It is not surprising, or even unexpected, to see settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem attacking and threatening the lives of Palestinians, destroying their properties, ruining their farms and targeting their holy sites. These attacks have not stopped since the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem and since settlements and judaisation in the region began.
To list examples, it would be enough to mention the attempts of these settlers to assassinate three elected Palestinian Mayors: Basam Al shakaa from Nablus, Karim Khalaf from Ramallah, and Ibrahim Altawil from Albira in 1980. Yet they also attacked students of Hebron University in 1984, attempted to poison water tanks at the schools of Jenin municipality in 1984, and stationed Rabbi Kiryat Arba in front of Dheisheh refugee camp for two years. In addition, settler Baruch Goldstein committed the massacre of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1993.
This and much more, has been the result of organized work carried out through organizations that steal land, such as the League of Gush Emunim. There has also been the formation of secret organizations that aim to terrorise and frighten citizens such as the organization of Terror against Terror.
These settler attacks have started to take a new form that is more widespread and more public, based on official political adoption by the Netanyahu government. It is worth mentioning that these attacks are no longer limited to residents of land occupied in 1967, but rather reach Palestinians of land occupied in 1948. It started with the Shafa Amro massacre committed in 2008, up to the attack against Um Alqatf village located in Almothalath (the Triangle) a few days ago, which shows that these attacks are not a reaction, but rather part of an existing settlement scheme in which settlers play a prominent part, using their position in the political and military institution to play a bigger role.
The Kibbutzim movement and avant-garde youth movements, which appear as leftist, were the ones who established the infrastructure for Israel before it was established and after. Now, today's settlement movements represent a clear manifestation of the youth of the Israeli project to renew it as a colonial, exclusionary settlement project, which has always been based on aggression and expansion. The occupation, with its accumulation over forty five years in the West Bank and Jerusalem, has turned into a situation much more dangerous than before; it is a situation that has its own characteristics and features that are mixed with a state of political, ideological, right winged extremism within Israeli society, politics and security.
Perhaps the above explains this qualitative development in the terror activities of Jewish settlers, which reached its peak in the attack against Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque, currently subject to a scheme that attempts to divide it in a manner similar to what happened to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. When settlers recruited sixty thousand or more to attack Al-Aqsa mosque, this shows, without a doubt, the extent of power and influence that settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem are now enjoying within Israeli society in general. Over the years the Israeli side has been witnessing a group of structural transformations that push towards more extremism and militancy.
One of the most dangerous transformations is the fact that West Bank and Jerusalem settlers have moved to the centre of decision making in politics and the army, and these settlers, and mainly their religious Zionist party, have a majority in Netanyahu's office including his consultant for national security Maj. Gen. (res.) Jacob Brigador, and his secretary Maj. Gen. (res.) Ovijay Mandelblit
In the current Israeli government, there are six ministers and deputy ministers who live in settlements and they are: Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, who lives in the settlement of Maccabim – Raaut, Minister of Education, Shai Peron, who lives in the settlement of Oranit, Minister of Housing, Uri Ariel, who lives in the settlement of Kfar Adumim, Minister Uri Orbach, who lives in the settlement of Modi'in, Deputy Minister Eli Ben Dahan, who lives in the settlement of Har Homa in Har Homa, and deputy foreign minister, Zeev alkene, who lives in the settlement of Kfar Eldad. There are also 16 deputies in the current Knesset. They all live in settlements and belong to more than one party.
Moreover, one third of mid-level military ranks in the Israeli army are occupied today by settlers belonging to the religious trend. In addition, a number of these settlers now occupy high military and security positions, all according to a recent book issued by Israeli researcher Iaquel Levy entitled: Between the hood and beret -religion, politics and the military in Israel.
This shows that "settlement is the essence of the Israeli project," as revealed by Shamir, one of Israel's most extreme and radical leaders. The project, since its establishment, was based on targeting land, and people on it, which made defending land and protecting it the centre of the struggle for the Palestinian people. But this continuous struggle over a century did not succeed in preserving the identity of the land, whether from political sovereignty or even geographic presence perspectives, where Palestinians have only 15% of their land left, according to the Palestinian Statistics Center. But in all cases, settlers' persistence wouldn't have been allowed, or wouldn't have been to this extent, if it weren't for the current Palestinian political elites, with their makeup, conflicts and divisions, which show inability to build a united national strategy capable of defending the land and protecting it and enhancing its people's steadfastness.
So today it wouldn't be exaggeration to say that while the Israeli project is clear in its goals towards the land – settling in it and Judaising it – the Palestinian project remains confused and ambiguous, with a state of improvisation and accusations prevailing over its leaders. This is based on narrow, individual and factional interests that do not relate to the land or the people and what they are exposed to at the hands of settlers including comprehensive and planned attacks that can easily be responded to politically and on the ground.
Didn't a large portion of these settlers leave their homes when Palestinians were united and active during the first Intifada (1987 – 1993), and during the second armed Intifada (2000 – 2004)? And wouldn't filing a Palestinian complaint to the International Criminal Court force Netanyahu's government to stop these settlers from further committing more violations than the ones that have already exceeded all imagination?
The author is a Palestinian writer. This article is a translation from the Arabic which appeared in Al Khaleej Newspaper, 19 May 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.