Settler Violence and ‘Apartheid’

There’s no question that there’s a human rights crisis going on in the West Bank, with radical settlers running amok, virtually with impunity.  Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a TTN member, writes passionately on this subject in her latest column in Moment magazine.  She discusses the outrages committed by Israeli shepherds from settlement “outposts” against Palestinians and their property in the West Bank, as documented in “Plundered Pastures,” a report issued by Yesh Din (“there is law”), an Israeli civil rights organization that monitors events and practices in the West Bank.  The report is summarized at Yesh Din’s website, which includes a link to the 64 page document. 

Some of us rightfully complain about how Palestinians — including the Palestinian Authority — view Israel in their school curriculum and in their public statements.  TTN member, Stan Nadel, agrees that the occupation is a “disaster” but is skeptical about obtaining a workable resolution.  He opines:

Anyone who thinks that it is all Israel’s fault hasn’t been paying any attention to what the Palestinians have been saying and doing since the 19th century.  Anyone who thinks that the Israelis have never contributed to prolonging the conflict, hasn’t been paying attention either, but to much of the left–it’s all Israel’s fault all the time.

If not for the Arab march to war in 1967, including the massing of Arab armies along the borders, the imposition of a blockade against Israel’s southern port of Eilat, and Jordan’s artillery assault on West Jerusalem, there would be no occupation — as the international community defines it.  But it has persisted and only deepened over the years, with Israel apparently violating Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the “deportation” and “transfer” of populations.  

Two years ago, the highly respected Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard wrote a legal opinion for Yesh Din, provocatively entitled “The Occupation of the West Bank and the Crime of Apartheid,” but written in well-argued terms.  Many or most of us hate mentioning the A word, but he only applies it to the West Bank, and many Israelis (including former prime ministers) have invoked it as a dire warning for Israel, if a two-state solution is not achieved in some form.  

These are snippets of the Yesh Din report that Letty quotes in her article:

“Israel supports the settler shepherding farms by providing them exclusive allocations of pastureland, financial grants and assistance with infrastructure.  . . .

“…By building structures, grazing flocks in vast areas taking over water resources . . ., the settlers are able to take control of large swaths of land.

“Settlers in shepherding outposts carry weapons and employ attack dogs, some ride on ATVs or on horseback and use drones. They assault Palestinians, intimidate them, and even invade their private homes. They kill and injure livestock, destroy property, damage crops and take over water sources.

“… Israeli law enforcement agencies make no effective effort to end the continuous violation of the law by settlers in shepherding outposts. Nor do Israeli soldiers prevent Israelis’ violence against Palestinians, . . .  The Civil Administration ignores illegal settler construction and the police and State Attorney’s office do not prosecute Israelis who break the law and harm Palestinians and their property. …”

Leading to her conclusion, Letty pointedly adds:

. . . These Jewish offenders are not responding to “Palestinian terror”; they are systematically frightening, harassing and injuring innocent residents who are simply trying to make a living from their own land. What are you and I going to do about it? . . . 

The least we can do is learn about it and raise our voices, but not in ways that aid the most hardline opponents of Israel’s existence, who insist on seeing the current and historic Zionist cause as only about conquest and domination.  We can acknowledge and protest these things as supporters of liberal Zionism.