Saturday, October 04, 2008

Civil War in the Holy Land?

Troubling news from Israel. I only vaguely understand Israeli politics, but there's always something interesting going on there.

A growing number of ultra-nationalist Jewish settlers in the Palestinian West Bank are threatening Israel's security, according to the military chief responsible for their protection in the occupied territory. Major-General Gadi Shamni, whose role includes stopping Palestinian attacks and protecting Jewish settlements in the West Bank, said the rising level of violence from militant settlers is 'impairing our ability to carry out missions in the territories'.

He said that the number of [Jewish] extremists who attack Palestinians, Israeli soldiers, police and left-wing activists had grown from a core of a 'few dozen' troublemakers to at least several hundred.

'We are forced to divert our attention elsewhere,' said Shamni in an interview published in Haaretz newspaper. 'These are fringe elements that are gaining support because of the tail wind they enjoy and the backing afforded by certain parts of the leadership, both rabbinical and public, whether in explicit statements or tacitly.'

His comments follow [a pipe bomb] attack on a high-profile critic of the settlements, Professor Zeev Sternhell, [Wikipedia] a Holocaust survivor and expert on fascism.... Police found posters in Sternhell's neighbourhood offering [a reward] to anyone who killed a member of Peace Now, an Israeli group that campaigns against settlements in the West Bank....

Last month, after a Palestinian entered a Jewish settlement, burnt a house and stabbed a boy, dozens of settlers raided a nearby Palestinian village, throwing stones, firing guns into the air, breaking windows, damaging property and daubing the Star of David on the walls of homes.

Tactics such as burning orchards, blocking roads, rioting and stoning have become a routine part of the settlers' arsenal in their attacks on Palestinians. Police and soldiers are also being targeted amid lingering bitterness after clashes between the settlers and security forces when Israel removed its settlements from Gaza in 2005.

The settlers' aim is to deter the government from dismantling settlements in the West Bank, which Israel could be required to give up if a peace deal is struck with the Palestinians.

Elyakim Haetzni, a founding father of the settler movement, warned of civil war if Israel attempted to remove more settlements from the West Bank. He said that about 100,000 Israelis were ready to fight for the land. 'Every clash between the settlers and the police, the police get a beating and the army doesn't want to be involved any more. A great number of them are religious,' he said.

|Israeli army chief slams settler attacks by Toni O'Loughlin- Guardian|

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