Photo: AFP
Car torched in 'price tag' activity in Hebron (archives)
Photo: AFP
Yoaz Hendel

Fundamentalists, not terrorists

Op-ed: Most 'price tag' activists, Jewish racists should be defined as nationalistically-motivated criminals

Last week, a group of Clalit Health Services employees visited Gush Etzion for a day of recreational activities. Their hosts from the Kfar Etzion Field School took them on a tour of springs through Khirbet Hillel (a site dating back to the days of the Second Temple) at the entrance to the community of Bat Ayin.


As they approached, some of the community's young residents spotted Arab families of the HMO's doctors among the visitors. They came out and began cursing them, demanding that they stay out of the community. Ugly, shameful racism.


When the HMO employees returned to the field school, the school principal, Yaron Rosenthal, decided to write an open letter to the residents of Gush Etzion. "I almost burst with shame and grief when two doctors approached me and told me their children were trembling with fear as a result of the humiliating experience," he wrote. "This time we have decided not to remain silent. In my humble opinion, our presence in Gush Etzion will not last long if it is not based on a deep moral foundation."


Rosenthal explained why Gush Etzion residents must protest, fight the extremists on behalf of the majority. I called him after reading the letter. He had already received many phone calls by then. Gush Etzion is part of the Israeli ethos. Its residents, as opposed to residents of other places, feel responsible.


Rosenthal spoke from the heart. The field school he runs has Arab and Jewish workers as an ideology. He believes in these neighborly relations. He believes that the pioneers of Gush Etzion sought to create an exemplary society, lead the camp not just with the settlement but also through ethics. "How will we present the people of Israel with the magnificent enterprise we have built here for generations, if Arabs are banned from entering some of the communities?" he asked.


Rosenthal, who served in a paratroopers' brigade and has crossed the country by foot, is not a unique voice. He is the pattern of his homeland's landscape. There are crazy rightists in the settlements, but the majority – like him – is sane and listens. The trouble is that too few people dare confront, write, speak out loud. For years, the residents of Judea and Samaria have been trying to settle in people's hearts. And then, every time, a handful of people comes from another place and ruins the hearts. A handful and another handful, and there is no response.


Seeking user-friendly definitions

The real battle against the Hilltop Youth and other lunatics is internal, between two ideological groups of settlers. The one side, which includes the nationalistic end, remains silent when they demonstrate racism or attack senior IDF officers. The other side, national and democratic, believes in the rights to the land but also in moral obligations toward minorities.


These days we are witnessing a governmental debate on whether to define the Jewish hooligans who carry out "price tag" activities as terror activists. The desire to take harsh measures against them is leading the government to search for user-friendly definitions. Terror allows taking exceptional measures, but this definition misses the truth, and is even somewhat lenient towards the surrounding society.


Most "price tag" people, the racists, those who shout, spray-paint slogans and vandalize vehicles – are not terrorists. They are nationalistically-motivated criminals. Fundamentalists who were raised in the grey area, and cultivated by the camp of those who keep silent. Those who can always find a lenient explanation for hateful statements, who laugh at the sight of a spiteful talkback or a riot near the home of a senior officer.


It's easy to fight clear Jewish terror; it's hard to fight the racism and misanthropy on the margins. Bending the definitions of terror will not help, as this battle is mainly social. It is a national mission, which should mainly trouble those who are trying to develop normalization in the areas of consensus beyond the Green Line.



פרסום ראשון: 05.30.13, 20:13
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