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Israeli Settler Violence--Again--and its Danger

November 20, 2008; Tikkun Email; Israeli Settler Violence--Again--and its Danger; by Rabbi Michael Lerner.

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[Editorial note:  Below is an article from today's Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reporting on the latest instance of Israeli settler violence. Almost every day we at Tikkun receive information about attacks on Palestinian  civilians by settlers, not just in Hebron but all through the West Bank,  or humiliation and worse of Palestinian civilians  at the "check points" inside the West Bank that limit travel of Palestinians between their own cities--on the grounds of protecting the settlers (these are not checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank, but inside the West Bank itself).  While a handful of Israeli members of Knesset call for punishment of these settlers, that very very very rarely happens. Normally, we don't send these accounts on to you for 3 reasons: a. many of our readers don't want to get this information on a daily basis, either because it is too depressing, which it is for us too,  or because they want to continue to ignore and deny the daily realities of the Israeli Occupation  b. doing so makes it appear as if we are "anti-Israel" whereas in fact we are pro-Israel and also pro-Palestine, and we unequivocally condemn violence done by Palestinians against Israeli civilians or even against settlers, no matter how that violence is presented as part of their liberation struggle,  and c. doing so suggests that these are the worst offenses against human rights in the world, whereas they are not, witness the ongoing genocide in Darfur, the repression of Chechny by Russia and of Tibet by China and the daily murders of civilians by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet many people, including progressives and liberals in the U.S., underestimate the level of daily violence against Palestinians brought to them through the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the periodic raids of Israel into Gaza, so when talk emerges about how to handle the settlers in any peace talks, there is little understanding of how disastrous these forces are, and hence little understanding of what it means when our newspapers, which rarely cover the violence against Palestinians, report that the Israeli government has agreed to expand settlement x or y; or when a religious political party says it opposes dismantling of settlements; or when a majority of Israelis indicate that they'll support political  parties like Likud that actively champion the settlers.  Yet Shimon Peres, who witnessed the murder of peace-oriented Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 understands this very well, so as reported yesterday, now Israeli President Shimon Peres told members of the British Parliament that "Israel would have difficulty dismantling West Bank settlements without causing a civil war in Israel." And so from the standpoint of many Israelis, the choice is between peace with Palestinians and a civil war with settlers, on the one hand, or no peace and continued war with Palestinians in order to accommodate the settlers. For those of us who support non-violence, these are both unattractive options, and help explain why we've advocated for a deeper level of transformation to avoid violence--the Strategy of Generosity we have outlined in Tikkun, challenging the militarist consciousness in the U.S. and Israel which assumes that peace and security requires domination of someone by someone else. It is not us who are the utopians, but those who think that security on the planet will be achieved through domination, though that strategy has been tried for thousands of years and continues to fail.--Rabbi Michael Lerner]

MKs urge legal action as settler violence erupts in Hebron
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent  Nov 20, 2008   Tel Aviv, Israel

Violent clashes erupted early Thursday between settler activists and Israeli security forces at a disputed house slated for evacuation in the West Bank city of Hebron, prompting Israeli and Palestinian officials alike to call for legal enforcement.

The High Court on Sunday ordered the settlers to vacate the house, after they forged ownership documents. The settlers were given until noon Wednesday to evacuate voluntarily, a deadline that expired without heed.

The Defense Ministry said it would avoid the use of force in the evacuation and would try to urge the settlers to leave on their own accord.

By late Wednesday, the house was still not evacuated and the settlers' protests grew hotter throughout the city.

During the protests, some settlers began to attack Palestinian locals while others wounded an IDF soldier by spraying turpentine at him as he tried to stop them from throwing stones at Palestinians.

Activists also punctured the tires of police and military jeeps stationed nearby.

The settlers also scribbled graffiti around Hebron, including spraying 'Mohammed Pig' on the walls of a local mosque and on Palestinian homes nearby.

Mouatassem Daana, a Palestinian resident of Hebron, said he saw settlers gathered near the building "writing demeaning graffiti on the wall of the mosque insulting the Prophet Mohammad" and breaking windows.

An IDF spokesman said settlers also vandalized a cemetery near the mosque. Solders were "working to remove the graffiti and repair the damage" to the mosque and a cemetery, the spokesman said.

"We take such incidents seriously," he added.

MK Otniel Schneller, a Kadima lawmaker opposed to the evacuation, said police and security forces must find those in violation of the law and try them as needed.

Meretz lawmakers Zahava Gal-On and Avshalom Vilan called on the defense minister to take action against the violent activists: "The time has come for these settlers to understand that Hebron is not the wild west," said Gal-On.

Hebron's Palestinian governor, Hussein al-Araj, urged Israeli authorities to halt the settler violence and carry out the court decision.

"What happened is unacceptable," he said. "The Israelis have to enforce the law and stop the suffering of the Palestinians who are living next to settlers. They have to take the settlers from this house and protect the Palestinians."

The Judea and Samaria Police Department was to hold consultations on Thursday to determine how best to deal with the settlers' violence.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak was also expected to meet with security officials for consultations on carrying out the evacuation in accordance with the High Court orders.

However, government legal aides said Wednesday that despite the three-day deadline, the Israel Police and Israel Defense Forces actually have more than 30 days to comply with the High Court decision.

Government legal aides are expected to submit their interpretation of the court's ruling Thursday to Barak.

"I call on everybody involved [in the affair] to act responsibly and in accordance with the state's essence and judicial institutions," Barak said Wednesday in an interview with Army Radio. "It's the fundamentals of the country and we will insist on it."

The security establishment originally believed that the court's ruling required it to evacuate the settlers within a month. However, because the occupation of the house began a year ago, it is not deemed as "new" and the state is thereby not required to abide by the law concerning recently discovered squatters that they be vacated within a month's time.

The Defense Minister's bureau said it has begun talks with settler leaders regarding the evacuation of the house despite slim chances of reaching a deal to that effect.

The house, which has come to be known as either the "Peace House," "Beit Hameriva" ("The House of Contention") or "The Brown House," is located near the Worshipers Way, a strategic locale from the settlers' perspective.

The acquisition of additional houses nearby would help settlers strengthen their position in the area.

Hebron has been a flashpoint of Israeli-Palestinian violence in recent years. Some 650 settlers live in fortified enclaves guarded by Israeli troops in the heart of the city of 180,000 Palestinians.

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