Settlers Pledge to Resist Evacuation, Even as IDF Grabs More Palestinian Lands
by David Bloom
As Ariel Sharon prepares–or at least goes through the motions–to put into effect his unilateral plan for "disengaging" from the Palestinians, Israel has announced a flurry of new construction in the Occupied Territories, and new military campaigns which have leveled more Palestinian fields and orchards. A violent conflict appears to loom between Israeli government forces and a hardcore of Israeli settlers who have pledged to resist evacuation of their homes in the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank. But some veteran Sharon-watchers think the entire disengagement plan is just another shadow play by the father of the settlement movement to stall for more time, as "facts on the ground" multiply.
The "separation barrier"–officially condemned by the UN for being built in occupied territory–will now surround the settlement of Ariel, some 15 kilometers into the West Bank. Also to be enclosed on the "Israeli" side of the barrier: the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, and the largest Jewish settlement, Ma’ale Adumim, to the east of Jerusalem and extending nearly to Jericho. A projected expansion of the settlement, connecting it with other settlements stretching contiguously to West Jerusalem, will effectively cut the West Bank into two, making a viable Palestinian state yet more problematic.
Israeli commentators and academics are now starting to openly call for sanctions to be placed on Israel to compel compliance with the opinion of the International Court of Justice that the security barrier must be dismantled. Such voices now include Haifa University professor Ilan Pappe, who said recently that Israel must be treated as apartheid South Africa was, and Ha’aretz journalist Gideon Levy. Yet sanctions could be forestalled indefinitely–as long as Sharon can keep playing for time, and Palestian militant groups respond violently to Israeli provocations, which may be Sharon’s strongest card.
ISRAEL DESTROYS 42,000 PALESTINIAN TREES IN GAZA
In a "reprisal" campaign that lasted a month leading up to early August, Israeli forces destroyed more than 42,000 olive, citrus and date trees in the Palestinian town of Beit Hanoun, on the edge of the occupied Gaza Strip. The Israelis’ stated purpose was to stop Hamas militants from using the area to fire crude rockets at the nearby Israeli town of Sderot. On June 28, the rockets killed two Israelis, including a three-year old, in Sderot, the first fatalities from such attacks. During the month-long incursion that followed in Beit Hanoun, 4,405 acres of agricultural land were flattened by the army, according to Palestinian officials, and 21 houses were demolished, with another 314 damaged. Five factories and 19 wells were also destroyed. Before withdrawing from the town, the army passed leaflets with a cartoon showing rockets bouncing back at Beit Hanoun from Sderot. The leaflet read: "Terror will kill you."
Residents of Beit Hanoun had previously protested against Hamas using the town as a launching area for the rocket attacks. Earlier this summer, Hamas shot and killed a Palestinian youth who tried to stop militants from firing rockets from his family’s fields. "Everybody here agrees that the militants should not fire from a densely populated area," said farmer Baisil al Masri, "but after this massive destruction, the people of Beit Hanoun will tell them to come and fire rockets from the tops of our houses." Abdullah Musleh, whose factory was destroyed, called the Israeli action "deliberate destruction of our economy." He added: "They have destroyed everything, three automatic pressing machines, the offices, the cement containers, even the marble floors under the machines. My 15 workers will be unemployed." (UK independent, Aug. 6)
Despite the Israeli actions in Beit Hanoun, which was considered Gaza’s "bread basket," the firing of improvised Qassem rockets at Sderot continues. (Ha’aretz, Sept. 8)
ISRAEL TO PLANT 72,000 TREES AROUND SETTLEMENTS
Israeli Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz announced a plan to plant 72,000 olive trees surrounding settlements in the occupied West Bank, for the exclusive use of Jewish settlers.
"This is seizing lands and preventing them from being turned over to Palestinians," Katz declared, according to Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. "This is how we will strengthen our hold on Judea and Samaria [the biblical names of the lands that comprise the West Bank]… We will cling to every dunam of available farmland by means of either planting olive trees or grazing." Yediot says 250 hectares of land are to be planted. (Yedioth Ahronot, July 27)
On Sept. 9, Katz announced plans to expropriate "without unnecessary delays" 8,000 acres of land in the Jordan Valley, to further expand sparsely populated Jewish settlements there. The expropriation is necessary, Katz says, "to hold [the land] and designate it for Jewish settlements in the valley and to prevent the possibility of [it] being taken over by hostile elements." Subsidies will be used to encourage Jews to move to the Jordan Valley to farm.
The announcement followed plans to expand by 1,000 units in the West Bank’s five largest settlement blocs. The plan has been quietly assented to by the US government. (UK Guardian, Sept. 9; Ha’aretz, Sept.8)
Americans for Peace Now reported in a press release Aug. 6 plans for a new settlement in the Jordan valley. The settlement is earmarked for immigrants from the former Soviet Union. It will include an industrial park with technology infrastructure and "other resources for immigrant scientists who have not found their place in Israel." APN says the World Zionist Organization and the Jordan Valley settlers’ regional council are excited by the project and are allocating land for it. (APN, Aug. 6)
A new settlement is also being built in the "seam zone" area between Israel’s "separation barrier" in the West Bank and the Green Line. Called Nof Hasharon, the enclave of 50 housing units is located in the Palestinian district of Qalqilya, south of the settlement of Alfe Menashe. Although it is associated with Alfe Menashe, a settlement of 5,000, Nof Hasharon is being hooked up to the grid of the Israeli town of Nirit, inside Israel just across the Green Line. Residents of Nirit are opposed to the settlement’s construction.
"We are not interested in a settlement being literally in our backyards, and sharing our facilities," said Ilan Niv, chairman of Nirit’s secretariat. When construction began, children from Nirit blocked the bulldozers with their bodies. Nof Hasharon is "1,000 times worse than the expansion of a place like Ma’aleh Adumim," said Nirit resident Yashi Eilat, referring to the West Bank’s largest settlement, "because it is a totally new form of settlement expansion." The building of the new settlement and other settlement activity inside the "seam zone" is seen as an attempt to blur the distinction between land on the western side of the fence next to Israel, and the rest of the West Bank.
SETTLER RABBIS: IT’S OK TO KILL CIVILIANS
Fourteen prominent Israeli rabbis sent a letter to Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz Sept. 7, urging him to take even harsher measures against Palestinian resistance, even if means killing innocent civilians. "Should the army fight the enemy, if Palestinian civilians will be killed, or should the army refrain from fighting, and thus endanger our civilians?" the letter read, according to rabbi and former parliamentarian Haim Druckman.
"The rabbis quote the sage Rabbi Akiva as responding: ‘Our lives come first,’" Druckman said, referring to an ancient Torah scholar. Many of the rabbis are settlers and some run yeshivas that combine paramilitary training and torah study.
"The terrorists frequently hide among civilians," claims Druckman. "As a result Israeli soldiers and Israeli children are dying in large numbers."
"Christians preaching `turn the other cheek’ will not cause us to panic, and we will not view favorably those who prefer the lives of our enemies over our own lives," said the letter. (CBS, Sept. 8; Ha’aretz, Sept. 8) Avmira Golan in Ha’aretz described these rabbis as having nurtured a "core of isolationist, racist and destructive Judaism." Golan called on "secular Israelis, and you among the religious who refuse to swallow this dangerous cultural core" to "restore to the general public something that it has lost: the sense that it belongs to history and to the family of nations. That it is the scion of a developed nation. That it is not willing to allow a fanatic minority to lead it to the destruction of the Third Temple [Israel]." (Ha’aretz, Sept. 10)
JEWISH UNDERGROUND THREATENS TO DESTROY MUSLIM HOLY SITES
According to Reuters on July 26, there is increasing threat from Jewish ultra-nationalists to "remove" the Muslim holy site al-Haram al-Sharif–known to Jews as the Temple Mount, the site of two ancient Hebrew temples.
"Israel has to return to the Temple Mount and it will," said a former leader of the Jewish underground, Yehda Etzion. "It doesn’t have to be tomorrow but it has to happen. Islam must remove its hands from the Temple Mount and descend from it." Etzion has been barred from entering the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount since 1984, when he was imprisoned for plotting to blow up the complex.
The al-Aqsa mosque, built on the site in the 12th century, was attacked in 1969 by an Australian member of a protestant evangelical sect called the Church of God. Dennis Michael Rohan set fire to the ornate wooden and ivory minbar (alter) inside the mosque, causing severe damage. Rohan told an Israeli court he was acting as "the Lord’s emissary," citing the Book of Zachariah. Rohan claimed he was trying to destroy the mosque so the Jewish temple could be rebuilt in its place. He was hospitalized in an Israeli mental institution, judged insane and deported.
Far-right Jewish radicals killed two Palestinian worshippers during a siege at the site in 1982, according to Reuters.
"We are worried," said Adnan al-Husseini, head of the Muslim religious authority, the Waqf, which oversees the site. "Plotting against al-Haram al-Sharif is escalating. This subject is at the heart of the beliefs of Muslims all over the world." (Reuters, July 26, Bibleplaces.com, The Noble Sanctuary: On-line Guide to the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem)
See also: WW3 REPORT #83
RIGHT-WING PETITION: PRELUDE TO CIVIL WAR?
185 prominent Israeli rightists have signed a petition decrying Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to evacuate Israeli settlements from the occupied Gaza Strip and part of the occupied West Bank, and called on settlers to resist evacuation. Calling the evacuation a "crime against humanity," the petition, published in the national-religious newspaper BeSheva, was signed by former members of the Israeli government, senior reserve officers in the Israeli army, scientists, professors, and other members of the Israeli establishment. The petition reads in part:
"Facing the Sharon government’s intention to destroy settlements in the land of Israel and to transfer them to enemy hands, we declare that the uprooting of the residents is a national crime, a crime against humanity and is a revelation of tyranny, evil and arbitrariness meant to deny Jews their rights…. We believe that the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] is meant to protect the country and is not meant to act against Jewish citizens. The IDF is the people’s army and does not belong to a political group…. Therefore, we call on public officials who are being asked to lay the groundwork for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from their homeland, and on all of the officers, troops and police officers, to listen to the voice of their conscience and not take part in acts that will sully them, and which they will regret for the rest of their lives."
The petition called on settlers slated for evacuation "not to cooperate with the expulsion machine, not to accept monetary compensation, to resist the withdrawal without harming our people even though they are coming to destroy our homes."
"In the last century, the only ones who expelled Jews because they were Jews were the Nazis," said Haggai Ben-Artzi, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s brother-in-law on Israel Radio. "To any one who does this, I say this is a Nazi, anti-Semitic act." Netanyahu himself did not sign the petition, but his father, brother, and uncle did.
Roman Bronfman, member of the Knesset in the center-left Yahad party, slammed the petition. "The settlers have a legitimate right to express their opinion, but this opinion lacks a conscience, is hypocritical and twists historical facts," Bronfman said. "Withdrawing from the Gaza Strip is a correction of occupational war crimes on foreign lands…" Justice Minister Yosef Lapid of the centrist Shinui party, opined, "it is untenable that there is incitement to civil war in the name of love for the country."
Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported Defense Minister Mofaz has been meeting with settler leaders to encourage them to "leave the IDF out of this argument." But the paper said a settler leader told Mofaz that "in several weeks we will be in a situation in which we will repel IDF soldiers from our communities."
Settler leader Eliezer Hasdai, who was present at the meeting with Mofaz, later told Israel Radio: "Two things could happen if this program goes ahead without being brought to democratic elections in Israel… The first is a mass refusal [to evacuate] among soldiers and officers in the army. The other is definitely a type of civil war." Hasdai, whose daughter was killed in a Palestinian attack on her settlement, also said: "If any one dares to come and touch my daughter’s grave…whether a soldier or the chief of staff, I will shoot him."
CHECKPOINT ABUSES UNABATED
Meanwhile, ongoing abuses continue to be reported at checkpoints in the Occupied Territories. The Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv reported July 25 that an IDF soldier shot and seriously wounded a Palestinian man he claims called him a "liar" at an Israeli checkpoint north of Nablus in the occupied West Bank.
According to Ha’aretz, Muhammed Kan’an, 26, a student at a-Najah University in Nablus, was trying to reach his home near Jenin, when the soldier refused to let him pass through the checkpoint.
"I asked to see an officer and the soldier attacked me," Kan’an told the paper. "He cursed my mother and father and punched me, so I punched him back. Then he aimed his rifle at my chest and threatened to kill me. Other soldiers took away his gun and tried to subdue him."
The incident was witnessed by Israeli activist Naomi Lalo, from Machsom [checkpoint] Watch, a women’s human rights group that monitors checkpoints. Lalo heard the soldier say, "You call me a liar, I’ll show you!" According to Lalo: "Suddenly he gave him two punches to the stomach and slammed his head into a concrete barrier." Kan’an then tried to run away, but the soldier grabbed a rifle and shot him. "We heard gunshots and then saw him [the Palestinian] covered in blood, with a hole in his hand," Lalo told Israeli Army Radio. (Ha’aretz, July 26)
In another case, a 23-year old Bedouin Israeli army officer has reached a plea deal with a Tel Aviv court, after being prosecuted for 10 beatings of Palestinians at the Huwarra checkpoint near Nablus. The defendant, who was not named, was actually filmed in the process of two of the beatings by the Israeli Defense Force’s educational branch. the film was being used for training purposes. The officer even knew he was being filmed when the beatings occurred. One of the Palestinians was handcuffed on orders from the officer; the officer punched the man in the stomach. The officer also punched a Palestinian man in the face and kicked him in the lower part of his body, while the man was standing next to his wife and kids. The officer also admitted to smashing ten car windshields with the butt of his rifle, supposedly for failure to not cross a line on the ground.
The officer was supported by a declaration signed by 72 paratroops who had recently finished serving in the West Bank.They protested that the use of force was necessary to them to carry out their mission, and not to be attributed to gratuitous sadism.
"If we are not taken seriously, we will not be able to fulfill the mission of preventing arms from entering Israel," the declaration stated. (Haartez, Sept. 9)
Special to WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, Sept. 13, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution