Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Where are the settler leaders?

Where are the settler leaders?

Dan Margalit

Ever since the Jewish people began returning to their homeland, in the late 19th century, they made it a point to follow in the footsteps of Abraham, who refused to accept the Cave of the Patriarchs as a gift, instead purchasing it for its full price.

Since appearing in the region, the Zionist movement has made it a point to legally purchase land. Even if anyone claims that at times a hint of thievery was the only course of action, it still did its best to avoid it.

Those who oppose the settlement movement claim that using state land also constitutes theft, and while the issue remains controversial, even those who level criticism at the process understand that the State of Israel does not seek to banish Arabs or Palestinians from its land and has taken the necessary legal steps to ensure this.

The court-ordered eviction of illegal outposts is proof of that. Amona and Migron are a reminder of Jewish restraint. This is what then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin meant when he famously said, "There are judges in Jerusalem."

But over the years, the dam has broken. Israel's position remained unchanged, but it now faces a wave of violent pinpointed acts called "price tags," normally perpetrated by right-wing extremists. Some of these acts express the settlers' rage at the fact that some Palestinians have maintained ownership of their private land.

The clash that took place on Tuesday, when settlers from the illegal outpost of Esh Kodesh entered the Palestinian village of Jallud carrying hammers and clubs, their faces masked, fully intent on harming their Palestinian neighbors, was a forbidden act.

Among other things, the altercation surrounded a disputed plot of farmland to which one of the village's residents claims ownership. The settlers refused to acknowledge his claim and attempted to plow his land as their own. The Israel Defense Forces stopped them, and they returned to exact a "price tag."

Only this time, the Palestinians were waiting for them, cameras in hand, and trapped them. The settlers looked rather pathetic, seeking shelter among the village elders, who stopped the residents from all but lynching them and ensured their safety until the IDF -- the bane of the extreme settlers' existence -- came to their rescue.

According to reports, security forces plan to question the settlers and the Palestinian involved. This time simply questioning them may suffice, but the incident evokes two important questions:

The past few years have seen a series of price-tag vendettas. Only a fraction of the perpetrators have been apprehended and, as far as we know, none of them have been subjected to a resounding sentence. Why?

Also, why have the rabbis and leaders of the settlement movement refrained from addressing this issue? If they fail to wholeheartedly condemn such acts and rein in the so-called "hilltop youth," they risk compromising their movement's legitimacy among the general public.