Mistakenly, many create the distinction between the Israeli army and Israeli settlers, as if the two are not clearly opposite sides of the same coin.^
It is often witnessed that even well-intending human rights groups naively call on the Israeli army to protect the Palestinian population from settlers’ assaults, disregarding the fact that Israeli settlements and the Israeli army are both part of Israel’s offensive strategy aimed at strengthening the grip of the Jewish state in the Occupied Territories.
Calling upon the occupier (in this case the Israeli army) to protect the occupied in times of conflict, in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention, is similar to depending on a wolf to protect a herd of sheep. Since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in September 28, both the Israeli army and the Jewish settlers have been working in perfect harmony to suppress the uprising, to inflict harm and to punish the captive and largely unarmed Palestinian population.
Just listen to the news, which hardly fails to point out the joint cooperation between Israeli army units and settlers. “Israeli soldiers kill Palestinian protestors, Jewish settlers open fire at villagersé ” , “Israeli army shells a refugee camp, settlers block the main road leading to it ..”, “Army declares Palestinian land a military zone, settlers rush to expand a settlementé “, “Soldiers prevent Palestinian farmers from reaching their land for harvest, settlers kill a farmer while harvesting his olive trees…”
However, another serious mistake would be committed if we, unthinkingly isolate the brutality of the Israeli army and the murder campaign of the settlers, from the overall Israeli population and their perception of the Occupied Territories, as well as the policies carried out there.
A quick review of the results of October 8, 2000, Gallup poll, carried out by Israel’s largest Hebrew daily newspaper, Ma’ariv, would diminish the myth that views Israelis as doves, hawks, peace loving, and settlers. Even the decisive majority of the “pro peace” camp (the so-called Israeli left) has laid back in silence as if they have nearly accepted the ongoing massacre of Palestinians. The most active by far was Peace Now, which continues to preach an anti-occupation resolution.
Within Israel’s Jewish population, only 7 percent thought that the Israeli army is being too heavy handed in ending the violence, according to the Ma’ariv poll. The rest were evenly divided between those who thought the army was too light handed and those who agreed that the army has acted properly.
On the other hand, only 27 percent of the Jewish population in Israel believes that Ariel Sharon’s visit to Al Haram Al Shareif was what provoked Palestinians’ anger. The majority simply consider the visit a basic right. Moreover, 60 percent of those polled believe that Arabs in Israel should be “transferred” outside Israel’s borders.
While some tend to blame the violence on a minority group or a particular individual, such as settlers or Ariel Sharon, they overlook the greater picture of Israeli society, which is the central think tank for these colonial fantasies, this racism and military occupation.^
It is ludicrous that the Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza (70 percent from which according to American Palestinian historian Walid al-Khaldi, are American and Western European Jews) are widely perceived as victims. Israel’s success at creating such a falsehood was necessary so that the Israeli army could justify its military actions and its suppression of Palestinians as a mere “act of retaliation” against violence perpetrated by Palestinian “terrorists” against Jewish settlers. The settlers, armed to the teeth of course, also manage to retaliate on their own, often targeting children, women and defenseless farmers.
Israeli settlements are military forts with a strategic presence, not religiously significant as many Jews argue, but a military maneuver to confiscate more land, under the usual excuse that Israel is only hoping to achieve security for its citizens. If settlements were the simple and disorganized work of radical Jews, how can one explain that Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories have increased by more than 50 percent since the signing of Oslo in 1993, according to a Peace Now report on December 4th? Moreover, how can Israel’s “pro peace” government explain its decision to earmark around $300 million of next year’s budget for settlers, according to the same source, in a report issued in November?
In a report published by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics on December 11, it is stated that13,000 more Jewish settlers have moved to the Occupied Territories just in the first nine months of the current year. The newcomers will join over 200,000 already residing on stolen Palestinian land. It’s beyond a reasonable doubt, that the Israeli settlement agenda is a well-planned scheme, perpetrated, not only by the Israeli government and settlers, but also by Israeli society, who generously funds and strongly backs their government’s colonial practices.
Separating the Israeli army’s interests and the interests of the settlers is a big fallacy that must be exposed. Furthermore, talking about the occupation army and certain hard-liners in the Israeli government, as if they don’t mirror the dominating anti-Palestinian, pro-transfer, and militant sentiment upheld by most Israelis, is another fallacy. In truth, despite the five-decades of occupation in Palestine, the majority of Israelis remain colonialists, and in one way or another, they are all settlers.
* Ramzy Baroud is a contributor for arabia.com reporting from the US