Home World News In the West Bank, growing violence by Israeli settlers divides the political...

In the West Bank, growing violence by Israeli settlers divides the political class

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In recent days, the violence perpetrated by settlers in the West Bank has increased worryingly and has even become commonplace. Last Monday, a convoy of settlers brought back a young Israeli as a hero, freed after a year in prison for throwing a stun grenade into a house where four Palestinians lived. Passing through the Palestinian village of Hawara, the settlers get out of the car. They throw stones, injure seven passers-by and damage two stores before leaving quietly. A video shows Israeli soldiers in a jeep at the scene, but do not intervene.

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Three days earlier, members of Israeli NGOs such as Rabbis for Human Rights came to plant trees in fields where settlers had uprooted olive trees belonging to Palestinians. They were assaulted with iron bars by about fifteen masked men. A car was burned. Also in this case, videos filmed everything.

“Terrorist Organization”

The Shin Beth, the Israeli security service in charge of the fight against terrorism, reports a 50% increase in one year of violence attributed to small groups of settlers. However, these attacks are hardly punished by the Israeli state. Yesh Din (“There is justice”), an Israeli left-wing NGO, thus specified that in 2021, of the 238 complaints filed by Palestinians, only 21, or 5%, resulted in indictments. These statistics mask an even more serious reality. The number of complaints has fallen by 43%, not because of a drop in violence, but because the victims fear acts of revenge, the loss of their work permit, or a total lack of confidence in the authorities. Israeli soldiers who tend to close their eyes most of the time.

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This escalation of violence has reached such a level that officials have begun to react, at least verbally. Yair Golan, deputy economy minister, member of the leftist Meretz party and former commander of a West Bank-based unit, called the settlers who carried out anti-Palestinian attacks “ sub-humans who engage in pogroms” before going back on his remarks and denouncing “ despicable thugs “. Omer Bar-Lev, the Minister of Public Security, denounced a “terrorist organization” among the settlers while admitting the powerlessness of the authorities in the face of these groups of extremists.

One ” marginal phenomenon according to Bennett

Commentators reject this argument. They point out that if the Israeli intelligence services manage to infiltrate the Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas, there is no reason why they cannot do the same among small groups of settlers.

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On the other hand, Naftali Bennett, the Prime Minister and leader of a nationalist party advocating all-out colonization, considered that settler violence was only a “marginal phenomenon”. This position is only partly shared by Yecha, the main lobby of some 400,000 Israelis living in the West Bank. “We are shocked by this unusual incident and we call on the security forces to pursue the rioters and apply the full force of the law to them” the organization claimed, referring to left-wing Israelis injured by settlers. According to Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria regional council [nom israélien de la Cisjordanie], most perpetrators of abuse would not live in the settlements, but would be “young people at odds” who came from Israel to let off steam in the West Bank.

For its part, the left-wing daily Ha’aretz wanted to issue a warning. ‘Israeli civil society’s indifference amounts to consent and it will pay the price’, he wrote. The outrage even crossed the Atlantic. Seven American Jewish organizations protested in an open letter against “terrorism and political violence committed by extremist Jews in the West Bank, against Palestinians, Israeli civilians and soldiers”.

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