Ha'aretz, September 6, 1998
Between Juwarish and YitzharBy Gideon Levy
Have the settlers gone too far? Have they gone even too far to merit acceptance and forgiveness from a right-wing government?Indications in recent days suggest that the number of right-wingers who are heartily sick of some settlers and their off-the-wall behavior has grown slightly. And, though less important, even voices on the left have been more courageous in condemning the settlers, particularly after the murders at Yitzhar and Tel Rumeida. And what had previously been whispered is now being voiced publicly; that, yes, there are settlers who are in no small measure to blame for the murderous violence that has been aimed at them and, yes, there is a difference between an attack on a peaceful Jew in Tel Aviv and an attack on a provocative settler at Tel Rumeida or Yitzhar.
From the perspective of the Arab village of Burin, located below Yitzhar, the presence of thugs who threaten village farmers with weapons and curses to prevent them from getting to their olive groves is understandably the target of violent outbursts.
But it is not only the Palestinians who are targeted by the Yitzhar settlers. Two weeks ago, I saw them threaten to shoot officers of the IDF and the Border Police - who as usual did nothing. You had to see the haplessness of the sector's brigade commander, Col. Shuki, to understand that his hands are tied.
Since then, however, in a sort of delayed reaction as more events have occurred, it suddenly appears that the authorities - meaning the judicial and security authorities - have partly shaken off their apathy and begun trying to change the rules of the game being played out in these lawless, anarchic territories. Still, all the intentions that have been trumpeted over the past few days have to pass the test of concrete action and government backing.
The attorney general issued a set of guidelines for authorities who must deal with lawless settlers. The settlers screamed and yelled, but Elyakim Rubinstein stuck to his guns - the same Elyakim Rubinstein who petitioned the High Court of Justice last week to block the early release from prison of Yisrael Lederman, who in 1996 threw scalding tea into the face of Labor MK Yael Dayan.
The head of Central Command, Major General Moshe Yaalon, has explicitly ordered his forces to assist Palestinians to travel safely to their plots of land, in spite of settler threats. According to reports, he has also ordered the IDF to "act firmly" against any settlers in Hebron who disturb the public order. The police announced that in the last 10 days of August about 15 files were opened against Israelis for attacking Palestinian property in Hebron, and the chief of the Shin Bet security service, Ami Ayalon, held a meeting with settler leaders.
It is not by chance that the killers of some 135 Palestinians in the past 10 years have come from the settlements. Groups and individuals have caused property damage and they have uprooted, smashed, shattered, shot and beaten.
This is a group in which the conditions that bring about the establishment of murderous phalanges are rife: a feeling of isolation, a sense of messianic mission, an enemy-neighbor that is perceived through a demonic prism, mistrust of the existing legal and governmental systems, arms caches, combat experience, and a lenient attitude from the ruling authorities.
Labor governments were afraid of this group, Likud governments identified with it. These are groups with a record of violence unrivaled by any other community in the state of Israel, with the possible exception of the village of Juwarish, outside the city of Ramle. There, too, rifles speak louder than words, and the police are, again, afraid to intervene.
Juwarish? Bewailing the new regulations introduced by the attorney general, one settler leader said bitterly that "even in Juwarish there are no special procedures for enforcing the law." In Juwarish, we should remember, the only solution was the exile of one of the combatant sides from the village. The day will yet come when it will become clear that in the area between Yitzhar and Tel Rumeida, that same solution is the only viable one.
(c) copyright 1998 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved