Two months of "Intoxication" for Jewish Supremacy
Originally published on November 15th, 2021 in Hebrew at Ha’aretz
By Avi Dabush, Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights
Palestinians are the main target of day-to-day attacks by settlers during the harvest season, but when olive trees are cut, the effects are felt on all sides. The struggle for the olive harvest is also a struggle for Jewish morality. A report released this week quoted a senior military official who explained that the police were not doing their job when it came to settler violence. He pointed to the partial and slow response, the fact that only few police officers were sent in and the lack of questioning, punishments, and indictments for rioters and assailants. This was another glimpse into the chaos taking place in Judea and Samaria under occupation. The army, which is in charge of the area, is blaming the police, who for their part do not want to deal with this headache. As a result of this reality, gangs of Jewish terrorists are emerging, targeting anyone who interferes with the regime of Jewish supremacy that they promote.
The olive harvest season is a booster of all these phenomena. Almost daily attacks on Palestinian farmers, felling and burning of trees and theft of crops occur during these two months of “intoxication” for Jewish supremacy. According to Yesh Din, there are more than 40 attacks a month, which primarily target Palestinians but affect everyone.
Volunteers from “Rabbis for Human Rights” learned this firsthand. About two weeks ago they were attacked by settlers with pepper spray, as they helped farmers harvest in the Awarta area. Unlike other cases, the attackers were not masked and were documented at the time of the attack. The soldiers (at least one of them a resident of the nearby Yitzhar settlement) did not point a finger and did not detain them until their arrest. On Friday, volunteers with current member and former executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights Rabbi Arik Asherman were again attacked by masked men with clubs and stones who had come down from the Bat Ayin settlement, accompanied by the settlement’s head of security who is paid by the State.
So the military and police can intervene in these attacks, yet helplessness and rolling their eyes seem to be the most that they are willing to do, at least in some cases. One of these instances of inaction that shocked every Jewish soul took place near Burin, one of the villages where hundreds of Rabbis for Human Rights volunteers help with the harvest each year. The videos show masked men coming from the Yitzhar area, setting a field on fire and throwing stones during Shabbat. A soldier standing next to them did nothing to stop the crime, both desecrating the Shabbat and, more so, God’s name. Just a few weeks later in Susiya, settlers in their Sabbath best, took over a Palestinian playground and prevented Palestinian children from the area from playing. The Israeli army failed to protect the Palestinians’ access.
When I talk to religious Zionists, some of whom are settlers, they claim that there is no legitimacy for these actions. I do not believe that any one person or group holds an exclusive title to the meaning of Justice. But, at the same time, it is hard to believe that the violence, as systematic as it is, can occur and thrive without support or the endorsement of leaders within this movement. I do not know of any significant action being taken to uproot these gangs. No firm rabbinical discourse; No reference in the Shabbat leaflets; No relevant halakhic rulings. Silence.
The struggle over the harvest is a basic human rights struggle for Palestinian farmers, but, it is also a slightly different struggle. This is a struggle of universal values, as well as a struggle for Jewish morality. In the face of those who use Judaism as a justification for their intimidation, threats, violence against Palestinians and against activists and to account for the legal privileges that they have, including impunity and seeming immunity from prosecution or control by security forces and law enforcement – we do not give up. We believe in practicing Judaism with respect for every being created in the divine image, Palestinian or Jewish. Our Jewish practice must protect those who cannot and are not permitted to protect themselves and reach out to our Palestinian brothers and sisters, daughters and sons of Abraham no less than are we. We too are not afraid of embarking on an arduous journey.
I grew up in religious Zionism. I was a guide in Bnei Akiva and studied at Rabbi Chaim Druckman’s Yeshiva (Druckman is today, first and foremost a supporter of Kahanism’s representatives in the Knesset, to my horror). I am not afraid of members of religious Zionism and see myself as part of them in many ways. For me, this struggle is also a struggle to awaken everyone who is connected to religious-Jewish values in Israel, to bring about a change of direction. We are implored, as Jews “Do not ignore.” The State of Israel was founded on Jewish and Zionist foundations. That is a fact. We can hide from the inconveniences and pitfalls that arise from atrocities committed in the name of the same Judaism and Zionism, or we can stand up and struggle, with determination, for the meaning and direction of Judaism today. This is our responsibility.
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