Von Michael Sfard
Übersetzt von George Malent
Yair Sheleg does not oppose the partition of the country, and he even agrees that it is morally wrong to leave an entire nation without civil rights or a state of its own. What bothers Sheleg about the ‘peace camp’ is that the discourse of that camp ‘has focused in recent years not on the advantages that peace will bring to Israel, but on the harm that the settlers cause’ (‘For peace, not against the settlers’ Haaretz 6/12). And this, Sheleg cannot understand. After all, says Sheleg, ‘the settlers are not more violent than other sectors in society - at every commercial centre that is open on the Sabbath, for example in Shefayim or the Bilu Junction, there are more violations of the law than there are in all the [settlement] outposts put together’.
So why, really, should we focus on the settlers and on their actions when we could be talking about peace? Very simple: because there can be no peace without stopping the settlers’ organized ideological criminal activities against their Palestinian neighbours, often with the protection of the army. Those who know about everyday life in Palestinian villages like Funduk, Azzoun and Kaddum cannot be surprised that what preoccupies those who want coexistence is the settlers. Whoever has toured the South Hebron Hills and seen what misery the settlers visit on the lives of the cave-dwellers who have never harmed anyone, it will not occur to them to speak of ‘peace’ in isolation from the question of the settlers and the settlements. Those who know of the systematic plunder of land in every part of the West Bank, the imperious and impudent behaviour of young people from the mainstream of the settlement movement towards the Palestinian farmers whom they come across, cannot stop talking about the settlers.
A serious, probing, public discussion about the crimes of the violent groups of settlers is more worthwhile than endless talk about ‘peace.’ Israeli society does not need more slogans about how wonderful it would be here if only there were peace. It needs a frank internal discussion about the fascist and racist ideology that guides most of the ideological settlers (and not only the lunatics in the outposts); about the origins of the organized crime that is undermining the sovereignty of the government of Israel, and of course about the moral abyss towards which that the settlers are leading us all.
And this brings us to Sheleg’s allegations. The crimes that the settlers commit against Palestinians are not ‘merely’ criminal infractions and so they cannot legitimately be compared to the licencing violations of businesses at the Bilu Junction. They are hate crimes, motivated by racial fervour and they also concretely undermine the government of Israel’s authority to make decisions on political matters. Those who commit those crimes are not bending the law; they are breaking it proudly and brazenly, and usually in an organized way.
Therefore, the uprooting of orchards, as happened recently in Jitt village; violent rampaging by masses of settlers, as happened last week in the centre of Funduk village; seizing control of lands, as occurred in May and June in the orchards of Kaddum and Lubn; invasions of homes and shops, as happens all the time in Hebron; imposing fear and terror on civilian population, as has been done in the vicinity of dozens of outposts and settlements - all this constitutes a terrible ongoing daily injustice to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and an existential moral danger to the State of Israel.
The criminality of the settlers differs from the criminality of the businessmen at the Bilu Junction, such as it is. Therefore, those for whom the defence of human rights and the aspiration for coexistence between the two peoples is a top priority cannot content themselves with fantasies about peace. They must first act to stop the ravages of the settlers.
The author is the judicial counsel for the organization ‘Yesh Din: Volunteers for Human Rights’ http://www.yesh-din.org/site/index.php?page=about.us<=en