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Collaboration between IDF, settlers reaching point of no return

Israeli democracy is being severely compromised by the army’s collaboration with the settlers, and the fact that more and more Israeli citizens now see the occupation as the natural order of things.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

With Israelis from Tel Rumeida settlement looking on from above, Israeli soldiers arrest two Palestinians and an international volunteer after confrontations between settlers, the Al Azzeh family who had just harvested their olives, and the military, October 22, 2012. (photo: Activestills)

The following complaint was received from M., a resident of a village near Qalqiliya:

“Last night, at about 7:30 p.m., we were all in the house. Suddenly I heard a noise outside, including the engine sound of a military vehicle. We didn’t leave the house and I looked through the window. I saw a military jeep parked west of the house, some 150 meters down the road towards the town center. I also saw a large group of settlers moving on the road bordering my house. A military jeep was driving before the mass of settlers, with another jeep behind them. The sun had already set, but I could see what was going outside because there is a lamppost outside my house. The lights of the jeeps were on, and some of the settlers were carrying flashlights. Suddenly we heard stones hitting the house, the greenhouse and the courtyard. Luckily, all the windows of the house are covered, so no stones went in.

“The soldiers remained inside their jeeps during the entire event. The stoning went on for about 10 minutes. When the settlers passed the house, I think there were some 200 men and women there, they shouted “Dirty Arabs,” “Go to Saudi Arabia”, “Death to Arabs.” The settlers went on marching towards the center of the town, then there was quiet. Later, some of the settlers came back and stood next to my water cistern.

“I immediately called the town hall and other residents to inform them of what was going on. Nobody came to help us but we were told that in the center of the town there were four more army jeeps which were using tear gas to prevent any attempt of gathering on the part of the villagers who might have tried to repel the settlers.

“I think this was an intimidation and harassment act by the settlers, in coordination with the army. True, no physical damage was caused to the house or greenhouses, but my wife and daughter are still very scared. I registered a complaint with the Palestinian District Coordination Office.”

What we see here, as in far too many cases, is violence on the part of the settlers, while the IDF – which is supposed to defend the residents from the settlers – stands aside. This behavior by the IDF, which cannot be termed as anything but collaboration with the rioters, has a very long history. One of the earlier cases is the “Night of the Bottles,” in which settlers led by prominent settler leader Daniella Weiss stormed Qalqiliya and broke bottles on the walls of the houses. The soldiers at the scene didn’t do anything, though the officer present would later call the event a “pogrom.” Nobody asked him why, when facing a pogrom, he did absolutely nothing. Unfortunately for Weiss, the incident was recorded and she was actually convicted. However, given the tradition of our courts of being merciful toward hooligan settlers, she managed to get away with a fine and a suspended sentence.

In extreme cases, the collaboration between the army and the settlers is even tighter. After the murder of the Fogel family in Itamar, the army went on a rampage in the village of Awarta, with soldiers causing deliberate damage to food and property – but this wasn’t enough for the soldiers. Settlers reported (Hebrew) that soldiers allowed them to move through the roadblocks so they could reach the village and cause some more damage. In one case, it was claimed, a soldier gave a nightstick to a settler and asked him to use it in his stead.

The IDF insists on claiming it does not “choose its missions,” hence it is supposed to be above political conflict. However, in the last 30 years, the main mission of the IDF has been operating the occupation, and it is increasingly becoming a private-settler militia. This, by the way, would be true even if the settlers described in the complaint behaved impeccably: they come and go with military escorts, soldiers whose service is increasingly dedicated to providing security details to civilians who have willingly chosen to live in an area held under wartime conditions.

This has severe implications both for the IDF – militias are not all that good facing regular armies – and on Israeli democracy. The feeling is that events such as the one detailed above, which used to receive plenty of attention from the media, no longer do so. More and more, the citizens of Israel are getting accustomed to the occupation as the natural order of things; and when something is seen as normal, as normal as paying your taxes every month, it is that much harder to reverse.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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    1. Aaron Gross

      [T]he citizens of Israel are getting accustomed to the occupation as the natural order of things; and when something is seen as normal…it is that much harder to reverse.

      Maybe, maybe not. The occupation was already seen as normal in 2005: almost four decades of occupation. Then, all of a sudden, the Gaza settlements were uprooted and the occupying forces withdrawn. A “normal” occupation was reversed, to a large extent, overnight. It can happen again.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Whether or not (some) settlements are reversed later, the IDF’s open disregard to active aid of settler intimindation attaches these acts, and the ideology supporting them, to the State. Palestinian residents may legitimately say “Isreal did this to us.” That these acts go unchallenged also shifts the constitutional balance within Israel, with the IDF nigh denying Court jurisdiction as applied. Overtime, the Court attempts less; this spills over into jurispurdence generally. When wrongs which could be averted are not, the constitution suffers beyond those acts.

      “Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a law breaker, it breeds contempt for the law.”
      Justice Louis D. Brandeis, dissenting
      Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928)
      Brandeis was a Zionist.

      Reply to Comment
      • Aaron Gross

        Greg, I think your thesis (which is Gershom Gorenberg’s as well) is unsupported. Brandeis’s statement does not apply to a belligerent occupation of a foreign people. The remarkable thing is how well governments do maintain the distinction between “us” and “them,” how little the methods used against “them” bleed over into those used against “us.”

        Look at it comparatively. Compare Israel’s domestic government, including its police and justice systems, to other democracies that do not occupy a foreign population. I don’t think Israel comes out that much different.

        Reply to Comment
        • There is no equal protection of the law among Israeli citizens; Arabs are denied equal access to resources, land use rights, employment. Consider the South Tel Aviv race riot, incited by sitting MK’s without rebuke, irrespective of their immunity. Consider the lack of real prosecution for the Nazereth 13. Consider the State’s failure to implement Court orders on offical signs in both Arabic and Hebrew. Consider the State’s refusal to follow Court order over religious designation on ID cards (if I recall correctly here). Consider the High Court’s refusal to allow Israeli Arab citizens to live with their Bank spouces in Israel for fear of demographic expansion.

          The settlers are Israeli citizens. Occupation in no way demands their presence on the ground. One cannot write off the crimes of settlers as collateral damage in occupation–for the settlers do not need to be there. The settlers are citizens allowed, encouraged to commit crimes under State protection. Perhaps your reply restricts citizen to Israeli Jew. But then the point drives home: law is lost.

          I am beginning to think that judicial review in Israel is devolving. “Security” comes home to roost in the land of liberation.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            There is no distinction in the Israeli judicial system between Jews and Arabs. Your issue is with the political system not the judicial system.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Khaled Khalid

      At the end of the day we are talking about Israeli State Policy.

      Israel didn’t pull out of Gaza for any love of the Palestinian people –
      Israel pulled out from Gaza because it was Not worth the 5 Billion dollar budget to maintain security and water rights for just a few thousand Jews. (Opps, I meant Israeli Citizens.)

      Reply to Comment
      • Palestinian

        Mish bas haik, 1.5 m Palestinians were surrounding the settlements (today almost 1.7) so Israel wouldnt have been able to annex them without ethnically cleansing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

        One of Israel’s “national” goals is settlements expansion which requires empty land (or areas with low population density that can be ethnically cleansed discreetly).The entire area of Gaza strip (not Gaza city) is almost 7 times the area of Ma’ale Adumim (one settlement).It wasnt worth it !

        Hamas’ rise to power was an Israeli achievement.How do Zionists defend the occupation today ? “We’ve pulled out of Gaza and all we got is ghockets (aka rockets)”.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Settler


      As an actual settler the event you describe here sounds preposterous. The army does not aid and abate settlers attacking Arabs rather it tries to maintain the peace between the two sides. Do you have any evidence for this claim or is it based on one person’s account …. ?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Aaron Gross,

      Ariel Sharon removed the colonists from the Gaza Strip in order to both soften Israel’s image in the West and as a tactical move to colonize more land in the West Bank.

      Feel free to perform the simple task of researching this online, I won’t do it for you.

      Know this, Israel relocated the colonists from the Gaza Strip and put them in the West Bank.

      And while the world’s attention was misdirected, Israel went on to confiscate more land in the West Bank than it in the years prior, to demolish more Palestinian homes than it did in the years prior and to uproot more olive groves in the West Bank than it did in the years prior.

      What’s truly chutzpah is the fact you are using Ariel Sharon’s deception to support the feeble argument that occupation is easily reversible and then go on to lecture Greg Pollock by dismissively calling his FACTUAL argument “unsupported”.

      You have much to learn and a lot of reading to do before you can make such hollow declarations.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Let’s suppose everything you say is true. Aaron’s point that a ‘normal’ situation which has wide understanding if not support in a society can be reversed still stands.

        Greg’s argument is in fact unsupported. His argument is based on an expectation that the judicial system must operate according to his own standards of activist ‘justice’ as opposed to being a body that interprets and applies the law of the land which is the actual function of a justice system in any country. There is also his perception that there is some kind of change taking place in the Israeli justice system as a result of the occupation. There isn’t and even a cursory look over the history of the Israeli justice system will demonstrate that it’s current actions are entirely consistent with its actions in the past. If it is corrupt it always has been. If it isn’t then it isn’t becoming corrupt. In other words, the theory that Greg pushes that the occupation is corrupting is entirely empty of reason.

        Reply to Comment