Israel’s right-wing government has remained silent, wary of alienating settlers in an election year
The funeral last Sunday for Hamdy Naasan, who was killed in a melee involving Jewish settlers. The Israeli government has been reluctant to address a rise in attacks by settlers. (Mohamad Torokman/Reuters)
Isabel Kershner, New York Times, Feb. 2, 2019
AL MUGHAYIR, West Bank — A gang of a dozen or so armed Jewish settlers descended from a hilltop outpost to the Palestinian village below and opened fire, witnesses said. Israeli soldiers arrived, and instead of stopping the settlers, the witnesses said, they either stood by or clashed with the villagers.
In the melee, Hamdy Naasan, 38, a Palestinian father of four, was shot and killed.
The killing last Saturday was the latest in a wave of settler violence. Attacks by settlers on Palestinians, their property and Israeli security forces increased by 50 percent last year and have threatened to ignite the West Bank, Israeli security officials say.
Days earlier, the Israeli authorities charged a 16-year-old yeshiva student from another Jewish settlement with manslaughter and terrorism, accusing him of hurling a four-pound rock that killed Aisha al-Rabi, a Palestinian mother of eight, one night in October as she rode in her family car along a nearby highway.
While Palestinian and United Nations officials have condemned the violence — Nickolay E. Mladenov, the United Nations envoy to the Middle East, described the shooting in Al Mughayir as “shocking and unacceptable” — Israel’s right-wing government has remained conspicuously silent, wary of alienating settlers and other potential supporters in an election year.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is seeking a fifth term, is vying with other right-wing rivals for the settlers’ support. He is facing bribery investigations and his strongest political challenge in years.
“Thou shalt not murder?” Tamar Zandberg, leader of the left-wing party Meretz, wrote in a Facebook post, noting the resounding lack of condemnation from government officials. “Silence. Everyone sees the election on the horizon, and the settler lobby is stronger than any moral standard.”
The settler outpost Adei Ad sits on a hill overlooking the Palestinian village of Al Mughayir in the West Bank. (Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)
By contrast, after a Palestinian home in the village of Duma was firebombed in 2015, killing a toddler and his parents, Mr. Netanyahu and right-wing leaders issued strong condemnations and said Jewish terrorism would not be tolerated.
This time the loudest voices have risen to the defense of the Jewish suspects. Israel’s domestic security agency, the Shin Bet, has found itself on the defensive, accused by right-wing organizations of trampling on the rights of those suspected in the stoning.
Honenu, a right-wing legal aid organization, denounced the fact that the five youths initially detained in the woman’s attack had been denied access to legal counsel for days under court-approved counterterrorism laws. About 100 rabbis, including prominent voices in the religious Zionist and settler establishment, signed an open letter in support of the youths.
The justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, called the mother of one of the detainees, telling her to “be strong” and saying she had discussed his case with the state prosecutor. One legislator from the governing Likud party compared the Shin Bet to the K.G.B. Four of the youths were ultimately released.
Mr. Netanyahu rebuffed the attacks on Shin Bet, praising its efforts to thwart Palestinian terrorism, but did not address the settler violence.
For over a decade, radical young settlers known as the hilltop youth have practiced the doctrine known as “Price Tag,” which calls for exacting a price through violence or vandalism in revenge for Palestinian attacks on Jews or for army or police moves against rogue settlement activity.
A week before the stoning attack, a Palestinian gunman fatally shot two Israeli workers in an Israeli-run factory in the West Bank. In December, two Palestinian attacks on a West Bank road killed two Israeli soldiers and critically wounded a third soldier and a pregnant woman. Her baby was delivered early and died three days later.
The yeshiva Pri Haaretz, which the authorities say has links to messianic radicals, is in the West Bank settlement of Rehelim, which also runs a boutique winery. (Jim Hollander/EPA, via Shutterstock)