Last week, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem released video clips showing masked Jewish settlers ganging up on and severely beating elderly Palestinian peasants near the town of Yatta, southwest of Hebron. At least three Palestinians were wounded in the unprovoked assault, including a man and his wife, both in their early sixties.
The latest act of settler terror was not an isolated incident, as official Israeli spokespersons would often claim. It represents a disturbing and persistent phenomenon as young and usually heavily armed settlers continue to attack Palestinian farmers, peasants and shepherds and vandalize their property in an effort to drive them away from their lands and villages.
We who live in the West Bank know too well what it means to live next to a Jewish settlement. It means constant harassment, unending vandalism and perpetual terrorism, both psychological and physical.
What is even more disturbing is the often brazen collusion between the army and the settlers. Ask any conscientious Israeli or Palestinian and he or she will tell you that the settlers couldn’t do what they are doing without at least a "yellow light" from the government and army.
Israel claims to be a state where the rule of law prevails. However, it is abundantly clear that when it comes to settler savagery in particular, and Israel’s overall violations of Palestinian rights in general, the rule of law is suspended.
For example, when a Palestinian files a complaint against settlers, he or she is asked to produce nearly impossible evidence, like the names of the perpetrators, their identity card numbers and their places of residence. Eventually, the complaint is registered against "anonymous" and consigned to oblivion. Such was the fate of thousands of complaints filed by desperate Palestinians seeking redress in Israeli courts.
And whenever serious physical damage to Palestinian property occurs, as happens often, the Israeli police challenge the Palestinian victims to prove beyond doubt that the damage was done by Jews and not self-inflicted. In other words, Jews can do no harm and settlers are innocent even if proven guilty.
The routine and nearly daily attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinians and their property throughout the West Bank are not merely mundane acts of vandalism by rogue elements within the settler population. On the contrary, they are part of a larger and well-devised plan aimed at driving Palestinians away from their villages and hamlets and lands in order to make more room for Jewish settlement expansion. It is part and parcel of Israel’s ethnic cleansing schemes against non-Jews in Palestine.
Besides, it is well known that whenever a terrorist settler is detained, and this happens rarely, dozens of politicians, Knesset members, retired army commanders and of course, rabbis, are mobilized to free "an innocent Jew whose only guilt is defending Jewish rights and showing loyalty to the Land of Israel."
This proves, if any proof were needed, that the entire Israeli Jewish society is accomplice and guilty in this shame, not only by keeping silent but also by always covering up for settler crimes.
To be sure, there are some Israeli Jewish and international groups, such as B’Tselem, the Christian Peace-making Teams (CPT) and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) that monitor settler crimes against Palestinians. On this occasion and on behalf of the Palestinian people, I would like to salute these conscientious people and thank them for their dedication and laborious efforts on behalf of humanity and justice.
Nonetheless, settler crimes in the West Bank are so rampant and pervasive that greater efforts are required to monitor and expose them, especially in light of the obvious collusion between the occupation army and the settlers.
Hence, young men and women from around the world including Jews, Christians and Muslims and others, are encouraged to come to the West Bank to be a voice for the voiceless and lend a helping hand to those helpless Palestinians for whom daily life has become a formidable challenge due to settler harassment, vandalism and terrorism.
In addition to physical assaults on Palestinian villagers, settler terrorists routinely burn down fields, orchards and olive groves, often in full view of Israeli soldiers who look on nonchalantly, if not satisfactorily. Moreover, the settlers close Palestinian roads, even roads to one’s home, break water pipes, power and telephone cables. They also often throw poisonous or contaminated substances in Palestinian water wells.
Again, when Palestinians complain to the police, they are made to feel as if they were talking to a wall.
The criminal behavior of the settlers reflects a virulent ideological indoctrination whereby non-Jews in general and Palestinians in particular are viewed as "not fully human."
For example, Rabbi Abraham Kook, the spiritual Godfather of religious Zionism, e.g. the settler movement, claimed that "the difference between a Jewish soul and souls of non-Jews is greater and deeper than the difference between a human soul and the souls of cattle."
I know that some religious-Zionist pundits would indulge in all sorts of metaphorical interpretations to make Kook’s Jewish supremacy doctrine look innocuous.
However, the behavior of his followers in the West Bank should leave no doubt as to the virulent nature of his teachings.
Today, the vast majority of settlers in the West Bank believe that non-Jews living in Israel-Palestine ought to be either exterminated, enslaved or expelled. To enforce their racist ideas, prominent rabbis often cite the most extremist biblical and Talmudic passages pertaining to treatment of non-Jews living among Jews.
A few months ago, a settler leader in the Hebron region told me, "you have to choose between death, enslavement and expulsion from the Land of Israel."
Obviously, with such a mindset, there can be no peace and coexistence between Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land.
Indeed, how can you coexist, let alone coexist amicably, with someone who believes that you are not equal to him and that God created you to be enslaved by him as a wood-hewer or water-carrier?
Finally, a few words to the Israeli government. During the Nazi era, the German authorities gave Nazi vigilantes, such as the Hitler Youth organization, free rein to attack Jews and their property. Now, you are effectively doing the same by giving these settler hoodlums a free rein to terrorize and assault innocent Palestinians. So, take note of what you are doing.
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