A strange affliction seems to be affecting settlers in the West Bank. It seems that as soon as they are granted settler status (a badge of dishonour in the eyes of the rest of the world considering the illegal nature of all settlements) these individuals lose all ability to drive in a calm and reasonable manner and instead become lethal menaces on the road. You may laugh at the thought that bad driving could be some sort of medical condition but it if you look at news reports coming out of the Occupied Palestinian Territories over the last few months you too might find yourselves scrambling for ideas as to why there seems to be a disproportionately high number of stories like this:
- Settler Runs Over Disabled Palestinian Girl (Jan 12th 2012)
- Toddler hit by settler car (Jan 12th 2012)
- Jewish terrorist settler runs over Palestinian civilian (5th Oct 2011)
- Settler Rams vehicle Into Two Palestinian Sisters (4th Oct 2011)
- Settler kills Palestinian boy in hit-and-run incident (27th Sept 2011)
- Jewish Settlers Run Over Disabled Palestinian (18th Sept 2011)
- Palestinian run over by settler car (29th Aug 2011)
- Major ordered Palestinian run over (19th June 2011)
- Settler hits Palestinian child with car in Hebron (13th April 2011)
A trend seems to have emerged whereby settlers are making a habit of careening down roads in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) and knocking over Palestinian pedestrians like bowling pins. What possible explanation can there be to explain the number of Palestinians injured by settlers on such a regular basis? It seems that without being overdramatic or cynical, there is only one answer and that is that there is some sort of sick trend spreading throughout the settler colonies whereby it has become fashionable or somehow commendable to target and run over Palestinian civilians. The reality is worse than simply suggesting that settlers do not value Palestinian lives, that goes without saying or the settlers would not be volunteering to be a part of the Israeli occupation machinery in the first place, but it seems to be more ominous than that. It seems that some Israeli citizens are actively taking it upon themselves to enact the Israeli government's policy of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people by taking part in a concerted campaign to wipe them out themselves, picking them off one at a time. How else can you explain the fact that it always just so happens to be Israeli settlers ploughing down Palestinian civilians and not the other way around? Nor do you hear of settlers involved in hit and run cases involving settler children. Why not? Is it something about seeing a hijab which gives settlers the green light (literally) to plough into pedestrians or is it just something about seeing a Palestinian child going to school that gives them a lead foot on the accelerator? Whereas one would assume that a settler would swerve to avoid a dog or a cat in the street, in the case of Palestinians they seem to swerve to hit them instead.
This emerging trend is just a small part of the increasingly dangerous settler mentality. Settler violence against Palestinians is at an all-time high. Settlers frequently engage in arson attacks setting fire to mosques, burning down Palestinian crops; throwing stones and hurling abuse at Palestinian children on their way to school and so on. Settler children are indoctrinated to hate from childhood. They are schooled in a military fashion with military terms and ideologies from the youngest age; they are taught to hate Palestinians. Settlers of all ages walk around menacingly like soldiers carrying guns and other weapons with which to intimidate and target Palestinians; their modus operandi is one of violence and cruelty. The sort of mentality one needs to have in order to become a settler is a clear lack of human empathy, a sense of moral superiority over all others; a willingness to steal the home and property of another family and to show, not only no remorse, but palpable arrogant glee over your ill-gotten acquisition. And now, it seems, the most recent trait you acquire as a settler is an uncanny ability to knock down Palestinians who are on their way to school or work – presumably accumulating points and kudos among other settlers as you do it.
This settler mentality is a sickness and the settlers need to find a cure for this disease now. While they may not care about Palestinian lives they should keep in mind that it's only a matter of time before a community of people with such rage and such a lack of compassion sees that malevolence and violence turn inwards. In fact the Israeli army are already finding themselves at the receiving end of much of the settler violence and are now regularly coming under attack themselves from settler anarchists who consider themselves above the law and out of the reach of the Israeli army and government.
While some people may try to pass off settler attacks and revenge or "price tag" crimes as if they are just carried out by young rambunctious Israeli teens and are the result of youthful Zionist exuberance, there is a much darker underside to this all too. An editorial in the Palestine Monitor explains that "The Shin Bet, Israel's security and intelligence body, has discovered evidence of the formation of terrorist cells among settler communities, whose primary objective is the targeting of Palestinians and Israeli peace activists, the Independent reported in September." Dr. Mustapha Barghouti has said of this "What we are witnessing now is organized terrorist settler groups that are attacking Palestinian civilians. These attacks are planned and organized, their goal to terrorize Palestinian communities….Their aim is to frighten civilians, especially people in villages, to force them to leave their land and frighten them into not returning."
If this racist phenomenon was to happen in any other part of the world, especially in an area with such heightened racial tensions as the OPTs, whereby one group of people were seen to be actively targeting another by virtue of their race or religion, there would be an international outcry. For instance, if white people were seen to be targeting and deliberately running over black people or Jewish people there would be uproar. Yet when it is illegal Israeli settlers running over and maiming and killing Palestinians, as usual, the stories barely register as a blip on the radar. It really is about time people started paying attention before this powder keg of racial tensions blows up.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.