often under the cover of night. But for most Israelis, these were distant events perpetrated by extremists in the West Bank, a kind of Wild West they rarely think about or visit.
For years, hill-top youth members have been committing vigilante acts against Palestinians, torching olive groves and defacing mosques. But until recently, Israeli leaders in the mainstream have been reluctant to label them terrorists — a term usually reserved for Arabs. Israeli courts have also done little to punish this kind of behavior. In 2013, Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, defined price tag activity as “illegal organizing.” And according to a report by the Israeli rights group Yesh Din, just 7.4% of complaints filed by Palestinians from 2005 to 2014 have ended in indictments against Israeli civilians.
Now, the arson attack in the Palestinian village of Duma last July, which killed an 18-month-old infant and his parents, appears to show that the hilltop youth are capable of not only destruction, but murder, too.
It also turns out that several of those detained as part of the Duma investigation have U.S. citizenship. That may reflect the disproportionate presence of Americans among settlers overall. According to Sara Yael Hirschhorn, an Oxford University scholar, some 15% of all settlers are Americans, compared with 2% to 3% of all Israeli citizens. The prominence of Americans among those detained echoes the historic leadership roles Americans have played in Israel’s contemporary right-wing radicalism, from Meir Kahane, a native New Yorker, to Ginsburgh, who was born in St. Louis and spent much of his youth in Philadelphia, and Baruch Goldstein, the Brooklyn born-and-raised physician who in 1994 murdered 29 Muslims at prayer at the Cave of the Patriarchs, a site in Hebron holy to Muslims and Jews.
Eliezer Shekhtman who moved to Israel from Chicago believes that Jewish civilian violence, which he calls ‘values’, against the Palestinian civilians has a place in the greater political scheme.
During Hanukkah, Shekhtman was a guest at a Jewish wedding at which a group of young men danced while waving guns in the air. One thrust a knife through a photograph of Ali Saad Dawabsheh, the infant killed in the Duma fire. Video footage of the wedding was leaked to the press, causing mainstream Israelis to recoil at the radicalism in their midst. Shekhtman said he did not see the man stabbing the photo. But the idea did not scandalize him: “It doesn’t bother me. I don’t know if the father threw stones or if he didn’t, or if the baby would have thrown stones or wouldn’t have if he lived till the age of 15 or 20. Come on, it’s a picture.”
Shekthman’s statement says volumes about the criminal mindset of these Jewish American settlers who see the Occupied Territories as a land to plunder, pillage and slay the indigenous Palestinian people to make the land kosher for the Jews only, and of course, their Christian evangelical patrons.
The indigenous Palestinians see themselves abandoned by the powerful nations of the UN. In sheer hopelessness and a sense of dehumization they are, regrettably, now resorting to nihilistic activities trying to harm Israeli Jews and getting killed every day by the trigger happy Israelis – civilians and security forces alike. It is a sad development in a region that has cried for justice for too long – almost 70 years – only to be ignored and severely punished for their noncompliance to the Zionist dream of Eretz Israel.
While the western governments continue to close their eyes to the heinous crimes of the Jewish settlers in the Occupied Territories they are not so nonchalant about misguided Muslim youths. Even an intention to join or live in a territory that is administer by a radical organization, deemed terrorist here, can land them in the prison with probably no chance of ever getting out. What do you call such an attitude? In my dictionary, it’s called double-standard. Pure and simple!