There is a big difference between how Jewish-Israeli settler outposts are evacuated, and how Israelis imagine a Palestinian outpost being evacuated, if it ever came to be.
Let’s start with the Jewish-Israeli settler outpost. On Tuesday, 15 homes in the West Bank settler outpost called Netiv Ha’avot were evacuated, following a 21-month old ruling from the Israeli High Court of Justice, affirming that they were built on privately-owned Palestinian land. Under international law, all Israeli West Bank settlements are illegal and considered a “flagrant violation under international law” – but Israel has a “selective” view of what is legal in this respect, and considers some settlements to be legal if they are built on land that the state has confiscated.
Times of Israel reports how “some 2,500 Border Police officers were deployed to ensure the demolition of the homes was carried out peacefully”. And it is important to note, these officers are almost all unarmed. It’s worth looking at those pictures. Officers in t-shirts, backpacks, caps really look more as if they’re geared up for a hike in the hills south of Jerusalem, rather than prepared for any sort of violent confrontation. It’s very clear, that they are dressed up in order to give a signal: “we are not here to fight with you”.
But look what happened. After fourteen of the 15 buildings were cleared for demolition relatively peacefully, when the officers came to the last house, they were met by some 200 teenagers who had barricaded themselves inside, on the roof, in the basement and in the entryway. To prevent police entry, they used wire fencing, wooden planks and boulders. At this point in the early afternoon, Jacob Magid tweeted:
“Things beginning to get violent as officers begin trying to clear the final house. One soldier hit in the head with a paint ball and another hit in the head with a rock”.
He finally states:
“Eight officers have been injured, at least two of whom were taken to a hospital. Police said they were violently attacked by the protesters, who hurled rocks, bottles, paint balls and other objects at the security forces. Dozens of demonstrators on the roof of the building also harassed police and threw paint and water on them, as hundreds of others watched the clashes from outside the structure. The police statement said two officers were treated for head injuries, and another was lightly injured in the leg. According to police, a number of the protesters on the roof were also seen carrying cement blocks and glass bottles.”
Quite an event, right? But not a shot fired. All reported injuries are solely on the side of the police. They are clearly willing to take considerable violence from the settlers, even stones causing head injuries, and hey, the settler could have been throwing cement blocks.
Of course, in other cases, Israeli security forces take stone throwing very seriously. In last week’s killing of Izz al-Din Tamimi in Nabi Saleh by Israeli soldiers (several live rounds fired at close range), the Israeli army said that the 21-year-old Tamimi “flanked the troops and hurled the rock, striking a soldier’s head”, and that “In response, the soldier who was hit by the rock fired towards the Palestinian”. The army was nonetheless careful to note that no soldiers were injured.
So when stones come from a Palestinian hand, they are lethal and justify lethal reaction, but when they come from Jews – well then, the unarmed policemen take it in stride.
But what if the whole story about the evacuation of this Netiv Ha’avot outpost was not happening in a Jewish-Israeli outpost, but rather in a Palestinian outpost?
Haaretz journalist Dan Margalit has provided such a hypothetical horror scenario in a recent piece (Hebrew), relating to the recent Great March of Return protests, where he said that “the massive shooting at the beginning of the battles [sic] has saved many Palestinian lives”, thus opining that it was actually good for them. Margalit actually imagined the erection of a “temporary Palestinian outpost”:
“[T]he Palestinians hope to breach the fence, bypass the sniper positions, and to insert in to Israeli territory terrorists and children and handicapped. Breach of the fence and the setting up of a temporary Palestinian outpost upon Israeli soil within Green Line (pre-1967) territory would have caused an increased shooting in order to expel them and increased the number of killed”. (My emphasis).
Notice the mirror-similarity of the two scenarios: the actual Israeli-Jewish settler outpost outside the pre-1967 territory, and the imaginary Palestinian outpost within the 1967 territory. For Margalit, the ‘centrist’ journalist, there is absolutely no doubt in mind, that any Palestinian attempt at a “temporary outpost” would and should result in carnage that is even greater than what we have seen with the repeated Gaza massacres in the past several weeks. But when it’s a Jewish-Israeli settlement? Not only is the “temporary outpost” often allowed to stay put (seldom does the High Court rule for these outposts to be taken down) and is often subsequently legalized – but when it comes to the act of evacuation, this happens without a shot, despite substantial and violent resistance.
In the case of the Netiv Ha’avot settlement, lawmakers from the religious pro-settler Jewish Home party were at the outpost during the evacuation to express their support for the protesters, including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett. The Israeli cabinet has been working since February to secure that a portion of the settlement would be legalized, since the outpost includes 20 homes that were also built illegally (by Israeli standards), but were constructed on parcels declared by Israel to be “state land”. The residents plan to use the government’s authorization of an official building plan to advance the construction of 350 more homes in the neighborhood. The Israeli government has allotted 60 million shekels (approximately $16.5 million) which will be used to compensate the evacuated families and reconstruct the structures on a nearby hill. Bennett explained:
“[W]hoever wants to raze 15 homes will receive 350 on this hill. This is a difficult night. It is incomprehensible to the residents of the Netiv Ha’avot neighborhood and for everyone who has settled the precious Land of Israel. The only word that comes to mind is absurdity. I cannot recall a legal action as senseless as this…
“[T]his battle will not be won until the prime minister abides by his promise and finalizes the construction of a huge neighborhood on this very hill.”
But if Palestinians were merely to dream of doing the same thing: erect a “temporary settlement” across the Green Line, in a return to their land, well then, they need to be shot in advance, armed or not. The mere thought of it is an existential threat, and we’re doing them a great favor by massacring them before they get any more such ideas in their heads.
H/t Ian Berman