Scene from "Settlers" premiering March 17 at the Laemmle Theaters.

Calendar: March 17-23, 2017


FRI | MARCH 17

“THE SETTLERS”

This documentary by Shimon Dotan offers a provocative look at the controversial Israeli settlement movement. Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and West Bank during the Six-Day War. The hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have moved into the West Bank have made reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians much more complex. “The Settlers” examines residents ranging from opportunistic families seeking less costly living conditions to Western-style hippies, messianic religious extremists to idealistic farmers, settler “patriarchs” to new converts. Israeli intellectuals, politicians and academicians weigh in on the issues. Laemmle’s Monica Film Center, 1332 Second St., Santa Monica. (310) 394-9744. laemmle.com.

YJP SHABBAT DINNER

The Young Jewish Professionals of Los Angeles presents an opportunity to connect with a diverse group of 100 career-minded peers while enjoying a four-course meal and open bar. Hosted by Mendel and Rachey Simons. 6:30 p.m. $60; tickets available at eventbrite.com; no tickets at the door. Shefa Melrose, 7275 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. yjplosangeles.com.

SAT | MARCH 18

“CURTAINS”

The JFed Players Community Theater Ensemble presents “Curtains,” the final collaboration between Kander and Ebb, creators of “Cabaret” and “Chicago.” Set in 1959, this clever musical features murder, music, mystery, comedy and romance. 8 p.m.  $25; discounts available. Tickets available at jewishsgpv.org. Through March 26 on select dates. The Clarke Center, 401 Rolyn Place, Arcadia. (626) 445-0810. jewishsgpv.org.

SUN | MARCH 19

“TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION”

The Conejo Valley Chapter of the Brandeis National Committee presents “Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction.” Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman will discuss in detail the case of serial killer Lonnie Franklin, known as the Grim Sleeper, who was charged with the murder of 10 women from 1985 to 2007. This well-publicized trial concluded in May 2016. 1 p.m. $20; $22 at the door. RSVP to Jessie: jbrra@aol.com or Frona: kidzathart@aol.com. Temple Etz Chaim, 1080 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks. templeetzchaim.org.

KRAV MAGA

Join Young Adults of Los Angeles’ post-undergrads (ages 22-26) for a 90-minute introductory course on the Israeli self-defense techniques of krav maga. 1:30 p.m. $10; ticket sales close at noon March 17; no tickets available at the door. Krav Maga Worldwide, 11400 Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. yala.org/kravmaga.

IOSSIF VENTURA

Greek poet and Holocaust survivor Iossif Ventura is one of the last members of the Jewish community in Crete. Ventura survived World War II as a child in hiding and has used poetry to transform his trauma into words. He has published six books of poetry and his works have been translated into six languages. 3 p.m. Free. RSVP to Michael@lamoth.org. Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, 100 S. The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 651-3704. lamoth.org.

COMEDY AND QUESTIONS WITH ANNIE KORZEN

cal-korzenComedian Annie Korzen returns to the Whizin Center stage. Q-and-A to follow. 5 p.m. $25. American Jewish University, Familian Campus, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 440-1572. wcce.aju.edu.

CANTORS BENEFIT CONCERT

Leading cantors from across Los Angeles will perform in a concert to benefit the next generation of Southern California cantors. Proceeds from the Cantors Benefit Concert will fund scholarships for cantorial students at the Miller School of the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Academy for Jewish Religion, California. Featured cantors include  Nathan Lam, Marcus Feldman, Lisa Peicott, Don Gurney, Seth Ettinger, Phil Baron, Hillary Chorny, Judy Dubin Aranoff, Ira S. Bigeleisen and Alexander Berkovich. 7 p.m. Tickets start at $25. Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 766-9426. wp.adatariel.org/cantors-benefit-concert.

TUES | MARCH 21

INTERFAITH WOMEN’S FREEDOM SEDER

Join Temple Menorah and the Islamic Center of the South Bay for a Women’s Freedom Seder. Learn how the Exodus is understood in different faiths and how that message teaches the value of freedom. Come with your focus on unity, tolerance and respect for all faiths and people, and to promote freedom. 7 p.m. $25. Temple Menorah, 1101 Camino Real, Redondo Beach. (310) 316-8444. templemenorah.org.

TIMOTHY SNYDER and JONATHAN KIRSCH

cal-snyderTimothy Snyder, the Bird White Housum Professor of History at Yale, is an expert on 20th-century European history. Snyder warns us that in the 1920s and ’30s, many European democracies didn’t believe their countries ever could succumb to Nazism, facism or communism. He wrote a practical handbook called “On Tyranny,” a guide to knowing the signs of authoritarianism. “On Tyranny” provides 20 tips on preserving our freedom. Snyder will be in conversation with Jonathan Kirsch, author, attorney and the book editor of the Jewish Journal. 7:30 p.m. $20. Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills. writersblocpresents.com.

WED | MARCH 22

“VOICES OF SURVIVORS”

Enjoy an evening of original student theater based on the life stories of four Holocaust survivors. The performance is the culmination of an eight-week collaborative project between the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and Santa Monica High School’s theater department. The students in Santa Monica’s acting class participated in the museum’s “Voices of History” theater workshop, learning about the Holocaust, interviewing survivors and working with mentors to write, direct and stage the event. 7 p.m. Suggested donation: $10; $5 for students. Santa Monica High School, 601 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. (323) 651-3704. lamoth.org.

THURS | MARCH 23

SUSAN SILVERMAN TALKS ABOUT “CASTING LOTS”

Presented by the Whizin Center and University Women: Coffee & Conversation, author Susan Silverman will discuss her book “Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World.” Silverman, the older sister of irreverent comic Sarah Silverman, grew up with parents who were atheists. She shocked everyone when she became a rabbi and moved to Israel. The author will discuss her funny and moving memoir about her unique family that will resonate with anyone who has struggled to find a place in the world and to understand the significance of that place. Silverman will be joined by Jewish Journal columnist Danielle Berrin. 7:30 p.m. Free. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. aju.edu.

ASSI AZAR

Israeli television icon Assi Azar will give a motivational presentation in Hebrew. 8 p.m. $25. IAC Shepher Community Center, 6530 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills. (818) 451-1179. iacshephercenter.org.

EMET AFTER PARTY

Young professionals in every field are invited to the annual Emet After Party, featuring an appearance by honoree Albert Z. Praw. Emet, which means “truth” in Hebrew, is an active community of Jewish attorneys and other legal professionals in their 20s and 30s. 9 p.m. $30; $40 at the door; free with the purchase of ticket to the Legal Division Dinner. Business attire. The Beverly Wilshire Hotel, 9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. yala.org/emetafterparty

Facing peace push, Israel’s settlers present a new face to the world


The Yesha Council has represented Israel’s settlement of the West Bank for nearly five decades. It has  helped create what appears to be an irreversible reality to both critics and champions: Some 400,000 settlers live in settlements, where they enjoy their own wineries, Israeli chain stores, a university and a security infrastructure staffed by the Israel Defense Forces.

In the meantime, much of the world remains opposed to the settlements, which the United Nations considers illegal under international law, and which the United States variously considers “unhelpful” and “illegitimate.” Critics say the Jewish presence in land the Palestinians demand as part of a future state is a major impediment to any Israeli-Palestinian peace plans, including the recently launched French initiative.

For the Yesha Council, the umbrella group for Israeli settlements — its name is a Hebrew acronym for Judea and Samaria, the biblical names commonly used in Israel to designate the West Bank — impeding efforts to give back the biblical land of Israel is part of the point.

With the French initiative, and possibly a regional peace push, looming, the council last month appointed a new chief foreign envoy to make the settlers’ case to the world. Lt. Col. (res.) Oded Revivi will be the second person to hold the position, filling the shoes left empty over a year ago by Dani Dayan, the effective former council head who just became Israel’s general consul to New York (after Brazil rejected his appointment as ambassador there because of his settler past).

Revivi, 47, sat down with JTA on Aug. 1 at the Gush Etzion Winery to discuss his plans for the job.

A powerfully built man who wears a small knitted kippah and speaks British English with a Hebrew accent, Revivi is a relatively rare Israeli who can claim to understand Diaspora Jewry. As a child, he lived for several years in the United States and England. After finishing his Israeli army service as an officer in the Armored Corps, he earned a law degree in London, where he met an Englishwoman who is now his wife.

Since 2008, Revivi has been the mayor of Efrat, a large settlement in Gush Etzion with a majority immigrant population and a reputation for ideological moderation.  

The interview has been edited for clarity and structure.

Andrew Tobin: What will you tell the world about the settlers?

Oded Revivi: For the last 50 years, Yesha was mainly busy trying to build up the community and increase the numbers, and not so much telling and spreading the story. And all of a sudden we wake up almost 50 years later finding ourselves with all sorts of initiatives, not understanding our message, not really understanding the reality in which we are living here, and that needs to be conveyed.

The message is, at the end of the day: There are hundreds of thousands of Jews living here. There are a lot of Palestinians living here. There is an ecosystem that is working. It can be improved. There are things that need to be amended.

But it’s definitely not a conflict zone. Most of the terrorist attacks occur outside of Judea and Samaria. Yet the myth is that once there won’t be any Jews in Judea and Samaria, there will be peace and quiet in this region. And I’m trying to convey a message that [says] let’s see how the people actually live here day to day, one next to the other. How can we maybe create and spread a different story that there is coexistence going on, that there is cooperation going on, and it definitely can be improved, but we need to start somewhere?

AT: And your message is obviously that the settlers are here to stay.

OR: Of course.

AT: What will you take from Dani Dayan, and what will you change?

OR: Dani basically set the foundations for the understanding that we can’t just focus locally. He definitely invested a lot of time with the official diplomats, with the international media. I think it’s not enough. I think we need to do more. I think we need to find efficient ways to spread messages, and relatively cheaply, which is what this whole new media is about, something that during Dani’s time wasn’t developed.

Having said that, we also need partners, and one of the potential partners that is out there but needs to be pampered, developed and hugged, is the international Jewish community, who, because of some religious disagreements sometimes, feel out of the picture. Maybe by creating alliances with them, we’ll be able to multiply the message through the Jewish organizations throughout the world.

AT: That might be hard in the U.S. A growing number of American Jews are giving up on Israel, in part over frustration with the occupation. Does that worry you?

OR: I think some of the Israeli politicians don’t realize the importance of the alliance with the different sectors of Judaism around the world. When you are saying, “I have nothing to do with Conservative Jews anymore,” you’re basically saying that within a few years, you’re going to close down the strongest lobby that Israel has around the world, which is called AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee]. That is something that Israel cannot allow itself.

Again, let’s see what’s the common denominator; let’s see what’s the common ground; let’s see where the bridges are we can build with Conservative and Reform, even if we don’t fully accept the way that they practice their Judaism. There’s a joint interest. And that’s a major theme in what I’m trying to convey. And it doesn’t matter, again, with which groups we’re having the dialogue.

One way we want to start reaching out to the Diaspora Jewish community is to let them buy products from Israel, including Judea and Samaria, on our website. We actually got the idea from AIPAC Canada. That’s an excellent way to overcome BDS [the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel]. Not confronting it, just overtaking it.

AT: The current wave of Palestinian violence, which is centered in the West Bank, seems like a challenge to the message that Jews and Arabs can live together there under Israeli rule. Do you see it that way?

OR: That’s an excellent example of how people don’t know the facts and jump to conclusions. Most of the stabbing attacks, the last time I looked at statistics, over 60 percent of them, happened in what we call “Little Israel” [within the 1967 borders]. Only 40 percent happened in Judea and Samaria.

That misconception is an example of how the conflict is going wrong, what the challenges are and how a wrong reputation is being built up. Then, all of a sudden, you need to challenge the myth instead of actually dealing with the problem itself. Again, what I’m trying to do is to build bridges and to show the common denominator.

The majority of the developed world today is dealing with that same challenge. If we understand that it’s a global challenge, if we understand that there’s a common denominator to what we’re suffering here and what people are suffering in Brussels and in France and in England and in the United States, maybe the leadership of the world will put the focus on those small, violent, strong minorities, instead of rejecting the majority by collective punishment.

AT: When you refer to “collective punishment,” is that a criticism of how Israel responds to Palestinian violence?

OR: Building fences is not the answer. You have all the time to build security, which as far as I’m concerned means to find a shared interest, or an interest that the result will be the same that both parties can benefit.

For example, in Efrat, where the security fence is not built, it’s not a motorway for suicide bombers because — and not a lot of Israelis are willing to admit this — the Palestinian Authority realized that the pictures of suicide bombers don’t serve their interests, and they’re doing quite a lot to stop those extremists from coming and blowing themselves up.

So you see both sides have interests, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the same interest, but the result is the same. Both sides enjoy the fact that there’s no fence and there are no suicide bombers crossing.

AT: I know you are close with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many other Israeli officials. Will you work closely with the government?

OR: I think anybody who thinks at this stage that you can work independently, ignoring the different views, ignoring the different politicians, doesn’t understand how the system works.

I had here yesterday the minister of religion [David Azoulay], who is one of the people who is getting criticism from the Reform and the Conservative movements. I can have a discussion with him, and yet I can go and speak to the Conservative and Reform synagogues or temples asking them to support us in our initiative against BDS.

Once we establish that connection with the different groups, maybe it will be used even to support the agenda of the Conservative and Reform movements. I don’t know where it’s going to lead. What I do know is that we are not strong enough to stand by ourselves, and we need allies of all different sorts, and we’re going to try to reach out to anybody who can help. 

Five Palestinians sentenced for killing 4-year-old Jewish girl


An Israeli military court sentenced five Palestinians to 15 years in jail for killing Adele Biton, a 4-year-old Jewish girl.

The five young men, who were minors aged 16-17 at the time of the incident three years ago, were not convicted of premeditated murder because of their young age when they threw stones at the car carrying Biton, causing a collision, Army Radio reported after the sentencing Thursday night.

Instead, the military prosecution indicted the five killers from the West Bank village of Hares with manslaughter. They were identified as Muhammad Mahdi Suleiman, Tamer Ayyad Ahmad Souf, Ammar Abd al-Nayif Souf, Ali Yassin Ali Shamlawi and Muhammad Jumaa Muhammad Kleib.

Biton, the daughter of two Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, was severely injured in March 2013 and died of complications related to her injury in February last year, at the age of 4.

The Yesha Council, which represents Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, cited Biton’s case as an example of the danger of stone throwing, which the council’s leaders said was not being dealt with strongly enough by authorities.

The military court also ordered Biton’s killers to pay several thousand dollars in damages to the Biton family.

Settlers removed from Hebron buildings


Israeli troops removed several dozen settlers from two buildings in Hebron, which the settlers said they had bought from Palestinians.

The evacuation Friday morning followed the settlers’ entrance into the buildings on Thursday, Army Radio reported. It came closely after confirmation by Israel of its controversial plan to seize land near Jericho despite opposition to the move by the United Nations and the United States.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said the settlers’ presence in the two buildings in a Palestinian part of Hebron was not authorized by the Israel Defense Forces, which has administrative power over Israelis in the area, and was therefore illegal.

“Israel is a country that is run based on laws, and I have no intention of compromising when those laws are blatantly violated,” Army Radio quoted him saying. The individuals resisted their forceful removal, but no one was hurt in the evacuation.

Separately, the Defense Ministry confirmed in an email to Reuters Thursday that it planned to seize 380 acres in the West Bank, close to Jordan and the Palestinian city of Jericho.

“Settlement activities are a violation of international law and run counter to the public pronouncements of the government of Israel supporting a two-state solution to the conflict,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement.

The United States, whose ambassador angered Israel this week with criticism of the Jewish state’s West Bank policies, said it was strongly opposed to any moves that accelerate settlement expansion.

“We believe they’re fundamentally incompatible with a two-state solution and call into question, frankly, the Israeli government’s commitment to a two-state solution,” deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Wednesday.

Reacting to the eviction in Hebron, two right-wing lawmakers, Likud’s Oren Hazan and the Jewish Home’s Bezalel Smotrich, said they might break their voting discipline with the coalition following the eviction.

“Minister Ya’alon’s private security policy cannot be allowed to continue,” Hazan wrote on Twitter. “Unless a solution is found to the houses in Hebron, I do not commit to voting with the coalition.”

Israel’s 34th government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu relies on a narrow coalition of 61 lawmakers at the Knesset, with 59 lawmakers in the opposition. This means the government needs the vote of every member of the coalition to pass laws and push through budgets.

Are settlers to blame for the violence in the Middle East?


The continued building of settlements on the West Bank tends to be the focal of Israel bashers. The settlements have been a contentious subject during the tenure of the Obama and Bibi administrations, and international leaders bringing attention to them is frequent. For example, last week John Kerry issued a statement somewhat legitimizing the recent wave of terrorism as a response to their continuation: “And there's been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years, and now you have this violence because there's a frustration that is growing.”

Irrespective of how blasphemous it is to suggest that the creation of parks, schools and homes could lead people to stab or run over innocent Jews with credibility, it’s appal-ling and unreasonable how often we hear about the settlers, as if they are the cause of instability in not only Israel, but the entire Middle East.

How can there be a remotely rational comparison between bloodthirsty, violent terror-ists on one hand and people living on disputed territories on the other? No, the settlements are not helpful to the solution in Israel, but it’s faulty to cast them as the propellor that keeps the conflict running. Alan Dershowitz reminds us that the Arabs committed terror attacks in 1949 – 1967 before there ever was a single settlement.

During my college years, Israel bashing weeks were quite common and they still are on many campuses. The central idea at these events is that their attendees are not antisemitic, but anti-zionist or humanitarian. But after a certain point, watching these hostile crowds rally month after month, pontificating about the settlements, it became clear we weren’t just talking about the policies of a small country across Earth. Condemning the settlements became an excuse for acting extreme. Howard Stern observed something similar when discussing Roger Waters’ open letter for the BDS movement: “It looks like you’re a little too consumed with it.” As difficult as it may be to assess bigotry versus free speech, that is perhaps the greatest indicator: the obsession, or the intensity of focus on one specific people or country. Because if the incentive of the BDS movement or other Israeli bashing entities was truly humanitarian, where are the condemnations of the Syrian or Sudanese governments in their human rights violations? Where is the humanitarian outcry over the seven-hundred innocent Arabs who were trampled to death in Mecca just a month ago?

Others are more reasonable and understand Israel is in an existential predicament, and that the settlements are not the cause of the conflict, but they should not be expanded, nevertheless. It’s a valid point—a final decision must be made on these ambiguous lands if there is ever going to be an end to this—but at the same time, if you are going to condemn the Jews for winning wars and making territorial gains, why not also condemn the rest of humanity? The United States, European powers like France and the United Kingdom, the Arab countries, have all had their borders defined by war. Israel is the only country I’ve read about which after seizing land offered to negotiate it right back, but the point remains: by this logic, every single person living on Earth is an ‘occupier’ or a ‘settler,’ or at least a descendant of one. Why do we only globally condemn the Jewish ones and hold rallies to have them vacate?

Let’s be real: the world’s obsession with Israel and the recent wave of repulsive violence has little to do with Israeli settlements in the West Bank or policies regarding the Temple Mount. As Rabbi Shmuley Boteach puts it, “Israel is not hated because of its security policies. It’s hated because the world has a 2000-year problem with the Jews.”

Fatah unit claims responsibility for murder of Israeli couple


A cell affiliated with Fatah’s armed wing assumed responsibility for the murder of an Israeli couple near the West Bank settlement of Itamar.

The Abdel Qader al-Husseini Brigades, a group affiliated with Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, announced on Friday that its men on Thursday night opened fire on the car of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin, a couple in their 30s, while they were driving home with four of their six children, aged four months to 9 years, from Hebron. The children were not wounded in the attack.

The victims are the son and daughter-in-law of Chana and Yehuda Henkin, a U.S.- born couple who in 1990 founded Nishmat, an institute for advanced Torah study for women in Jerusalem.

Fatah, headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, is the largest faction within the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is the governing body in West Bank areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

“With Allah’s help and in keeping with our people right for resistance and our duty to sacred jihad, our forces on Thursday night carried out a necessary action in which they fired on a car of occupying settlers that left the settlement of Itamar, built on Palestinian lands in the south of the city of Hebron,” the statement said. “They fired on the car and killed the settler and his partner.”

The statement, translated into Hebrew by the Ma’ariv daily, also warned “the enemy against taking revenge on civilians,” as “any war crimes would be severely retaliated against.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that “wild Palestinian incitement leads to acts of terrorism and murder such as we have seen this evening.” He added he will consult Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on how to apprehend the killers, who fled the scene, and “increase security for all Israeli citizens.”

Shortly after the attack, unidentified individuals set on fire a car in the Palestinian village of Bitilu near Ramallah and wrote “Revenge Henkin” on a nearby wall. No one was hurt in the fire, Army Radio reported.

The Henkins, who lived in the West Bank settlement of Neria, were ambushed while driving home from Hebron, where Eitam Henkin was attending a reunion for graduates of Yeshivat Nir. He and his wife are to be buried today at Har HaMenuchot Cemetery in Jerusalem.

Fifteen percent of West Bank settlers are American citizens.


Fifteen percent of West Bank settlers are American citizens.

According to an Oxford University professor, approximately 60,000 American Jews live in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Haaretz reported Thursday.

“This provides hard evidence that this constituency is strikingly over-represented, both within the settler population itself and within the total population of Jewish American immigrants in Israel,” Sara Yael Hirschhorn, the author of the forthcoming book “City on a Hilltop: Jewish-American Settlers in the Occupied Territories Since 1967,” said during a presentation at Jerusalem’s Limmud conference, Haaretz reported.

The book will be published by Harvard University Press next year.

An estimated 170,000 American immigrants and their children live in Israel, according to Haaretz.

Hirschhorn said her findings contradict much of the conventional wisdom about American Israelis who immigrated in the 1960s and ‘70s, particularly that they came to Israel for lack of any other options, that they were very Orthodox and that they had supported right-wing causes in America.

Hirschhorn said her research reveals that most American Jewish settlers came when they “were young, single, highly-educated – something like 10 percent of American settlers in the occupied territories hold PhDs, they’re upwardly mobile, they’re traditional but not necessarily Orthodox in their religious practice, and most importantly, they were politically active in the leftist socialist movements in the U.S. in the 1960s and 70s and voted for the Democratic Party prior to their immigration to Israel.”

She said her 10 years of research reveal a portrait that “is one of young, idealistic, intelligent and seasoned liberal Americans who were Zionist activists, and who were eager to apply their values and experiences to the Israeli settler movement.”

According to Haaretz, Hirschhorn said at Limmud that she reached the following conclusion about this group of immigrants: “They’re not only compelled by some biblical imperative to live in the Holy Land of Israel and hasten the coming of the messiah, but also deeply inspired by an American vision of pioneering and building new suburbanized utopian communities in the occupied territories. They draw on their American background and mobilize the language they were comfortable with, discourses about human rights and civil liberties that justify the kind of work that they’re doing.”

Many American settlers “use the values and language of the left to justify projects on the right,” she added.

The value of apology


As the 10th anniversary of the Gaza disengagement approaches, the media in Israel have naturally started looking back on that event. Last Shabbat, Yedioth Ahronoth featured a photo essay showing once-thriving Jewish communities now used as launching pads at Israel.

The pictures brought me straight back to the anger, frustration and the abiding sadness not only of the summer of 2005, but of the 12-year period leading up to it. To a large degree, 1990s-era politics were defined by two things: stubborn refusal by supporters of the peace process to even acknowledge potential flaws in the Oslo Accords, and by the collective accusation that skeptics of Oslo were enemies to be vanquished. Even before the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, opposition to the Oslo process — or even questioning its administration — was enough to render one at best an outcast, and at worst an enemy of Israel.

Disengagement was carried out in that context: The withdrawal from Gaza was a legitimate political decision. The open theft of 1,800 homes and livelihoods by the government bordered on criminal. A decade later, some of Gaza’s Jews continue to live in caravilla mobile homes in “temporary” communities, and many have yet to rebuild their lives. One might use the word refugees.

On a personal level, it is clear that Ariel Sharon planned to “deal” with the West Bank settlers — with me — the same way he’d taken care of his previous allies in Gaza in just four days.

As I simmered again over it all this week, it occurred to me just how far an apology would go. It got me thinking about how much a visit to Efrat by former Meretz MK Yossi Sarid, one of the architects of the “settlers are the enemy” approach, would mean. Not for him to stand down on his left-wing principles, but to apologize for the needless hurt that he, and so many of his colleagues, caused for making me out not to be wrong in our opinions, but to be an enemy.

“I still believe that Israel and the Palestinians must separate into two states for the benefit of Israel,” he could say, “and I think we were right to do what we did during the 1990s, and even that we were right to pull out of Gaza in 2005.

“But we were wrong to have painted you and your community as enemies. Your opposition was principled and legitimate, and I apologize to the people we hurt with our attitude.”

All of which got me thinking about the nature and value of apology between Israel and the Palestinians. I believe the overall picture of the Israel-Palestinian conflict shows a clear moral victory to Israel: The Arabs started wars, Israel defended itself, and usually tried to act morally under difficult circumstances.

But too often, we have hidden behind that fact in order to inure ourselves to Palestinian suffering. Regardless of the justice of Israel’s cause, many Palestinians have gotten hurt as a result. No, Israel need not — must not — apologize for becoming a successful nation, for welcoming and absorbing millions of Jewish refugees from the Arab world, from Russia and elsewhere, and for building a thriving cultural and economic life.

But is our society mature enough at least to identify with Palestinians’ pain over the loss of a culture that was annihilated as a result? Can we recognize the fact that despite our best efforts, we have failed morally on too many occasions?

Furthermore, would a listening ear and true empathy help create space for the children and grandchildren of 1948 refugees to internalize that that war is over and to begin the process of admitting there will be no return to Sheikh Munis, Talbiyeh or Al-Ja’una?

And what about the sins we have committed, such as the 1956 killing of 49 civilians at Kfar Kassem, an Arab town inside Israel’s 1948 border? But we stopped short of apologizing for the killings, perpetrated by IDF border police units. Or the deaths of 13 Israeli civilians protesting IDF tactics at the start of the Second Intifada in October 2000. Or the thousands of Palestinian homes that have been violated — often with just cause, and often without — by IDF troops searching for terror suspects.

The last example is a strong case in point. Of course, we must search for terror suspects, including in private homes. But those searches are a violation, and they necessarily violate the privacy of many innocents. Can we identify with the humiliation, the shame, the rage they must feel?

No, the War of Independence was not
Israel’s fault — had the Arab states not invaded, there would have been no war in 1947-48. Palestinians will say the opposite: Their parents and grandparents became refugees through no fault of their own, but rather because of Zionist “bandits” raging through Palestine.

This sort of argument will lead nowhere. The emotion of competing historical narratives makes discussion of that period, and of so many events since then, impossible. It is critical today to leave history to the historians, and to work together toward a joint future. That process can begin only by agreeing to disagree on historical narratives and concentrating instead on sharing emotions, feelings and a commitment to a joint future. 

Study: Jewish settlements receive higher share of state funds


Jewish settlements in the West Bank and on the Golan Heights received a higher share of state funds than other communities, according to a new report.

Arab towns receive the second highest amount of state funds per capita followed by development towns, according to the report by the Adva Center, which tracked Israeli government spending in communities over 20 years ending in 2012.

The report compares four types of localities: The Forum of 15, relatively affluent localities with balanced budgets;  Jewish development towns; Arab localities; and Jewish settlements in the West Bank and on the Golan Heights. The haredi Orthodox settlements of Betar Ilit, Modiin and Emanuel are considered separately from other settlements.

For Service Grants, or grants for state services provided by municipalities — the main services are education and for social welfare — settlement communities received about $743 per capita per year compared to $522 for periphery communities, according to the report. Residents of the Forum 15 cities, including Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheba, received $465.

Arab communities received $628 per capita per year, the most significant increase in government funds in the 20 years.

The haredi settlements received less money per capita than the non-haredi settlements because the money for education goes directly to the education system instead of being funneled through the municipality.

Over the past two decades, Israel’s population has grown by 60 percent. The greatest rate of growth, at 240 percent, occurred in the settlements, with most of the increase in the three haredi Orthodox settlements. Their growth rate alone amounted to 376 percent, while the rest of the settlements grew by 80 percent — closer to the overall average, according to the study.

 

 

Five Palestinians killed in West Bank violence


Five Palestinians were killed in the West Bank on Friday in shootings involving both Israeli forces and a civilian who appeared to be a Jewish settler, medics and witnesses said.

Three Palestinians were killed during clashes between Israeli forces shooting live bullets and protesters throwing stones near the flashpoint city of Hebron.

In a separate incident near another protest against the ongoing conflict in Gaza, witnesses said a person in a car believed to be a settler shot dead one man and wounded three others near the city of Nablus.

The victims were walking along a main street used by both Palestinians and settlers.

Clashes between Israeli border police and Palestinian youths throwing petrol bombs and fireworks escalated. A Reuters photographer witnessed the forces shoot and kill another man.

Israeli forces also shot and wounded two protesters and a local journalist approaching a military checkpoint near a settlement beside the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The Israeli police said it was investigating the violence.

The clashes follow the killing of a Palestinian north of Jerusalem during a thousands-strong protest which was one of the largest since a Palestinian uprising which ended in 2005.

Palestinian fury has mounted after 822 Palestinians – mostly civilians, according to Palestinian medics – have been killed in nearly three weeks of cross-border fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. The United States and regional powers are urgently seeking a truce.

Settler leader urges followers to step up ‘peaceful protests’


The head of a West Bank religious seminary that Israeli troops seized last month has called on followers to increase “peaceful protests.”

“We must do our part to continue and increase these peaceful protests,” Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, dean of the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar wrote in a statement he published online Tuesday.

The building housing the yeshiva was taken over by Israel Border Police troops on April 10 as punishment for riots in which men from Yitzhar targeted Israeli troops and property to protest the razing of illegal structures at the settlement.

In his statement, Ginsburgh referenced an incident that occurred Monday, when relatives of victims of terrorist attacks heckled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his Memorial Day speech to protest the release of Palestinian terrorists as part of peace talks.

He also mentioned footage that appeared last week, in which an Israeli infantry soldiers was seen pointing a loaded gun at a Palestinian youth who had provoked him near Hebron.

“We are witnessing an unprecedented awakening. But now that we have witnessed these displays and calls for truth and justice, we must continue to do more,” Ginsburgh wrote in his statement titled “Public Call to Increase Peaceful Public Protests.”

West Bank housing starts rise by more than 120 percent for 2013


New housing starts in the West Bank rose by more than 120 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year, according to official Israeli data.

Approved work began on 2,534 new West Bank homes and apartments in 2013, compared to 1,133 in 2012, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reported in new data released on Monday. Some 1,710 were in apartment buildings in the larger West Bank settlements, and 824 were single-family homes in smaller settlements.

The same data shows a 19 percent drop in housing starts in the Tel Aviv area.

The total number of housing starts throughout Israel rose 3.4 percent in 2013 compared to 2012, according to the CBS.

Housing starts in the West Bank have been lower since a 10-month freeze in building in West Bank settlements began in November 2009, in an effort to bring the Palestinians to the peace negotiating table. It took until 2013 for many new housing tenders to be issued for West Bank settlements, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The figures were released hours before a scheduled meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama in Washington. Washington considers continued building in the settlements as a major obstacle to arriving at a two-state peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinian vehicles vandalized as Borovsky mourning period ends


Palestinian-owned vehicles were torched and vandalized in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, apparently in recognition of the end of the 30-day mourning period for slain Israeli settler Eviatar Borovsky.

“Regards from Eviatar” and “30 for Eviatar” were spray-painted on walls near about nine torched vehicles in Palestinian villages, and other cars had their tires slashed in attacks that occurred early Wednesday morning.

No one has been arrested for the vandalism, which occurred in two villages in the Jordan Valley, in a village near Ramallah and in Jerusalem.

Wednesday marks the shloshim that began at the burial of Borovsky, 31, a father of five from the Yitzhar settlement who was killed by a Palestinian assailant April 29 while waiting for a bus at the Tapuach Junction.

Other “price tag” attacks occurred in the days following Borovsky’s death.

“Price tag” refers to the strategy that extremist settlers and their supporters have adopted to exact retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or Palestinian attacks on Jews.

Murder of Jewish settler sparks West Bank clashes


Israeli settlers and Palestinians clashed in the West Bank more than a day after the murder of a Jewish man by a Palestinian attacker.

Jewish settlers threw rocks at passing Palestinian cars, and settlers and Palestinians threw rocks at each other in the northern West Bank on Wednesday, according to reports.

Late Tuesday night, the words “Price Tag” were sprayed on a house in a Palestinian village near Ramallah, and five cars there were damaged by rock throwing, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“Price tag” refers to the strategy that extremist settlers and their supporters have adopted to exact retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or Palestinian attacks on Jews.

Eviatar Borovsky, 31, a father of five from the Yitzhar settlement, was killed Tuesday morning as he waited for a bus at the Tapuach Junction. The stabber then took Borovsky's gun and began shooting at Border Guard officers. The officers returned fire, injuring the Palestinian, who was taken to an Israeli hospital to be treated for his wounds.

Following the attack, a group of Yitzhar residents set fields afire and threw stones at a Palestinian school bus, Haaretz reported.

Since the murder, at least 15 Jewish settlers have been arrested for violence against Palestinians.

Several hundred people attended Borovsky's funeral. Later, a photo of one of his young sons hugging his lifeless body draped in a prayer shawl went viral on Facebook.

In January, a 17-year-old Israeli was stabbed at the same junction.

Israel-Palestinian peace talks: A ‘peace frame of mind’ is needed


For Israel to reach peace with the Palestinians, a fundamental adjustment of attitudes will be required — on both sides.

It should start by both sides recognizing that peace is not a gift that one party can bestow on the other or that one party needs more than the other. It’s not as if the status quo is acceptable and Israel would be doing the Palestinians a big favor by granting them peace — or vice versa.

In the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Gatekeepers,” which has recently been creating such a stir in Israel and the United States, six former directors of the Shin Bet security service argue how important it is for Israel to finally end the occupation of Palestinians — for Israel’s own long-term well-being.

Avraham Shalom, the oldest of the group, who was known for his tough tactics, concludes that Israeli policy has become more about punishing the Palestinians than anything else. “We have become cruel,” he says. And, as a result, as fellow former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon says in the film’s closing, Israel risks “winning every battle but losing the war.”

[Click here to read a counterargument by Rabbi Marvin Hier]

Right now, such honest self-examination is rare. Israelis and Palestinians seem locked in psychological patterns in which they discount the views and claims of the other side as having little or no validity. Each side has its own narrative, proclaims its own historic and legalistic rights. and tries to delegitimize the other side’s claims.

The battle is fought in the media and in international institutions like the United Nations, with both sides and their proxies striving every day to demonstrate how 100 percent right they are and how 100 percent wrong the other side is.

Yes, the Palestinians should stop making anti-Semitic comments and honoring suicide bombers — but has the Israeli government been entirely faultless?

To give but one example, the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank excluding East Jerusalem grew by more than 15,000 in 2012 to reach a total that for the first time topped 350,000, according to official Israeli statistics. The number has almost doubled in the past 12 years. 

How is a Palestinian supposed to feel at this constant erosion of territory that is supposed to be a future Palestinian state? Does it bespeak an Israeli willingness to make peace or is it evidence of a determined drive to eventually annex and absorb the land in a “Greater Land of Israel”?

A State Department-funded study of Israeli and Palestinian textbooks released this month provides another example of the ‘blame game’ mind-set prevalent on both sides. 

It’s not that textbooks that were analyzed actually invented or distorted facts. But they do carefully  select facts to paint the other side as brutal, extreme and two-faced. The result is that both Israeli and Palestinian kids grow up learning just one side of the story and are educated to expect the worst of each other.

Or take the recent statement by former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who remains Benjamin Netanyahu’s most important political ally, that peace with the Palestinians is impossible right now, not because of anything the Palestinians are or are not doing, but because of instability and violence in neighboring Arab countries.

“It is not possible to solve the conflict here,” said Lieberman, adding that the ball was in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ court to renew diplomacy.

With a statement like that, why should Abbas renew diplomacy? What is there to talk about?

Such statements are self-fulfilling prophecies. But that’s where both sides are right now, and they are going to need help to break out of it. That’s where U.S. mediation is so crucial. 

The trick will be for President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to bring both sides to a realization that negotiations are not about proving which of them is more right and which is more wrong (or wronged), but in reaching a compromise to benefit both peoples. It’s not about what each side may have to sacrifice but about what they stand to gain. 

Jewish settlers to move into contested Hebron building


Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, has reportedly ordered authorities to allow the Jewish owners of a building in Hebron to move into it.

According to Haaretz, Barak on Thursday ordered the Civil Administration — a military body responsible for civilian matters in Israeli-controlled West Bank territory — to transfer the eastern Hebron building known locally as “the brown house” over to its Jewish owners in accordance with a court ruling last month.

The Jerusalem District Court ruled that the building’s Jewish owners had legally purchased the building from Palestinians.

The building’s owners bought the building in 2004 from its previous Palestinian owners, Faiz Rajbi and Abed Elkader, through an Arab middleman for about $500,000, Haaretz reported. However, in 2007 Rajbi changed his mind about selling. The settlers then filed to have the Rajbis evicted.

According to the Haaretz report, the Civil Administration prevented the Jewish owners from moving in until the case was settled in court.

Army Radio reported on Friday that leaders of the Jewish settlers in Hebron were preparing to move several Jewish families into the building within weeks or even days.

Jewish settlers won’t go quietly as eviction looms


The clock is ticking for 30 Jewish settler families in the West Bank.

Israel’s Supreme Court has said their homes sit on privately-owned Palestinian land and as an eviction deadline draws near, they say they will not go quietly.

“They will have to drag me out of here,” said Yoel Fattal, 28, who lives with his wife and three young children in one of the five apartment blocs the government must tear down by July 1, on the Ulpana hill in the settlement of Beit El.

Fattal said news of the court ruling hit them “like a bolt of lightning on a clear day”. When he leased the flat five years ago, he had not imagined such a scenario could be possible.

“It hasn’t broken us, but it is very difficult,” he said as his wife sat beside him bouncing their 7-month-old son on her knee. “We are at the frontline of the struggle … our main fear is that if this goes by easily it will not stop there.”

Fattal can see the Palestinian city of Ramallah from his balcony. A military camp, where Palestinian workmen employed by Israeli authorities are preparing mobile homes as temporary housing for the 30 families, is just down the road.

Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. They say Jewish settlements will deny them contiguous territory. Some 311,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank against 2.5 million Palestinians.

The United Nations deems all settlements in the West Bank to be illegal. Israel disputes this and has sanctioned 120 official settlements, most of them built on land which had no registered owner when it was seized in a 1967 war.

But the anti-settlement group Peace Now says roughly 9,000 homes were built on land listed as owned by Palestinians. The fate of some of those houses is now in the hands of the Supreme Court, which is yet to rule on a number of ongoing cases.

FEELING CHEATED

“No one wants a fight,” Fattal’s wife, Yiska, said. “It is difficult for us and it is difficult for them too,” she said, referring to the Israeli policemen or soldiers who may be assigned to carry out the eviction order.

Ulpana is a political headache for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The settlers are a traditional support base for him, but the pending eviction has left them feeling betrayed.

“People definitely feel cheated and he (Netanyahu) probably cannot follow through on all the promises he has made,” Yoel Fattal said. In an effort to appease the settlers, Netanyahu has pledged to build 851 new homes for them in the West Bank, angering Palestinians and drawing international condemnation.

Treading through a political minefield, Netanyahu last week won a parliamentary battle against an attempt to legalize all Israeli settler homes on private Palestinian land.

Talks are ongoing between officials and settler leaders to try and avoid any violence at Ulpana. A contested eviction would be reminiscent of Israel’s removal of 8,000 Jews from Gaza in 2005—a withdrawal that still stirs great settler resentment.

Outside the Ulpana apartments, settlers have erected a protest camp. A poster on the fence says: “We will not let the destruction of the neighborhood pass quietly,” and calls on Israelis to march against the eviction.

Tyres have been stacked by the road apparently to serve as a barricade should Israeli forces move in to remove the settlers.

“NOT JUST BRICK WALLS”

Beit El is the scene of several biblical tales. In one, God changes Jacob’s name to Israel and promises to give him the land of his fathers, Isaac and Abraham.

Like many settlers, Brad and Michal Kitay, who bought their Ulpana home more than two years ago, cite such Biblical ties to West Bank land, which Israel calls by its Old Testament name, Judea and Samaria, as the reason for living there.

“Unfortunately we found ourselves in the middle of a big politicization of this issue. It’s difficult on a personal level. It’s a home, it’s not a house. It’s love and it’s memories and it’s family. It’s not just brick walls,” Brad said.

There are no cardboard boxes piling up in their house and they have not begun packing their belongings.

Moshe Rosenbaum, head of the Beit El council, was one of the founders of the settlement 35 years ago. He says some 7,000 people now live there, the vast majority in houses that face no legal challenge. But he is upset that 30 families must move on.

“It is immoral, it makes no sense, it is unjust and inhuman,” Rosenbaum said of the impending eviction. “Everyone is saying this is private Palestinian land. This is a lie,” he said, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling to the contrary.

“The lands were abandoned … even if it were ever proved to be owned by an Arab, he can be financially compensated,” Rosenbaum said. “Demolishing homes here will rip us apart – not just in Beit El. It will open a rift with hundreds of thousands of (Israelis) who live in Judea and Samaria.”

Palestinians have rejected offers of compensation and say they are eager to regain the Ulpana land.

Rosenbaum is concerned the eviction may get out of hand.

“Of course I’m worried. I know that thousands of people will come here. No one has control over what happens when there are thousands of people here, especially when the atmosphere is heating up,” he said.

Additional reporting by Rinat Harash; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Crispian Balmer

Video shows settlers firing on Palestinians


A video distributed by an Israeli human rights organization shows Jewish settlers firing at a group of rock-throwing Palestinians as Israeli soldiers look on.

Settlers from the West Bank village of Yitzhar clashed May 19 with residents of the Palestinian village Asira al-Qibliya. A Palestinian man, 24 was injured in the head by the gunfire.

The video released Sunday by B’tselem shows both Palestinians and settlers hurling rocks at each other, as smoke rises from fires started in the underbrush.

Both sides claim that the other began the rock throwing and set the fires.

At least three Israeli soldiers stood with the settlers and did not intervene as they fired on rock-throwing Palestinians.

The video shows a group of Palestinian men picking up and carrying the injured Palestinian man and running with him toward an ambulance.

B’tselem has called on the Judea and Samaria Police to arrest the settlers who fired on the Palestinians and has asked the Military Police Investigative Unit to open an investigation into the soldiers that did not intervene to protect the Palestinians.

A Yitzhar spokesman told Israeli media that the men carrying rifles were part of the settlement’s security service.

Jewish settlers evicted from Hebron home


Jewish settlers were evicted from a home near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron without incident.

Israeli security forces on Wednesday evacuated the Jewish families from the home they had entered a week ago. The evacuation reportedly took only a few moments.

The evacuation was carried out on the orders of Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

“I will continue to act in order to maintain the rule of law and democracy while guaranteeing the authority of the State over its citizens,” Barak said in a statement following the evacuation.

“Any request to acquire the relevant buying permit or any other transactions will be dealt with professionally and impartially, as is the practice. However, we cannot allow a situation where unlawful actions are taken to determine or dictate ad-hoc facts to the authorities.”

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top government ministers including Barak and Benny Begin had decided that the settlers would be removed from the home by April 26 if they could not prove that they had legally purchased and moved into the house. The Israeli officials’ meeting occurred hours after a mid-afternoon deadline for the settlers to leave the home passed with no consequences.

The eviction order issued Monday afternoon by the Israeli military’s Civil Administration said the settlers’ presence in the home violates public order. The residents of the home also did not request nor receive a required purchase permit from the Civil Administration.

That evening, Netanyahu asked Barak for a delay of the eviction until the settlers had an opportunity to prove in court their ownership of the house. Armed with documents that say they purchased the home from its Arab owner, the Jewish families entered the home in the middle of the night on March 28.

Hebron Mayor Khaled Osaily told Army Radio on Tuesday that the sale papers are forged and that the person who sold the house to the Jewish settlers is not the owner.

Netanyahu seeks delay in Hebron home eviction


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested a delay in the eviction of Jewish settlers who moved into an Arab-owned home near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

Netanyahu on Monday evening asked Defense Minister Ehud Barak for the delay until the several dozen settlers have an opportunity to prove in court their ownership of the house, the Defense Ministry said. Under an eviction order issued earlier in the day by the Israel Defense Forces, the settlers must leave by 3 p.m. Tuesday or they will be evacuated by the army.

The settlers say they bought the house and have the papers to prove it. Hebron Mayor Khaled Osaily told Army Radio on Tuesday that the sale papers are forged and that the person who sold the house to the Jewish settlers is not the owner.

The eviction order issued by the IDF’s Civil Administration says that the settlers’ presence in the home violates public order. The residents of the home, which includes families with young children, also did not request nor receive a required purchase permit from the Civil Administration.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz of the Likud Party visited what is being called the Machpelah house Tuesday morning to express his support for the building’s residents. The Cave of the Patriarchs is known as the Ma’arat HaMachpela in Hebrew.

“We are not making any preparations to evacuate and have no intention of leaving,” Shlomo Levinger, a resident of the house, told Ynet. “We plan to hold the Passover seder here.”

A special ministerial meeting to deal with the issue is scheduled for late afternoon Tuesday, after the 3 p.m. deadline.

Settlers remain in Hebron home after eviction deadline


Jewish settlers remained in a home near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, despite the passing of a deadline for them to prove their ownership or vacate the building.

Hours after the Tuesday afternoon deadline for the evacuation of the building passed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting with senior government ministers to discuss how to proceed. During a news conference to mark his government’s three years in power, Netanyahu said that he and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were “coordinated”  on the issue.

The previous evening he asked Barak for a delay of the eviction until the several dozen settlers have an opportunity to prove in court their ownership of the house.

Armed with documents that say they purchased the home from its Arab owner, the Jewish families entered the home in the middle of the night on March 28.

The eviction order issued Monday afternoon by the Israeli military’s Civil Administration said the settlers’ presence in the home violates public order. The residents of the home, including families with young children, also did not request nor receive a required purchase permit from the Civil Administration.

Hebron Mayor Khaled Osaily told Army Radio on Tuesday that the sale papers are forged and that the person who sold the house to the Jewish settlers is not the owner.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz of the Likud Party visited what is being called the Machpelah house Tuesday morning to express his support for the building’s residents. The Cave of the Patriarchs is known as the Ma’arat HaMachpela in Hebrew.

“We are not making any preparations to evacuate and have no intention of leaving,” Shlomo Levinger, a resident of the house, told Ynet on Monday. “We plan to hold the Passover seder here.”

Migron residents agree to relocation


Residents of Migron have signed an agreement with the Israeli government on relocating the illegal West Bank outpost.

The agreement signed Sunday will allow the outpost’s approximately 50 families to move to a nearby hill over the next three years, meaning that they will not be evicted as ordered by Israel’s Supreme Court. The current site will be turned over to the Civil Administration, which has agreed to consider public uses.

Migron, which is approximately 14 miles north of Jerusalem, had been slated under an Israeli Supreme Court order in 2011 to be razed by the end of this month. The state will ask the court to cancel its order.

In a statement, the residents said they signed the agreement “with a heavy heart, but out of responsibility to the nation in fulfillment of the High Court’s order to vacate the current site, and out of a desire to avoid confrontations and difficult scenes.”

“We do this even though we do not believe it is necessary, since Arab ownership of the current site has not been proven, and even though the residents of Migron were not given sufficient opportunity to prove their rights in civil court,” the statement said.

Minister Benny Begin brokered the negotiations between the government and residents.

Settlers, officers hurt in outpost demolition


Six West Bank settlers and three police officers were hurt during the demolition of an illegal outpost near Jericho.

Settlers threw rocks at police early Thursday morning when they gathered at an outpost near Mitzpeh Jericho to raze six dwellings. Police responded with tear gas, Haaretz reported. Hundreds of security forces reportedly gathered at the outpost, as well as 200 outpost supporters.

The police and three settlers were injured when the roof of one of the buildings collapsed as a protester was being removed.

At least three settlers were arrested on suspicion of assaulting police officers.

A dwelling in a second outpost was removed earlier on Thursday morning, according to reports.

Israeli military bans a dozen settlers from the West Bank


The Israel Defense Forces has issued orders banning 12 settlers from the West Bank.

The right-wing activists—residents of Yitzhar, Havat Gilad, Elon Moreh and Ramat Migron—may not enter the West Bank for periods of three to nine months. They are accused of violence against Palestinians.

The 12 also are accused of planning and executing attacks against Israeli soldiers.

They were served with the restraining orders early Thursday.

West Bank mosque set alight following outpost razing


A mosque in the West Bank was set alight hours after Israeli soldiers demolished two structures in an illegal outpost.

The interior of a mosque in a village near Ramallah was torched after being soaked with gasoline on Thursday morning. The words “war” and “Mitzpe Yitzhar,” the outpost that was razed early Thursday morning, were painted on the mosque. The attack comes a day after an historic unused mosque in Jerusalem was set on fire, damaging its exterior, and Palestinian vehicles were torched in the West Bank. Right-wing extremists have been blamed for the attacks.

A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the mosque attack a declaration of war by the settlers against the Palestinian people. He placed responsibility for the attack on the Israeli government and called on the international community to get involved.

The attack came hours after hundreds of Israeli soldiers and police dismantled two buildings, one residential, in the illegal West Bank outpost of Mitzpe Yitzhar, in which five families live.

There was little resistance since the area around the outpost was declared a closed military zone, preventing dozens of right-wing activists from entering the site.

On Tuesday night, settlers and right-wing activists vandalized a West Bank Israel Defense Forces base, injuring an officer, and threw stones at Palestinian cars after IDF forces in the area mobilized in that settlers thought was an effort to raze a West Bank outpost.

Meanwhile, on Thursday five people arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of involvement in price tag attacks against Palestinian property were ordered held for another 24 hours by the Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court. Their arrest led to clashes between right-wing activists and police in Jerusalem.

Also on Thursday during a meeting with settlement leaders and rabbis, Israeli President Shimon Peres criticized the attacks against Palestinians and the IDF.

“There is no room for criminality, violation of the law and riotousness. It’s horrible to see our sons and daughters enter IDF bases and nearly kill an officer,” he reportedly said. He called the settlers actions “adding fuel to the fire” in the Middle East.

Israeli soldier arrested for leaking information to settlers


An Israeli soldier was arrested on suspicion that he leaked information on military operations in the West Bank to settlers.

Though no specific charges have been made, it is suspected that the soldier’s actions allowed extremist settlers to disrupt Israeli army operations and carry out “price-tag” attacks.

Investigators for the Israeli military questioned the soldier Monday, and when he refused to cooperate arrested him, according to reports. 

The soldier, a resident of the West Bank who is a married father of two, serves in the Samaria Brigade’s rabbinate as a kashrut supervisor and is not believed to belong to any extremist groups, according to reports.

Israeli extremists last month vandalized an Israeli army base in the region, reportedly in retaliation for the razing of three homes in the West Bank’s Migron outpost.

Bibi wants task force on legalizing West Bank Jewish homes


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the creation of a task force to find ways to legalize West Bank homes built on private Palestinian land.

The Israeli leader’s instruction to Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman came Monday, according to Haaretz,  in the wake of a letter from 38 lawmakers from several political parties and five government ministers calling on Netanyahu not to destroy Jewish homes built on the Palestinian-owned land.

Under a court order, several outposts built on Palestinian-owned land housing some 1,000 residents are scheduled to be demolished following the Sukkot holiday.

Lawmakers have been pressed to find a solution besides demolishing Jewish homes in the West Bank since the razing of three permanent homes last month in the Migron outpost.

Price tag attacks in recent weeks on West Bank mosques and Arab sacred sites have referenced the Migron demolitions. Price tag refers to the strategy that extreme rightist Israelis have adopted to exact retribution against Palestinians for settlement freezes and demolitions, or for Palestinian attacks on Jews.

Israeli military base vandalized allegedly by settlers


An Israeli military base has been vandalized in what is believed to be retribution against the army by settlers.

The base was infiltrated early Wednesday by unknown assailants, who vandalized thirteen army vehicles by puncturing tires, shattering the windows, and spraying graffiti against Israel Defense Forces commanders and against dismantling of structures in the Jewish settlement of Migron on Monday, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The words “price tag” were also sprayed on the vehicles. Price tag refers to the strategy that extremist settlers have adopted to exact a price in attacks on Palestinians in retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or for Palestinian attacks on Jews.

The IDF believes that soldiers were complicit in the attack, since it is very difficult to infiltrate a military base.

It is the first time that settlers have allegedly carried out planned vandalism against army property, Haaretz reported.

The attack appears to be in retaliation for the razing of three permanent homes in the Migron outpost near Jerusalem. A West Bank mosque was also attacked, allegedly by settlers, in the hours following the demolition.

Upon being briefed about the incident, the GOC of the Central Command, Maj.-Gen.  Avi Mizrahi contacted the commander of the Judea and Samaria Region District of the Israel Police, saying that the “diverting of anger towards military officials with the objective of deterring them from carrying out legal operations, government and Supreme Court decisions is unacceptable and reprehensible. I intend, along with the law enforcement authorities to apprehend those responsible for the incident, and bring them to justice.”

The settlers’ organization, Yesha Council, condemned the attack. “Those responsible for the crimes must turn themselves in to the police, and the security forces must act with resolve to uproot this aberrant phenomenon,” the council said in a statement.

Settlers blamed for West Bank mosque arson


Palestinian security sources have blamed Jewish settlers for torching a mosque in a West Bank village.

Burning tires were rolled into the mosque in Maghayer village near Ramallah, setting rugs in the building on fire, according to reports.  The building sustained fire damage; no deaths or injuries were reported.

The mosque’s walls were also sprayed with graffiti, which reportedly read “Alei Ayin,” which the name of a nearby settlement outpost which was demolished last week by Israeli police.  Other slogans spray painted on the wall reportedly read,” “Price Tag,” and “This is only the beginning.”

“Price tag” refers to the strategy extremist settlers have adopted to exact a price in attacks on Palestinians in retribution for settlement freezes or their attacks on Jews.

Several West Bank mosques have been torched in the last year; most incidents were blamed on Jewish settlers.

A joint police-Israel Defense Forces investigation has been launched into the incident.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ordered that PA funds be made immediately available to repair the mosque.

Are Israeli settlers human?


A few years ago, British poet and Oxford don Tom Paulin offered a view on what should be done to certain Jewish settlers. “[They] should be shot dead,” he told Al-Ahram Weekly. “I think they are Nazis, racists. I feel nothing but hatred for them.” As for Israel itself, it was, he said, “an historical obscenity.”

On Friday night, March 11, apparently one or more members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the terrorist wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ “moderate” Fatah party, broke into the West Bank home of Udi and Ruth Fogel. The Jewish couple were stabbed to death along with their 11-year-old son, Yoav; their 4-year-old son, Elad; and their 3-month-old daughter, Hadas. Photographs taken after the murders and posted online show a literal bloodbath. Is Mr. Paulin satisfied now?

Unquestionably pleased are residents of the Palestinian town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, who “hit the streets Saturday to celebrate the terror attack” and “handed out candy and sweets,” according to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. The paper quoted one Rafah resident saying the massacre was “a natural response to the harm settlers inflict on the Palestinian residents in the West Bank.” Just what kind of society thinks it’s “natural” to slit the throats of children in their beds?

The answer: The same society that has named summer camps, soccer tournaments and a public square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, a Palestinian woman who in March 1978 killed an American photographer and hijacked a pair of Israeli buses, leading to the slaughter of 37 Israeli civilians, 13 children among them.

I have a feeling that years from now Palestinians will look back and wonder: How did we allow ourselves to become that? If and when that happens — though not until that happens — Palestinians and Israelis will at long last be able to live alongside each other in genuine peace and security.

But I also wonder whether a similar question will ever occur to the Palestinian movement’s legion of fellow travelers in the West. To wit, how did they become so infatuated with a cause that they were willing to ignore its crimes — or, if not quite ignore them, treat them as no more than a function of the supposedly infinitely greater crime of Israeli occupation?

That’s an important question because it forms part of the same pattern in which significant segments of Western opinion cheered Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro and Robert Mugabe and even Pol Pot. The cheering lasted just as long as was required to see the cause through to some iconic moment of triumph, and then it was on to the next struggle. It was left to others to pick up the pieces or take to the boats or die choking in their own blood.

Whether similar tragedies would unfold for Palestinians in the wake of their own “liberation” remains to be seen, though the portents — the experience of the post-colonial world generally and of the Gaza Strip specifically — aren’t good.

Even worse is that Palestinians have grown accustomed to the waiver the rest of the world has consistently granted them over the years no matter what they do. Palestinians ought to have expectations of themselves if they mean to build a viable state. But their chances of doing so are considerably diminished if the world expects nothing of them and forgives them everything.

It is precisely in this sense that the frenzied international condemnation of Israeli settlements and settlers does the most harm. Having been accorded the part of George Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein — perpetual target of the proverbial two minutes of hate — they have drained whatever capacity there was to hold Palestinian actions to moral account, to say nothing of our ability to understand the nature of a conflict that is more than simply territorial. The demonization of the settlers has made the world not only coarse but blind.

I write these words as one who has long entertained doubts about the wisdom and viability of much of the settlement enterprise, though I’ve never considered it the core issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — a point well borne out by the example of Gaza following Israel’s withdrawal.

Now I find myself cheering Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for announcing, in the wake of the Fogel family massacre, the construction of hundreds of additional homes in the settlements. Israel’s consistent mistake since the peace process began nearly 18 years ago was to suppose that conspicuous displays of reasonableness and moderation would beget likewise on the other side. The reality has been closer to the opposite.

For 60 years, no nation has been held to such stringent moral account, or such ceaseless international hectoring, as Israel. And no people has been held to so slight an account as the Palestinians. Redressing that imbalance is the essential first step in finding a solution to the conflict. The grotesque murders of the Fogels and their little children demands nothing less.

Bret Stephens is foreign affairs columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

Reprinted with permission of The Wall Street Journal. Write to {encode=”bstephens@wsj.com” title=”bstephens@wsj.com”}.