Dozens of reserve soldiers protested Sunday across from the flashpoint settlement of Yitzhar in the West Bank, decrying 'price tag' attacks, the attack on an IDF outpost a month ago by local settlers, as well as an ensuing online debate by residents regarding the question of whether it is permissible to harm soldiers.
Representatives of Yitzhar for their part said the protest was illegal, and called it a publicity stunt.
At the beginning of April, six Border Police officers were hurt in clashes with local settlers as they moved to demolish illegal structures in the settlement. The settlers responded by throwing stones at the troops and a military security station – established for the security of Yitzhar residents – was set alight.
A month later a 22-year-old female resident of the settlement was arrested for incitement of violence due to her comments in a community email in which she said: "I support throwing rocks (at Jews, and of course on Arabs without question). In certain circumstances - even if the rocks lead to the death of a soldier!!!"
Adding the recent string of 'price-tag' attacks against the Palestinian community to the list, protest organizer Lt. (res.) Yair Fink, said "we are here to protest the attack on the IDF encampment, the horrible comments made in the forum and the ongoing price tag attacks by local residents."
'Zionism ≠ Racism' (Photo: Akiva Novik)
He further said, "We have no intention of confronting the settlers of Yitzhar, but we expect them to do some deep and serious soul searching regarding the 'price tag' attacks against Muslims, their cars and mosques.
"Sadly, it also happens against IDF soldiers who are stationed here to protect them. There is no doubt that if the Yitzhar residents wanted to put an end to the phenomena they would succeed."
Ironically, the protest took place on Annual Reserve Soldier Appreciation Day; and after protesters failed to attain the needed authorization, the demonstration was held in a low-key manner with fewer participants than what organizers had initially hoped for.
MK Itzik Shmuli (Labor), himself an active reserve soldier in the Armored Corp, arrived to express his support for the demonstration.
MK Itzik Shmuli (Labor) (Photo: Akiva Novik)
"Hate crimes against innocents and IDF soldiers are a red-line that must be drawn. The State must apprehend these punks and define them as terrorists."
Yitzhar spokesperson, Ozeri Tubi, said that despite the fact that it was an illegal protest, he welcomed the soldiers into the community for direct dialogue.
"We set up a table with cookies and beverages for them, so they can see how we truly welcome our guests. We also offered to set up a meeting with residents, because protests don't gain anything, but they refused."
According to the spokesperson, the protest was only a publicity stunt. "The goal of this demonstration is to attack media attention and harm the residents of Yitzhar. We have no connection to the 'price tag' attacks and resent the demonstration's insinuation."