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Israel: far-right minister defends ‘Jewish terrorist’ following murder of young Palestinian

August 7, 2023 at 12:49 pm

Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir in Beersheba on April 25, 2023 [GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images]

Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has backed a Jewish settler accused of carrying out a terrorist attack against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, following the killing of 19-year-old Palestinian Qusay Jamal Matan.

Two illegal Israeli settlers are currently under arrest on suspicion of shooting Matan on Friday in the West Bank village of Burqa, east of Ramallah. A security official said that they are far-right activists from the Ramat Migron outpost. Matan was shot four times according to details of the deadly incident reported in Haaretz.

In unusually sharp language indicating tense relations between Washington and Tel-Aviv, the US condemned the incident as terrorism committed by Israeli settlers. “We strongly condemn yesterday’s terror attack by Israeli extremist settlers that killed a 19-year-old Palestinian,” the US State Department said late on Saturday, urging “full accountability and justice.”

Echoing the US, former Israel Defence Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz also described the shooting as a terrorist incident. “Dangerous Jewish nationalist terrorism is developing before our eyes,” Gantz is reported as saying. A warning about the rise of “Jewish terror” has also been issued by the Israeli security agency, Shin Bet. Ronen Bar, director of the agency is reported as telling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Jewish terror is fanning the flames of Palestinian terror.

READ: Palestine slams Israel minister’s call to honour settlers who murdered Palestinian

Ben-Gvir, however, defended the suspects yesterday, saying that “someone who defended himself against stone-throwing ought to get a medal.” In a separate message posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, Ben-Gvir lashed out at Israeli media for suggesting that the Israeli settlers under arrest were murder suspects. “A Jew who defends himself and others from murder by Palestinians is not a murder suspect, but a hero who will get full backing from me,” said the extreme far-right minister.

His comments have sparked a debate over nature of the relationship between “Jewish terrorists” and members of the coalition government. It has been claimed that members of the current government are the political wing of Israeli terrorist groups operating in the occupied West Bank.

Commenting on Matan’s shooting, a Haaretz editorial said that “there’s organised Jewish terror in Israel” and that “its Cheerleaders are inside the government.”

There is no expectation that the settlers will be indicted for murder. Indeed, some have expressed doubt that they will be charged at all for the killing.

Although terrorist attacks by settlers have been described by Israeli officials as “pogroms”, none of the people involved in violence in the West Bank since the beginning of this year, including attacks in Huwara, Turmus Ayya and Umm Safa, have been charged.

All of Israel’s settlements, including so-called settlement “outposts”, as well as the exclusively Jewish settlers who live in them are illegal under international law.