Benjamin Netanyahu often speaks of terrorism. He built his career on the unfounded claim that he’s a terrorism expert (his book Terrorism: How the West Can Win is, in fact, composed of articles by other experts), and he makes sure to speak of terrorism over and over again. After “Iran” and “Holocaust,” “terrorism” is probably the most frequently used term in Netanyahu’s vocabulary.
Yet, when speaking of terrorism, Netanyahu makes sure to address only the Palestinian and Muslim varieties. In his vocabulary, there’s no Jewish terrorism. The rest of the world has by now understood that this isn’t quite accurate, and the American State Department just recently made waves by reporting on Jewish terrorism (mistakenly identified as “Price Tag” activities — but more on this below) as equivalent to Palestinian terrorism. According to the State Department, in 2013 alone, 399 incidents of Jewish terrorism were registered. But these are not all the incidents; these are only those known to the UN and some Civil Rights organizations. Most of the incidents are actually not reported, because Palestinians are by now weary of reporting them.
For the sake of comparison, the international anti-Semitism report, which was published last week, found that all the tens of millions of anti-Semites in the world — in any event, we are told that this is the number — have managed to organize only 594 anti-Semitic incidents. France, which leads the reports of such incidents, was especially striking, with 116 incidents. That is, the Israeli settlers and their helpers have managed to produce in 2013 two thirds of the amount of hate crimes that anti-Semites world-wide have produced, and the number of crimes that they have committed is more than three times as many as the anti-Semitic crimes committed in France.
Which, you must admit, is pretty impressive. It puts in perspective the situation of the Palestinians, compared to, say, France’s Jews. And yes: Israeli violence against Palestinians is terrorism. It is common among settlers and their helpers to argue that Price Tag activities are nothing more than graffiti writing. This is bullshit. The graffiti attracts more attention in the media, but the acts we’re talking about are in most cases setting Palestinian property on fire. If you set on fire a cross in the back yard of a black person in the U.S., this is terrorism. The graffiti itself is also terrorism, for it sends a message: we came here at night, and we sneaked out. Tonight, we didn’t set your house on fire while you were sleeping. But you shouldn’t count on being so lucky the next time.
Price Tag activities attract the media’s attention both in Israel and world wide, but most acts of Jewish terrorism are not Price Tag activities at all. The latter usually take place after the rare occasions in which the IDF takes this or that action against the settlers, and they are intended to terrorize not so much the Palestinians but the Israeli soldiers. Their message is: if you (the soldiers) go on like this, we will set the whole area on fire, and the military will have to pay for the occupation above the normal price. In contrast to Price Tag activities, most Jewish terrorist activities do not send their message to the military. They are intended to terrorize the Palestinians — to keep the Palestinians off their territory. One obvious case is that of the outpost settlement Adi Ed: its settlers have managed to produce 96 criminal incidents on record. 21 of those involving actual physical violence against Palestinians. The rest involved harm to property. The result is that the Palestinian villagers who had been living around this outpost-settlement have abandoned their homes in large numbers. The settlers, in turn, have taken over more and more of the land. Who said that terrorism doesn’t succeed?
One reason why this day-to-day terrorism isn’t reported in the media is that it is carried out with the full support of IDF soldiers. The story of an IDF soldier, who intercepted a lynching of two Palestinian civilians by two settlers from Yitzhar, only to tell them “that’s enough,” hasn’t made it to the Israeli media, but such occurrences are much more common than Price Tag activities. Attacks like this happen almost on a daily basis and, when our Judeo-Nazis are especially angry, even more frequently. IDF soldiers are protecting these terrorists; they do not arrest them.
And what does Netanyahu’s government do about this? Nothing. Sometimes, they’ll mention that Price Tag activities must be condemned; but the settlers’ daily violence serves this government. Israel has already accustomed the world to the fact that it’s going to take over the larger “settlement clusters,” but Israel’s main aim is still — as it has been for generations — to annex as many C-territories (i.e., those territories in the West Bank that are still within Israel’s exclusive administrative and military control) as possible. The nationalizations and annexations of thousands of acres that the Israeli Defense Minister has just announced in the West Bank almost certainly will turn into settlement lands.
In other words, this government needs the settlers’ terrorism in order to expand its future hold of this territory: every territory on which the Palestinians give up is taken over by the settlers. The American State Department speaks explicitly of terrorism in this regard, and it refers to the names of the terrorist organizations. Among them, it identifies the Ha’Kol Ha Yehudi (The Jewish Voice) as a terror organization. The operators of the Jewish Voice are known: two of them were recently charged with incitement, but not with terrorism. The State Department likens the Jewish Voice to Kahane Chai, a team which is considered a terrorist group in the U.S.; in Israel it was labeled a terrorist group in 1994, after the Goldstein massacre, and it was considered as such until after Rabin’s assassination.
In other words, until Netanyahu came to power. Afterwards, the interest in this organization has faded. It’s old activists, who were held for a while in administrative detention, who have continued to operate in other organizations under different names, while Israel’s government has decided to ignore them. But not everybody has done so: the U.S denied visa to Michael Ben-Ari, who was elected as a Member of Knesset for the Ihud Leumi party, because of his involvements with Kahana activities. The U.S hasn’t forgotten. Netanyahu’s Israel has.
A few months ago, the Israeli defense forces recommended defining Price Tag activities as terrorism. Netanyahu, in what was a precedent, rejected their recommendation and replaced it with empty words: he defined the offending organizations as “an unlawful alliance.” This was sheer bullshit: there’s no such alliance; there are no properties that can be confiscated; there’s no “pyramid structure” of these organizations that one could attack.
There is, however, an exception. There’s an illegal union that one could act against: the village council of the extremist settlement outpost Yitzhar. I’ve written in the past about the fact that this village council has decided not to disclose to the police the identity of Yitzhar’s pogromists, and about the fact that the police did not particularly care. That, in turn, gave more energy to Yitzhar’s people: their council is now going to vote on the question of whether settlers should be allowed to hurt IDF soldiers and/or Israeli police officers. Let’s run here the usual thought experiment and try to imagine what would have happened if, say, the members of the city council of Nazareth (the Arab city in Israel), had suggested a vote in which some of them supported hurting Israeli security officers, while others explained why this could actually be a good idea. All of them would have been arrested in their sleep, in a police raid widely covered in the Israeli media. To the Yitzhar city council, as if this needs to be said, this isn’t going to happen.
Why did Netanyahu refuse to denounce Jewish terrorism as terrorism? Prime Minister Sharon changed the discourse in a moment, when he spoke of the traitor Eden Natan Zada as a Jewish terrorist. Why cannot Netanyahu pronounce the words “Jewish terrorist”? First, there’s the official excuse. If Israel would admit that there are Israeli terrorists, this could harm its international image.
But this excuse doesn’t work any longer. As we saw, the State Department just announced the existence of Jewish terrorists and, outside of Israel, this seems obvious. So again, why cannot Netanyahu recognize their existence?
Here one must say something very clearly. When I speak of recognizing Jewish terrorism as terrorism, I do not at all mean to suggest that the Shin Bet should receive extra authority, in order to treat the settlers as if they were Palestinians. I do not support administrative detention (of anybody), or prevention of legal defense. (Just last Wednesday, a couple in Yitzhar was arrested according to such a procedure because they were suspected of lending their car to participants of Price Tag activities. They were held for a relatively short while, but this criminal practice, in which the state makes people disappear and holds them without giving them basic rights, is expanding.)
As I’ve written repeatedly, the solution is not oppression in the name of “security.” The problem is that there needs to be better investigation and more professional investigators. The ability to hold people in detention — while threatening their children — as reportedly happened to the couple from Yitzhar this last weekend, doesn’t lead to better intelligence. It can at most produce more confessions, but these of necessity are without value. I’m not even speaking of the inhuman threats that the police reportedly made on the woman — threats that her children would be taken away.
What needs to be done, then, isn’t an increase in administrative detentions, torture of children (yes, yes: torture of children), or any of these crimes that our security forces constantly employ in the West Bank. What needs to happen is something else: security officers must begin to realize that a large portion of settlers are terrorists. They must realize that when they see a Jewish terrorist attacking a Palestinian, their job isn’t to protect the former; their job isn’t to tell him “this is enough,” but rather to arrest him — and, if he is an immediate threat to human life, also to shoot him. Police investigators must realize this. They will have to learn how one investigates crimes against Palestinians and they will have to treat such crimes as political crimes — which is to say, as terrorism. At the moment, their success rate in investigating such crimes is virtually zero. Moreover, the courts, too, will have to realize that this is terrorism. In order for all this to happen, Israel’s leaders must use the prominent stage that they have (what people call in English the “bully pulpit”) and lead a true public campaign.
But, of course, this won’t happen. Netanyahu’s problem isn’t the fear of damaging the hasbara public relations campaign. Obviously, a serious attempt by Israel’s government to fight Jewish terrorism would have helped the hasbara rather than damage it. If, in four months, Israel’s police and Shin Bet will be able to announce proudly that they have arrested (say) 30 Jewish terrorists, and that they have supplied enough evidence to charge them with terrorism, this would prove to the world that Israel seriously attempts to stop Jewish terrorism.
Why, then, will this not happen? Because in the end, Netanyahu is a supporter of Jewish terrorism. Because in the end, he is surrounded by settlers and other religious Zionists who don’t understand why Jewish terrorism is a problem. Because in the end, he believes in the settlers’ vocation, and he has no interest in the rights of the Palestinians. Because in the end, the people who are responsible for Jewish terrorism — whether by financing and organizing it, such as Beni Katzover and Gershon Mesika, or by preaching in its favor, like Dov Lior and Gintzburg — are connected to Netanyahu’s inner circle. A serious Shin Beit investigation into the roots of Jewish terrorism can end pretty badly for several of the people who are constant guests in Netanyahu’s house. Therefore, such investigation will never take place. This is the place to mention, by the way, that the settlers have put much pressure on Netanyahu in order that he choose a Shin Bet head that will suit them. As Netanyahu chose a Government Legal Counsel who will not make too many waves — and a state critic who knows on whose good side he should remain — in the same way, he chose a Shin Bet head who knows what his boss doesn’t want to hear.
And therefore, despite the constant background noises about Yitzhar and Price Tag activities, the settlers’ terrorism will continue as usual.
Translated post from the Israeli blog, “Ha’Haverim Shel George” (“Friends of George”).