In response to expected clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians over the UN vote on Palestinian statehood, the Palestinian Popular Struggle Coordination Committee and the Israel group Anarchists Against The Wall are launching their own patrol efforts around Palestinian villages. Meanwhile, in response to the deaths of two Israelis in a car crash whose cause is now attributed to Palestinian stone throwers, Israeli settlers are demanding that the IDF take action, or they will. The controversial Orthodox Chief Rabbi of the Kiryat Arva settlement, Dov Lior, has told Israeli news outlets that “We have murderous rioters surrounding us, according to the Torah, there is room for collective punishment and the IDF must carry out the punishment against the rioters. There are no innocents in a war.”
The anti-price tagging story, first reported by the Christian Science Monitor, outlines the actions of the Palestinian-Israeli groups, who are running car patrols around Palestinian villages and lands to keep an eye out for price-taggers, Israeli settlers who attack Palestinians and IDF property in retaliation for any removal of Israeli settlers from the West Bank. The CSM notes the recalcitrance of the Israeli settlers towards these actions, quoting the mayor of the West Bank settlement of Itmar as saying “This is our home, Israel. It’s in the Bible. It belongs to the Jewish nation.”
Israeli settlers are already coordinating their own patrols and protests through their community organizations, while the IDF, Israeli Border Police and Palestinian Authority are nominally working together to prevent outbreaks of violence. At least 5 Israeli settlements have also brought in members of the far-right French JDL to prevent “Arab infiltration.”
The CSM also quotes Palestinians involved in the anti-price tagging patrols as being unsupportive of the UN effort and willing to engage in a non-violent campaign to resolve the settlements’ question. This course of action has also been suggested by outside commentators, such as Carne Ross of Independent Diplomat.
The story about the Palestinian and Israeli anti-price tag patrols as reported by the pro-Israel, Jewish-American weekly The Algemeiner, though, focuses on charges of how these groups are delegitimizing Israel and enabling the deaths of settlers through their (in)action towards Palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli motorists (two Israelis were reportedly killed in a car crash caused by Palestinian stone throwers on Friday):
Among the settlement leaders who have expressed their concerns is David Ha’ivri, the spokesman for the Samaria Liaison Office, the public relations branch of the Samaria Regional Council.
Ha’ivri alleged that the patrol initiative was “another effort by the extremist left wing and Anarchist activists in Israel to cause friction between Jewish and Arab residents.”
Commentary magazine, referring the stone throwers, asserts that “Arabs” are the main source of all West Bank violence and that the “rare” instances of Israeli retaliation are often done in self-defense.
Israeli settlers have reacted strongly to the deaths. A public funeral for the dead was disrupted by protests that forced the IDF to intervene. A settler leader told Ynet:
The hurling of stones must be stopped. If the IDF can’t do it, then we’ll do it and we know how. We shall deploy our men along the line. Anyone with a licensed weapon will arrive and we’ll equip others with batons and protective gear.
So far, according to Israeli media, protests and counter-protests in the West Bank have remained “relatively” calm, though deaths and injuries among both Israelis and Palestinians have been reported since Friday, when the PA formally presented its statehood bid at the UN in New York.
Paul Mutter is a graduate student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.