Price tag: Who's to blame for settler violence?
Violent acts against Palestinians becoming daily routine. Various elements place blame on police, military, settler leadership, even leftist organizations. 'Public leaders, rabbis need to issue explicit statement and set legitimate boundaries of struggle,' says former Yesha Council chairman
Torching fields, vehicles and houses, uprooting olive trees, vandalizing kindergartens – these are part of a long list of almost routine violent acts of settlers against Palestinians, dubbed "price tag."
The latest incident occurred Thursday in the village of Hawara, when residents from the settlement of Yitzhar hurled stones, torched fields and caused havoc in a kindergarten and in private homes.
Human rights groups as well as citizens who pay the price of calamity have been repeatedly claiming that Israeli security forces are not doing enough to enforce order and uproot the phenomenon. They place the blame both on Israeli soldiers, which they claim often witness the events and do not interfere, and the police, which has closed over 80% of related investigations.
"In the past two or three years, we are witnessing actual organization (on the part of the settlers). They learn how to harm Palestinians in the worst way and how to escape. The incidents have become more organized and extensive," said Rabbis for Human Rights activist Zacharia Sada.
Sada is well acquainted with the phenomenon, which he claims created real fear among Palestinians. "They are afraid the settlers will attack them everywhere they go. If they travel next to a settlement, they are afraid settlers might come out, destroy the car and smash the windshield, as has happened in the past," Sada said.
Shai District Police denied the claims presented by Sada and said that law enforcement is being applied equally on complaints filed by both sides, further stressing that last year indictments were filed against all those involved in act of violence against the Palestinians.
Shattered window in Hawara (Photo: Reuters)
Sada doesn't only blame the settlers, but also the military's "faulty" conduct. "In a large number of incidents, security forces are on the ground and do not do enough to prevent these acts. In one instance, a car full of settlers drove to the village of Imtan, torched three vehicles and fled.
According to witnesses, an IDF jeep was standing at the entrance to the village, and the settlers stopped near it, spoke to the soldiers, and continued on their way without a problem," he said.
Vandalized homes. Sprayed 'revenge' slogan (Photo: AFP)
Unlike Sada, former Yesha Council Chairman Pinchas Wallerstein, who is known for his fierce rejection of violent acts toward the Palestinians, said he placed sole responsibility on the settler leadership.
"Every attack on an IDF soldier or an innocent civilian is unforgivable and must not be ignored. There should be a clear statement by the public leaders and the rabbis in Judea and Samaria vis-à-vis the legitimate boundaries of struggle. 'Price tag' will bring us all devastation," said Wellerstein.
The former chairman clarified that the phenomenon was not widespread among the settler public. "There must be an explicit message so that people know that if they commit acts of violence they will not be supported - this way the phenomenon will not be attributed to the general public in Judea and Samaria," he added.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Shomron Settlers' Committee blamed the Palestinians, who it claims enjoy lenient enforcement, with the help of leftist organizations.
"We regret that these people do not follow the daily murderous acts of violence perpetrated by the Arabs. The organizations are investing all their energy in inciting against their Jewish brothers," a committee member said.
Shmulik Grossman contributed to this report