Hate crimes are gaining momentum: 'We are being persecuted and this is the result'
Within a month, there were five hate crimes against Arabs, the last in Wadi Ara, when at the same time, restraining orders were issued against more than 20 hilltop youths; the settlers rush to say that they are being harassed while the Shin Bet claims that the restraining orders are intended to calm the area.
"We are being persecuted everywhere and are being harassed, and this is the result: a young boy who comes to the hills to work and live in peace, receives visits, raids and restraining orders from Shin Bet and police officers all day long. Then they wonder why this is happening, "explained A., a boy who was recently expelled from the West Bank.
Two days after the vandalizing of Hawara, which took place on the backdrop of tensions between left-wing activists and settlers in Samaria, the Shin Bet and the Central Command decided to continue the policy of expulsion orders and issued a number of them. Then, it became clear that Maj. Gen. Roni Numa intended to issue a restraining order to Elkana Picar, a resident of Yitzhar, who hosted and employed hilltop youths in his home. In Samaria, protests commenced, and the Shin Bet explained that Picar was involved in violent activity and that he had recently been directing it against Palestinians and security forces in the Yitzhar area.
Picar was represented by "Honenu" organization (Israeli Zionist legal aid organization) that explained to the Shin Bet why it would be best not to remove Picar from the premises. The main reason was that this was actually an order for the "second circle": that is, not an order against a youth suspected of a hate crime, but rather a person who, according to security forces, provides him with "fertile ground to stay in the hills and commit hate crimes." But Picar was expelled from his home for four months.
The tension between the sides was also expressed on May 4, when some of the hilltop youths had a bonfire party in one of the forests in Jerusalem. "We really didn’t do anything, we just came to eat and be happy. Then, a few undercover special forces soldiers came and started to question us and really harass," said Y., a young boy who was present. The incident left some of them feeling persecuted.
Four days later, cars were torched and spray-painted in Jerusalem. One of them read "King Picar"—and the connection left no room for doubt. Graffiti was also spray painted near Afula. That same morning, restraining orders were issued for several boys in Yitzhar and Kiryat Moshe in the capital (a place that became the home of those expelled from the West Bank).
Simultaneously with the events, the boys pegged the head of the Central Command Roni Numa as responsible for the escalation. In his Twitter account, Meir Ettinger, considered one of the great goals of the Jewish Brigade in the Shin Bet, wrote to the general: "If there are no Jews, there are no attacks. It always happens when they arrive, so why try to protect and save, when it's easier to close off the area. Sleep Ronny—sleep (making a play on Numa's last name). The quiet will return with another signature line to the line, another order and another order, Roni Numa can continue to lie down."
On Monday, Ettinger received a restraining order that would remove him from the West Bank for six months, because he is "an extremist with an extreme and violent ideology, who is working to instill it in violent outpost activists and encourage violent activity. He influences and incites violent youth to violent and illegal covert activities."
The escalation continued and last week, a farewell party was held for Picar in Yitzhar. He apparently moved on to Jerusalem, not before he explicitly stated that he would continue work in the new place of his residence and build a warm home for the hilltop youth. That same night, suspicion arose of another crime committed in the nearby village of Burin, where a tractor was torched and sprayed with hate graffiti. On the same day, a lynching attempt took place against a resident of Itamar.
On Tuesday, a Beit Midrash was set on fire in the West Bank settlement of Homesh. The settlers claim that this is a hate crime, but the army did not rush to determine it as such.
Another factor in the equation that includes the hilltop youth and the Shin Bet is the increase of Jewish terrorism. In the past month, there have been several incidents of stone throwing and Molotov cocktail throwing at settlers in Judea and Samaria, and the increase in their numbers is more pronounced than in previous months.
In one case, residents of Ofra fired at stone throwers near Sinjil and were subsequently detained for long hours. Stones were also thrown at a vehicle and several civilians were lightly wounded. "When a car returns to the settlement with a shattered glass, or worse, when a driver or passenger is injured, it agitates the area, especially when you see that the settlers who defended themselves are being detained," said one resident of Samaria, whose vehicle was damaged by stone throwing.
The sequence of events proves that there is an escalation in relations between the Shin Bet and the hilltop youth, who claim persecution while the security forces explain that it is of great importance to eradicate hate crimes.
(Translated and edited by N. Elias)