Settlers Commit 100 Crimes Against West Bank Palestinians in Last 10 Days

12:00 Oct 21 2022 Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPT): Jerusalem and West Bank

Israeli settlers throwing stones in Hawara, last week. Credit: OREN ZIV - AFP Published by Haaretz

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi in August. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

by Yaniv Kubovich for Haaretz
Oct 21, 2022 12:14 pm IDT

Security officials have noticed a worrying trend in recent weeks of violent acts commited by Israeli settlers across the West Bank, with over 100 Jewish nationalist crimes having been recorded in just the past 10 days alone.

Most incidents happened in the northern West Bank around Hawara, which has become Ground Zero for brawls between settlers and Palestinians. Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi did not publicly express interest in any of those incidents, which all involved Palestinian victims.

However, immediately after Jewish settlers attacked an army unit this week, Kochavi rushed out a condemnation. He called it a “most severe incident, embodying disgraceful criminal behavior,” in a statement released by the Israeli miltiary Spokesperson.

“It’s unacceptable that IDF fighters tenaciously and devotedly defending the country would be attacked violently by settlers,” Kochavi said in a similar statement to one he made last October after an army officer was teargassed near the illegal outpost Adei Ad. He called the incident at the time “criminal behavior which requires a quick and vigorous execution of the law.”

Around the same time, settlers attacked a former Golani commander, provoking another strong statement from Kochavi. “We must uproot and act firmly against [this behavior] as well as to execute the law with those involved,” he said, just as he had done in October 2019 when settlers attacked and injured combat soldiers. The common denominator of all these condemnations by Kochavi and military brass is that settlers’ victims were soldiers.

Kochavi clearly knows, as do Israel’s Central Command brass, that the same settlers rioting and attacking Palestinians are the same ones responsible for attacking his officers and fighters. However, security establishment sources familiar with the details say they all prefer avoiding statements that could be interpreted as political, especially during the sensitive election campaign.

A security official told Haaretz that senior security officials and leading politicians are wrong in their condemnations when they refer to a handful of violent, out-of-control settlers known to the security forces. He said there are many settlers who were not involved in the violent incidents, and only recently have joined the attacks. “Older adults, women with children are also arriving and simply starting to go wild,” he said. Central Command officials say settlement leaders are waging a shadow campaign to create the feeling that the army has lost control.

One example raised is the shooting incident that Shomron Regional Council head Yossi Dagan allegedly got caught in. “They crossed into a forbidden area. They drew weapons superfluously when no one was shooting at them, brought children and rushed to tell the press,” one security official said.

“Their entire discussion wasn’t about the event itself but rather about ‘the government losing its way’ and the elections. It’s an attempt to drag the army and the security situation in the territories into the campaign, and it’s considerable on the ground.”

In July, a so-called investigation of the Israeli military Spokesperson titled “Ran Kochav has turned the IDF Spokesperson into a Meretz party branch” was published in the religious Jewish periodical Giluy Daat. The in-depth article quotes right-wing sources blaming the spokesperson of working for the left and hurting settlers when it rushes to issue condemnations against officers making controversial statements. It cited as an example Col. Roi Zweig, who read biblical passages over two-way radio to his soldiers before they entered Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus.

Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben-Gvir rushed to share the article on Twitter, as did settler leaders, who launched a campaign against military brass, among them Central Command head Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs. They shared photos of Fuchs entitled “Strong against Jews in Homesh, week in Hawara” and “Destroyer of dreams, stop arresting children.”

It now seems that the Shin Bet security service prefers to concentrate efforts on Palestinian terror that has increased around Nablus and Jenin. The Israel Police and in many cases the army also prefer not to confront settlers when they injure Palestinians.

The military commented on the matter saying that “the Israel Defense Forces takes action against terror and enemy activity and serves in Judea and Samaria as the sovereign. Any attempt by these and other sources to assume responsibility and to force, whoever they may be, without authority, is unacceptable and illegal. We consider these incidents to be very grave, reflecting criminal, shameful and disgraceful behavior, requiring swift and severe execution of the law.”
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