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Settler violence: It comes with the territory

Unlike any other aspect of the occupation, settler violence is something nobody outside the radical fringe in Israel will defend. This, alone, they’ll denounce. And yet, nobody — in Israel or internationally — has found the political will to put a stop to the decades-long phenomenon, even when the victims are U.S. citizens.

By Larry Derfner
Photos by Mareike Lauken, Keren Manor and Activestills.org

The burned door of the Khalil family home, months after settlers set it on fire while seven family members slept inside. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Kamal Shaban, a farmer in the West Bank village of Sinjil, is watching workmen repair a local family’s house that had recently been firebombed by settlers in the middle of the night, forcing the parents and five children asleep inside to flee to the rooftop. As for himself, Shaban tells me that during the autumn olive harvests, settlers have stoned the laborers in his fields, turned over a tractor, stolen sacks of olives and once broke a worker’s arm with a big rock – all under the eye of Israeli soldiers required by the Supreme Court to protect the farmers.

He asks: “Why do the United States, the European Union and the United Nations call Hamas terrorists and Hezbollah terrorists, but they don’t call these people terrorists?”

The phenomenon of settler violence against Palestinians, which is as old and as vibrant as the settlements themselves, tells you everything you need to know about how serious Israel is about ending its rule over a foreign people. It also tells you everything you need to know about how serious the world is about forcing Israel to end it.

Settler violence, lately characterized mainly by masked young men roaming the West Bank and attacking Palestinian farmers with stones, clubs or rifles and burning their olive groves, their fields, and occasionally their schools, mosques and homes, is a unique feature of the occupation. Unlike every other aspect of it – the conquest of another people’s homeland by military force and land theft, the brutality, the house demolitions and expulsions, the whole system of officially sanctioned subjugation – settler violence is something nobody outside the radical fringe in Israel will defend. This, alone, they’ll denounce.

And yet it goes on. The world doesn’t penalize or even threaten to penalize Israel for it.

If a decades-long reign of terror on unarmed Palestinians by Jewish gangs backed by an army of occupation is tolerable, not only to Israel but to the United Nations, European Union, United States and the rest of the world, then everything Israel does to the Palestinians is tolerable. Then the occupation as a whole is tolerable.

An attack each day

Settlers attack Palestinians in the West Bank on an average of once a day, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Last year there were 399 assaults – 93 in which Palestinians were injured, another 306 in which their property was damaged or destroyed. The frequency of these attacks has stayed fairly stable over the last four years, but it is quadruple the rate in 2006, when OCHA began tracking these incidents.

As we drove in Zakaria Sadah’s van up Route 60 through the northern part of the West Bank, he pointed out some of the landmarks. “In this house we’re passing,” he narrated, “a group of settlers went in and attacked a mother and her children, stripped their clothes off, sent them to the hospital. That house over there, about 15 settlers set it on fire, some soldiers were in on it, too. In that village over there they burned the sports hall, uprooted olive trees three or four times…”

Sadah, the West Bank field worker for Rabbis for Human Rights, takes us through the heartland of the “price tag” movement – near the Nablus-area settlement Yitzhar and the settler outposts Esh Kodesh, Adei Ad, Shvut Rachel, Kida and Ahiya, and, surrounded by them, two of the most frequently targeted Palestinian villages, Jalud and Sinjil.

“In the seat you’re sitting in,” he tells me, “the ambassador from Belgium sat, diplomats from the EU sat, the UN, the U.S. Next week I’m taking someone from the American consulate so he can see what the settlers are doing. I take foreign VIPs on tours about once a month, and they’re all shocked at what they see.”

After they get over being shocked, do they do anything with what they’ve learned?

“No,” said Sadah. “Some of them say they’re going to talk to somebody, they’re going to change things. Nothing happens.”

[Israeli settlers who came from the direction of Yitzhar set fire to Palestinians fields in the village of Asira al-Qibliya. Several of the settlers opened fire on the Palestinians who came to defend their property, hitting Nimer Najem, 24, in his face. May 19, 2012. Video by B’Tselem]

‘There’s a lack of political will to stop the violence’

Connie Martinez-Varela Pedersen, director of international advocacy for Yesh Din, one of the most vital Israeli human rights organizations working in the West Bank, says she’s talked to diplomats from around 20 countries about the issue of settler violence, and gives regular briefings about it to European, American and Canadian officials. They duly report on the attacks and Israel’s response to them back to their foreign ministries or other relevant departments in their home countries.

“They get it,” Pedersen says. “They get that there’s a lack of political will to stop the violence. The sense you get from them is – here we are talking about the same issue again. In a way there’s nothing to even talk about. It’s a no-brainer – it’s so obvious to everyone that there’s something wrong.”

That’s the feeling I had when I called a European diplomat stationed in Israel to talk to him about the issue: the very clear sense that we both knew what the other thinks about it because there’s nothing else one could possibly think, so what is there to discuss? But just to hear it from the mouth of someone representing the big wide world in this country, I called him, and he spoke on condition that he wouldn’t be identified.

“European diplomats in Israel are definitely aware of the problem, we’ve written a joint report about it in the names of all the member states of the EU, it’s been mentioned in the conclusions of the European Council. There have also been private demarches [diplomatic statements, often protests] about it from individual EU countries to Israeli authorities. We’re mostly concerned with the issue of impunity for the settler attackers.”

Do you think these reports and demarches affect Israel’s handling of the problem?

“No, I don’t think so.”

I asked him why he thought that was. He laughed drily; what could he say?

What effect, I asked, does Israel’s indifference to these reports and demarches have on the European diplomatic corps in this country?

“Well, I think it leads to a measure of frustration.”

‘My God, they’re burning down the house!’

The high-water mark of international recognition of the problem of settler violence, in the view of people at Yesh Din, was President Obama’s remark about it in his speech at the Jerusalem Convention Center last March. “It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished,” the president said.

We drove into the village of Sinjil, where one of the worst settler attacks on Palestinians in recent years took place on November 14. At about two in the morning, a car carrying four young men passed an isolated house at the end of a road where Khaled Dar Khalil, his wife Rowaida and their five children, ages 16 months to eight years, were sleeping. Two young men got out of the car, poured gasoline under the porch, broke the glass enclosure in front, threw Molotov cocktails through the windows, and drove away.

“My husband saw it from our bedroom window upstairs. He was yelling, ‘My God, they’re burning down the house!’” said Rowaida. The front door was blocked by fire, the house was filling up with smoke, so the family ran up the stairs and out onto the roof, where they waited for the Palestinian fire department to arrive.

Khaled Dar Khalil inspects the damage inside his home, which was torched by Jewish settlers, Sinjil, West Bank, November 14, 2013. Five children were treated for smoke inhalation. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

That was not the first time the property had been firebombed; Molotov cocktails were thrown at the yard about six months before and about two years before that, Rowaida said. “The house is pretty exposed,” she said by way of explanation. Khaled said Israeli police showed up to investigate, and he’s gotten telephone calls since from a detective who, he said, “seems interested.”

The day after this latest arson at the home, a driver pulled up in front and called out to Rowaida, “I’m coming back to burn what’s left of you,” and took off, she recalls.

Workmen were at the house the day I was there; it needs heavy repairs for the collapsed ceilings and other damage. The parents and children are okay, except for three-year-old Nisreen. “She’s still scared,” said Khaled. “She cries at night.”

Rowaida spoke to me in English with an Americanized accent. The 38-year-old woman said she lived in Springfield, Massachusetts for many years before and after her marriage, and, like her husband and children, is a U.S. citizen.

“People from the American consulate came here after the fire,” she said. “They’ve called me a couple of times since to see how we’re doing.”

All American citizens, the family of seven, including five children, were the victims of a murder attempt because they are Palestinian, their house was firebombed in the middle of the night by Israel’s lords of the land. It was the third time the family had been targeted with Molotov cocktails by these people in two years – and not a word of protest was heard from the United States.

Rowaidah and Khaled Dar-Khalil stand with their children on the roof of their house, where the family hid during the fire-bomb attack, Sinjil, West Bank. (Photo by Activestills.org)

I wanted to ask the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv about it, but my request for an interview was denied. It seems that one 11-word sentence in Obama’s speech didn’t have such a huge impact on Israeli or American policy toward the problem of “settler violence against Palestinians going unpunished.”

It’s understood that Israel could stop the violence if it wanted to, but for obvious domestic political reasons it doesn’t want to: Israel has no intention of taking harsh, extended measures against any part of the settler movement. Thus, the general view is that Israel chooses to turn a blind eye to these Jewish terrorists.

“Israel is a country that zapped Sheikh Yassin from the skies, that seemed to know about every terror bombing a day before it happened. Israel can get shit done. They really can stop this,” said the Israel-Palestine bureau chief of a major foreign news organization.

“The clearest proof that there is no serious intent to stop the violence is the olive harvest. There’s always a spike in violence during the harvest, which comes in October, and the army accompanies the farmers to the olive groves, so it knows exactly where the violence is taking place. It’s a perfect opportunity to catch the settler attackers, but they don’t,” said Reut Mor, spokesperson for Yesh Din.

[Masked settlers, who came from the direction of Yitzhar, beat Palestinian olive farmers near the West Bank village of Burin, October 20, 2013]

A recent Yesh Din study found that 97.4 percent of Israel Police investigations into the destruction of Palestinian-owned olive and fruit trees are closed due to what the NGO’s lawyers termed “circumstances testifying to investigative failure.”

In the old hillside village of Jalud, which faces the hilltop outposts Esh Kodesh, Ahiya and Shvut Rachel a few hundred meters away, farmer Ibrahim Haj Mohammed says he’s lost hundreds of trees to settler attacks over the years. “I’ve complained to the police more than 10 times – once I got a telephone call back from them,” he says.

On October 9 a couple of dozen settlers converged on Jalud. One group threw rocks at pupils in the village elementary school while a second group threw rocks at villagers’ cars and a third group set fire to olive groves, including Mohammed’s.

Scorched land in the Palestinian village of Jalud. In the background, the settlement of Shvut Rachel, from which Esh Kodesh is an offshoot outpost. (Photo by Activestills.org)

“I made a complaint that day to the police,” he says, “and two or three days later I went to the Sha’ar Binyamin station to see what was happening. I spoke to a policeman and he said, ‘Your case is being handled by a detective who is on holiday today, and if he needs you, we will talk to you.’ Nobody’s contacted me since.”

Yet the problem goes beyond Israeli authorities turning a blind eye; when soldiers get to the scene of a settler attack on Palestinians, as often as not they stand by obediently – as seen in this B’Tselem video of a January 6 settler attack on the village of Urif – and take action only after the Palestinians start throwing rocks back, which is when the troops turn their tear gas and rubber-coated (but potentially lethal) bullets on the Palestinians.

“The village of Burin, which is between Yitzhar and a row of Har Bracha outposts, sometimes gets attacked by settlers three times a week. They always have the army with them, and when the young Palestinians in the village start throwing stones back, the army attacks the village. It works every time. The settlers know that if they start, the army will finish up, and much more brutally than they can manage. And they know nothing will happen to them  – even if they’re arrested, the case will be closed, they’ll never get indicted,” said Reut Mor.

“There’s no way three settlers would attack an entire village with stones if they didn’t know they had armed soldiers behind them,” adds Mor.

“A couple of years ago a teenager was killed in Qusra – like it always happens, the settlers from Esh Kodesh came down to destroy their crops, then the villagers threw stones at them, then Israeli soldiers came, and the Palestinians see them as one with the settlers, so they started throwing stones at the soldiers, too, and the soldiers opened fire,” said B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli.

(Many readers are by now no doubt wondering: what about Palestinian violence against settlers, not to mention against other Israelis? My answer is that there is no comparing the violence of people living under colonial rule with that of the colonists.)

Price tag: ‘A brilliant exercise in branding’

The popular term for settler violence in recent years is “price tag” – “tag mechir” in Hebrew – which settlers often spray paint on a Palestinian mosque, house or car they’ve torched. The idea is that the attack is the “price tag” the settlers are putting on the most recent action by the army or government that they consider harmful to their cause, or on the most recent Palestinian attack against Israelis. (On occasion, such graffiti has accompanied settler arsons against left-wing Israeli activists, churches and army property.)

The term emerged after the 2005 disengagement from Gaza and evacuation of the West Bank outpost Amona in early 2006, signaling yet another escalation in settler militancy. It has been a hugely successful propaganda tool for the settlers for two reasons: One, it conveys the message that these attacks are reprisals, even self-defense. Two, as Yesh Din’s Mor says, “It shifts all the attention to the attacks accompanied by ‘price tag’ graffiti, and gives the impression that this is all the settler violence there is, when in fact it’s a very small portion. ‘Price tag’ was a brilliant exercise in branding by the settlers.”

If there is a single image that illustrates how settler persecution of Palestinians is an accepted fact of life, it is the chain-link and cloth netting hung over stretches of the souk in Hebron to catch at least some of the rocks, bricks, bottles, soiled diapers, eggs, urine, bleach and other ammunition tossed over from the adjacent Avraham Avinu and Beit Hadassah buildings, where most of Hebron’s settlers live. Above the souk are two Israeli army lookout posts with a clear view of what goes on below.

“We yell up to the soldiers to stop the settlers from attacking us, but they don’t pay any attention,” Jamal Maraga, who runs a fabric stall in the souk, told me early this month, pointing out the scarves on display that had been stained by eggs. A boy showed me a brick that had fallen out of the sky recently. A man who’d been hit in the chest with a rock a couple of days before was giving the details to a pair of Norwegian observers from TIPH, the Temporary International Presence in Hebron. In the previous week, the souk vendors had closed up their shops to protest the army’s failure to protect them from settler assaults.

Jewish settlers throw liquids into the Hebron Souk during a weekly protest against the occupation, Old City of Hebron, May 22, 2010 (Photo by:Silan Dallal/Activestills.org)

‘We expect that they are actually using the information’

The people from TIPH say the level of settler attacks against Palestinians in Hebron has gone down in recent years. An official with a foreign agency operating in Hebron put it this way: “The Palestinians in the city, what can I say, have given up the fight. They have to survive, so they are very patient with the settlers. They know their children are exposed to the settlers’ children, and there’s a lot of tension. They’re neighbors after all.”

TIPH, whose observers have been patrolling the Jewish-Arab seam line in Hebron since 1997, stays absolutely neutral. It records every disturbance of the peace, whether by settler, soldier or Palestinian, and sends confidential reports to its six member nations (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy and Turkey) as well as to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

I asked the head of the TIPH mission, Christine Fossen, a lawyer and local police chief in Norway, what those countries do with the documentation of settler attacks on the city’s Palestinians.

“They follow our reports closely, they’re working mostly in diplomatic channels,” she said. “We don’t know what different diplomatic missions do, but we know they are very interested in what we are writing and we expect that they are actually using that information.”

Settler violence isn’t new, so it ceases to be of interest

One of the reasons settler violence doesn’t create much of a ripple internationally is that outside of Israel, it rarely makes the news. “Dog bites man is not news, and settlers behaving badly is dog bites man,” said the local bureau chief, who’s been covering this region for many years. “And it’s not new, it’s been going on for decades, so it ceases to be of interest.”

Presumably that’s why the January 7 incident in the West Bank village of Qusra, where settlers once again attacked Palestinian farmers but this time got caught and beat up by the villagers, did make the international news – marauding settlers getting their clocks cleaned by their Palestinian targets is, as Yossi Gurvitz wrote, a case of man bites dog.

Some village leaders protected the 15 or so settlers from possibly getting lynched by an angry crowd of locals before turning them over to the army. Some of the settlers escaped the soldiers’ grasp, while the others were brought before a judge and ordered under house arrest for five days. Zakaria Sadah of Rabbis for Human Rights, who helped the village leaders protect the settlers from the crowd, said the invaders destroyed about 40 olive trees before being caught.

In Qusra they were celebrating that night. The village imam, Ziad Oudeh – who Sadah said was also one of the locals protecting the settlers from further harm – told Haaretz it was “like a wedding. People sang ‘God is great’ all night. For four years we’ve been suffering from these settlers, and people feel we’ve paid them back.” Sadah said village leaders told him that in recent years, Qusra has been attacked by settlers 66 times.

[Click on each village to see more details about recent settler attacks]

In Israel, the pathetic spectacle of these frightened, bleeding young fanatics, and the fact that Palestinians who are ordinarily their victims saved their lives and handed them over to the army, provided another occasion for officials to decry the “price tag” phenomenon and pledge to uproot it.

Empty pledges to act

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said: “The unacceptable trend known as ‘price tag’ is in my opinion terror in every sense of the word, and we are acting and will act against the perpetrators, firmly and with zero tolerance, in order to eradicate it.”

His statement echoed the one last June from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the torching of cars and spraying of anti-Arab graffiti in Abu Ghosh, an Israeli Arab village popular for its tourist restaurants. “What happened today in Abu Ghosh,” said Netanyahu, “goes against Judaism’s mitzvot [commandments] and against the values of our people and our state. Just this week we made decisions that allow us to act more forcefully against the people who commit these crimes and we will do so with full force.”

Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, twice used the word “pogrom” in late 2008 to describe separate shooting attacks on Palestinians by settlers from Yitzhar and Hebron. “In the State of Israel, there will be no pogroms against non-Jews,” he told his cabinet. “This is an intolerable phenomenon and it will be dealt with in the strongest way by Israel’s law enforcement authorities.”

Unacceptable. Terror in every sense of the word. Zero tolerance. Against our values. Pogroms.

The Esh Kodesh settlers’ ill-fated attack in Qusra on January 7 was the first incident of settler violence cited by OCHA in its weekly report from the occupied territories for January 7-13. It was not, however, the last.

“At least five other settler attacks recorded during the remainder of the week were reportedly carried out by settlers in retaliation for the Qusra incident,” OCHA wrote. “A total of six Palestinian vehicles were burned or damaged near Al Jalazun Refugee Camp (Ramallah), in Al Funduq (Qalqilya) and in Kifl Haris (Salfit). Settler raids also took place in Sinjil and Madama (Nablus), during which ‘price tag’ slogans, such as ‘death to the Arabs,’ were sprayed on houses and shops.”

On January 15, the day after the most recent of OCHA’s weekly reports was issued, a mosque in the northern West Bank village of Deir Istiya was torched; luckily the fire didn’t spread beyond the front door. Haaretz reported that the graffiti “Arabs out,” “Regards from Qusra,” and “Revenge for spilled blood in Qusra,” was sprayed on the mosque’s walls.

All in a day’s work. This is nothing new in the annals of the occupation, nor in the annals of colonialism; the bold young men of history’s settler movements have never been known for their decency toward the “natives.” The only unique thing about Israeli settler violence is that it grows out of the Israeli occupation, which is the only outpost, excuse the pun, of colonialism still standing in the so-called democratic world. And as long as that occupation lasts, so will settler violence. Literally, it comes with the territory.

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    1. Kolumn9

      Are you arguing that a rock that lands on a car and kills a child will be condemned with severity determined according to ethnicity of the child and of the rock thrower?

      Reply to Comment
      • I believe that attacks on Jews are investigated in OPT and perpetrators spend long terms in prison. the piece asks why the same is not applied when Jews attack Palestinians.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Not quite. The piece adds this little gem as an aside – ‘My answer is that there is no comparing the violence of people living under colonial rule with that of the colonists.’.

          In other words, there is no comparing a murdered Jewish child and a murdered Arab one when rocks cause their death.

          Reply to Comment
          • Jan

            No child should be murdered but no parent should bring their children to a place where they are occupiers and, as occupiers putting their children in danger.

            As for the number of children killed the number of dead Palestinian children far exceeds the number of dead Jewish children.

            Reply to Comment
    2. david gold

      Settler violence? You choose to focus on small scale skirmishes in which admittedly some settlers should be more reserved. Why not report about the 120,000 people killed in Syria. Now THAT is violence.

      Reply to Comment
      • William Burns

        People are dying in Syria and you’re writing blog comments?

        Reply to Comment
      • E.C.

        I can give you an answer to that accusation as far as I am concerned: Because we do not have a Syrian lobby in our country that squeaks all day long how much they are defamed and that blackmail anybody to give them support and submarines and gets on everybody’s nerves with the most absurd accusations.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Deliberate attacks on children are always 100% wrong, no matter what the cause. But when it comes to throwing rocks at cars, it’s not ethnicity that determines guilt or innocence, but whether the thrower is living under foreign domination or not. Ask any Etzel or Lehi veteran to explain it to you.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        In other words, the thrower of a rock that kills the Jewish child is deemed innocent in your eyes?

        Reply to Comment
        • Like I said, deliberately targeting children is indefensible, and the image you’ve suggested is obscene and therefore not a good one for a discussion, so why don’t we talk about the killing of adults. Yes, I think that people living under tyranny have the right to deliberately kill adults belonging to the tyrannizing nation, and that goes for, among others, Jews who lived under the British occupation and Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation. There are moral limits in terms of number, manner and other issues, but in principle, they have that right. Now what’s your view?

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            My view is that civilians are off limits. Your view is that an Arab can walk up to me and blow my brains out and will be deemed innocent in your eyes.

            The image I suggested is obscene because it demonstrates that you inherently believe in the legitimacy of an Arab murdering a Jewish child.

            Reply to Comment
          • No, you fucking slanderer, I don’t believe in the legitimacy of an Arab murdering a Jewish child, which is what I just said. You believe civilians are off-limits? What about the King David Hotel bombing, which killed as many as 75 civilians – legitimate or mass murder? What about the bombings by all three Zionist undergrounds of souks, buses and other targets crowded with Arab civilians – legitimate or mass murder? And what about Palestinian killings of Israeli soldiers – legitimate or murder?

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            “But when it comes to throwing rocks at cars, it’s not ethnicity that determines guilt or innocence, but whether the thrower is living under foreign domination or not.”

            In other words, an Arab ‘under foreign domination’ is innocent when killing a Jewish child by throwing a rock at a civilian car or bus he/she is riding in.

            “Yes, I think that people living under tyranny have the right to deliberately kill adults belonging to the tyrannizing nation”

            I am an adult which by your definition belongs to the tyrannizing nation. An Arab living ‘under tyranny’ thus has the right to deliberately walk up to me an blow my brains out.

            Where is the slander?

            To answer your questions. Jewish militias targeting civilians are fundamentally wrong, and are committing acts of terrorism. Palestinian militias are justified in targeting Israeli soldiers and Israeli military institutions.

            Reply to Comment
          • You slandered me by saying I consider it legitimate for an Arab to kill a Jewish child, when I said twice on this thread that targeting children is absolutely wrong no matter the cause.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            I don’t see the slander. Your position appears to me to be inconsistent. A civilian car containing a family that includes Jewish children is targeted by Arabs that are throwing stones. Putting aside for a minute the issue with considering a civilian car a legitimate target… A rock goes through the back window and kills a child. The Arab that threw the stone is innocent of killing the child?

            Also, just so we are clear, and I did provide you with clear answers to your questions, did I slander you when I said this really your position? Notice that I/You in this sentence are interchangeable.

            “I am an adult which by your definition belongs to the tyrannizing nation. An Arab living ‘under tyranny’ thus has the right to deliberately walk up to me an blow my brains out.”

            Reply to Comment
          • 1. Anybody who throws a rock at a car while seeing and knowing that there’s a child inside is doing something absolutely forbidden. I repeat for the third time, deliberately targeting children is indefensible no matter the cause. Do you still hold that I consider it legitimate for an Arab to kill a Jewish child?
            2. About your example of an Arab blowing your (or my) brains out, I’ve learned that this is a point – that attacks on one’s own side are, under certain circumstances, justifiable – which has to be made as abstractly as possible, with as little vividness as possible, with no names, no faces, no places, because once it becomes vivid, it becomes obscene, and the mind rejects obscenity. Unfortunately, the mind doesn’t work this way with images of one’s own side killing people on the other side – that’s easily, naturally accepted as legitimate – which is sort of why the world is the way it is.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            1. You are probably not going to take this well, but, yes, I still hold that you consider it legitimate for an Arab to kill a Jewish child. In practice you argue that targeting civilians, including children, is legitimate as long as the assailant does not explicitly know that there are children in the car and someone throwing rocks at civilian cars is unlikely to know who the passengers are. But your argument maintains that if by their action they kill children, they are innocent of any crime. You choose to hide behind abstractions to avoid the direct implication of your position.

            2. It does not ‘become obscene’. It is obscene. That you choose to avoid the implications of your positions does not actually change their very vivid details to the victims.

            Your position that Israeli civilians are legitimate targets puts you far far out there and the only reason I can imagine for such a lapse of judgement on your part is to avoid blaming the Palestinians for what is in every other situation entirely inexcusable actions. Notice that you have now gone way further than the position that got you fired from JPost that Palestinian attacks are ‘understandable’ and have moved into seeing them as ‘legitimate’. I see no real ethical or moral difference between your current position and that of someone that demands to ‘kill all the Jews’.

            Now you can ban me.

            Reply to Comment
          • The position K9 takes would be viable if he also demanded prosecution for, let us just say, the act of torching this house, above. But he remains silent on that. The best I have ever seen him do is describe olive tree destruction as do to “a few maniacs.” What he seems to really mean is that targeting Israeli civilians is unacceptable, but targeting occupied civilians, including sleeping children, is; or is no more than a bit rascally. His goal is to make his opponent angry and focus all wrong on the “side” advocated by the opponent. So the settlers are just a bit rascally; IDF soldiers never do anything wrong; using Yesh Din research is collaboration with foreign controlled puppets; and the family photoed above is responsible for all Palestinian violence, including the bombings. Note that nowhere does he assert that the acts detailed in this piece should be brought to Israeli justice. As Larry says in one of his replies to K9,

            “..images of one’s own side killing people on the other side – that’s easily, naturally accepted as legitimate”

            Causally, I have no doubt that if the State continues this justice failure there will be retaliatory violence, if not organized, as muckers who just can’t take it anymore. One does not have to approve of this consequence to say it will happen; nor does one thereby get to ignore the prior injustices because such retaliation will or has occurred. I see Larry as saying that as violence was used against other occupations, it will be used here too. He goes further as approves. I would not. I would say that I may rail against cancer, but it is still here. I would say that if you clamp down further, keeping the original causes intact, amplifying them, you can expect more of the same.

            Most sadly, ALL of the injustices reported in this piece could be remedied through State investigation and prosecution. The sole reason this is not done is the present political economy of settlement. I see no escape from the conclusion that K9 approves of this economy, for the good of Jews. Larry does not; nor do I.

            The State has the tools of correction, but refuses to use them. The occupation as such would continue in any case. Yet these tools remain untouched.


            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            My position that Larry supports the random murder of Jewish civilians is viable regardless of my own views on the matter of Jewish terrorists (which are quite explicit on this thread) given that Larry has effectively confirmed that he considers my (and his own) future murder (we are both civilians) by any Arab to be a legitimate act.

            If this position is accepted by you and Larry, then you have zero, and I really mean this, zero valid claim to moral high ground and any and all actions by Israel and Israelis are justified. There is no moral high ground for anyone that supports the indiscriminate murder of civilians. It places them in the same league with all the monsters of humanity.

            Reply to Comment
          • recovering from zionism

            civilians in the colonies? (yes they are not settlements they are colonies and they are populated by colonialists.
            do you know mister k9 that almost all young men in those parts are in the army the moment they pull out a gun, thus giving them protection from civilian “justice” and considered as military if wounded or killed for financial reasons but civilians for hasbara reasons.
            the only democracy….

            Reply to Comment
          • You’ve just branded all three pre-State Zionist undergrounds and their supporters as monsters of humanity – they all killed civilians, including children, deliberately and indiscriminately. And if you consider them monsters of humanity, what epithet would you apply to Churchill (Dresden), Truman (Hiroshima, Nagasaki) and all their fans?

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          • Regarding this debate: +972 Magazine believes that given the unfortunate violent nature of this conflict, it is legitimate and even necessary to analyze and debate the justifications of violence used by both sides. Neither Larry Derfner nor anybody else has ever endorsed, advocated or encouraged attacks on Israelis. We support a just and peaceful end to the conflict.

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          • I’m not going to ban you yet. But let me ask you: Aren’t you, too, legitimizing the deliberate killing of Jewish children, as well as calling to “kill all the Jews,” by saying, as you say above: “Palestinian militias are justified in targeting Israeli soldiers and Israeli military institutions”? The implication, in this context, of targeting soldiers and military institutions is that civilians, including children, inevitably get killed – you know that. So if I’m guilty of legitimizing the deliberate killing of Jewish children and indeed the genocide of Jews, how are you innocent of it? (By extension, how, according to your argument, is anybody who legitimizes any war innocent of legitimizing the deliberate killing of the other side’s children and of genocide? But let’s keep this between you and me.)

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          • Kolumn9

            The difference is that you find attacks on Israeli civilians legitimate. I do not find attacks on Palestinian civilians legitimate.

            You would have a blindfolded Arab throw a grenade at a random civilian car, killing all inside including children, and consider the act legitimate and the murderer innocent of crime. You would have a blindfolded Arab leave a bomb on a civilian bus and consider all victims, including children, to be legitimate and the murderer innocent of any crime.

            In other words, you condone the random targeting of civilians, with the “caveat” that you reject the “deliberate” targeting of children. But really by condoning random attacks on Jewish civilian targets, you condone the random murder of Jewish children. Then you pretend that there is some sort of equivalence between that and the civilian casualties that result from deliberate military operations targeting legitimate military targets. There is not. You have become an explicit supporter of terrorism.

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          • And by legitimizing Palestinian attacks on Israeli soldiers and military targets, you absolve the Palestinian attackers of all the inevitable deaths of Jewish children who would be killed in an attack on the Kirya in the middle of Tel Aviv, on countless other military installations, on the apartments of IDF soldiers, on the cars in which IDF soldiers are driving, on soldiers walking down the street, on soldiers eating lunch in a restaurant, etc. All these Palestinians have to do is aim at military targets, and they will get your blessing for all the Jewish children they are guaranteed to kill. All the Jewish adults, too. Soldiers and civilians.

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          • K9: “I do not find attacks on Palestinian civilians legitimate.”

            Wait a minute. K9 agrees with the Larry at least in this: that the torching incident detailed in this piece by Larry shows illegitimate harm to Palestinians, extrapolating that intent to kill is a bit like actual killing. I assume this implies that the Israeli police, holding a monopoly on coercive power, along with the IDF, should investigate and prosecute.

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          • If it’s not clear, my last question was meant for Kolumn9, not Greg

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          • The King David bombing was not intended to kill but to frighten – it went wrong and ended cooperation between the Haganah, which took orders from the elected internal Jewish government, and the dissident movements (the Irgun and Lehi) It was of course illegitimate and regarded as such by the Zionist leadership. As to bombings in souks, buses and other targets crowded with Arab civilians – these too were illegitimate, but perhaps you could specify, let’s say 3, such actions carried out by the Haganah. I get the impression that you are not really familiar with the Zionist movement.

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    4. Excellent journalism–with a little bit of opinion spiced in.

      I’ve come to the view that right national commenters successfully pull attention away from the journalism through a long series of comments meant to provoke replies. Soon the original piece disappears.

      So I urge that this piece be read in its entirety.

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      • Josh

        This tactic, ignore what the article says, and open a totally different topic, is a well known hasbara troll strategy.
        Unfortuntaely they are not ignored in their hatespeech or banned.

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    5. Excellent journalism, with a bit of opinion spiced in.

      I think this piece much more important than comments upon it, so urge it be read in its entirety.

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      • Thanks so much, Greg – there’s nobody whose comments are better than yours, and no commenter whose opinion I value more than yours, so thanks very much for that.

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        • That’s very kind of you to say. Of late I’ve felt like turning in my hand; the right nationalists hereon seem to be bulldozers who don’t know, or care, what they’ll roll over.

          Yossi’s Yesh Din pieces are a remarkable exercise in precise moderated prose, and I see Yesh Din as one of the clear bastions for the rule of law. Without them, and you going out there, I think the future would be pretty bleak. Well, more bleak. All of you are preparing the future ground.

          I’also aware how one must keep up energy and interest on this site. You do that exceptionally well.

          It’s not so hard to slap minds into numbness, and I have come to the view that some commenters are here to do exactly that. I’ve lost respect for some.

          Anyone who looks at the photo of the family whose house was torched knows that was very wrong. The history of Judaism is rife with such episodes, and I cannot but think the State’s refusal to quell this acts as an acid against honesty elsewhere. For your inspection: the African refugees.

          I don’t know how you do it, but keep on keep’n on.

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        • Ira Glunts

          @ Larry Derfner Excellent and important column that deserves wide distribution. Thanks

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          • Thanks a lot, Ira – you’re writing great stuff at Mondoweiss.

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    6. RK

      In the U.S. it took the grassroots civil rights revolution of the fifties through seventies to force the political will of the government to at least go through the motions of prosecuting racist lynchings and enforcing laws already on the books against crimes committed by the KKK and outfits like it. Looks like such a grassroots revolution will have to happen in the territory controlled by the Israeli state, on both sides of the green line, for Israeli politicians to find the political will to do something about their homegrown Klanners.

      And by the way, Western Saharans, Puerto Ricans, Kanaks, Irish, and others would disagree with the statement that the occupied territories are the last outpost of colonialism in the world, democratic or otherwise.

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    7. Rehmat

      Since Israeli government and military colaborate with the Jewish settlers – it doesn’t bother western Christian conscience.

      In December 2012, over 400 American rabbis, cantor and students, in a letter slammed Bibi for allowing new illegal Jewish settlements. Being a non-practicing Jew, Bibi ignored the plea from the “holy men” – even though in Judaism, disobeying rabbis is considered a major sin. “Whosoever, disobeys a ribbi, will burn in hell-fire forever,” says Jewish Holy Talmud.


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      • Eric

        Well, the Rabbinate of Israel forbade every Jew to access the Temple Mount…..But there are Hardcore Jewish settlers going there every day, just to provoke….so……

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    8. richard witty

      This is an important article for its description of unconscionable behavior by jewish thugs that occursvrepeatedly, and is not prosecuted, though there is sufficient evidence to prosecute.

      There should be no qualification to prosecute.

      The behavior should not be rationalized by any logic.

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      • Thanks a lot, Richard – you’re a tough nut to crack, so I’m very glad you liked it.

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        • Richard Witty

          I am genuinely sympathetic with the rights of all, and rely on the clarification and application of color-blind law.

          Too much of this discussion willingly qualifies the rights and condition of others, as justifiable.

          Both left and right.

          Who is dear to you? Who do you care for? Whose experience do you have relations that prohibit you from regarding as “other”, “oriental to coin a Saidism”.

          For me, it includes the 100 or so Palestinians that I’ve had more than short conversations with, diaspora and West Bank (I’ve not conversed with anyone that I know from Gaza). And, it includes religious, settlers even.

          The only mediation between that large stretch that I can see is universal sympathy as an attitude, and law as the mechanism to reconcile conflicts.

          I think of movements as mostly dehumanizing currently. Analagous to medicine or engineering, great at orientation to a single end, but variably paying attention to side effects on other individual ends, ruthless to natural healing and well being (which is constructed through relationships).

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    9. tod

      Thanks Larry, great piece. Your only mistake is that you continue to answer to provocateurs.

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      • Thanks a lot, Tod – and I’m sure your’re right.

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    10. Thank you for this important article. Everyone who hears the word “terrorist” and automatically thinks “Muslim” or “Arab” should read this article. Sadly, there are Jewish terrorists and they are being tolerated by Israel.

      If the situation was reversed, if these were Palestinians torching Jewish houses, you bet the IDF would be quick to catch the culprits and they would be bulldozing their houses.

      I have written a long article on the Role of Religious Nationalism in the Palestinian Israeli conflict. Part of that article discusses settler violence. I have now updated that article with a link to this story.


      If someone can read only one article on settler violence, your article is the one I would recommend.

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    11. Thanks a million, Robin, that’s very generous of you – and I will read your article.

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      • Thank you for taking a look at my article, Larry. I am honored.

        I hope I am not asking too much, but I think the article that I wrote about the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act and its connection to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is far more important. Could you look at it and pass it on to others if you think it will help defeat this Wag the Dog Act?


        I’ve read several of your columns and it seems like there is a lot we agree on. Scarlett Johansson posted a letter in Huffington Post defending her decision to be a spokesperson for SodaStream. I recommended her to do some further research and I linked to this column and your most recent column on BDS. I hope that she considers what you have written and starts to speak out against the never ending settlements.



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    12. For sure.

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    13. Lo

      Excellent article, Mr. Derfner.

      As an American, I think one of the most disgusting consequences of the post-9/11 era was the confluence of “terrorism” with “Islam”. Terrorism has a much richer and more diverse history, and calling it out for what it is today is a valuable act.

      I especially liked your commentary about the State of Israel’s ability to learn about (and preemptively attack) Palestinian terror attempts. If the Shin Bet and IDF claim the prerogative to attack Gaza on the basis of terror attacks yet to happen, one could reasonably demand they apply the same standard to settler violence.

      That no pressure is applied by your state’s “greatest ally” to remedy this situation is one of the darker marks on my country’s modern history.

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      • Well said, Lo. We’ll know that Israel is sincere about stopping these terrorist thugs when they start demolishing their houses the way the have demolished the houses of many Palestinian they believe to be terrorists.

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