JERUSALEM – The latest drama in Israeli politics comes in the form of a split between the country’s extreme Right and radical Right over what constitutes “settler violence.” As Israeli lawmaker Ofer Cassif said to me during an interview I conducted with him in Jerusalem, the vast majority of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, represents extreme right-wing Zionists. About half of those make up the Israeli government and the other half are in the opposition, awaiting the moment they can seize power.
Recently a new storm brewed after Israel’s Interior Security Minister Omer Barlev of the Labor Party met with the U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. In a tweet he posted after the meeting, Barlev said that the senior U.S. official was “interested, among other things, in the settler violence.”
פגשתי היום את תת מזכירת המדינה של ארה"ב, הגברת ויקטוריה נולנד. תת מזכירת המדינה התעניינה, בין היתר, באלימות מתנחלים וכיצד ניתן להפחית את המתח באזור ולחזק את הרשות הפלסטינית. pic.twitter.com/M1XNdqHtZ2
— עמר בר-לב (@omerbarlev) December 13, 2021
Barlev is the son of former IDF Chief of Staff General Haim Barlev, himself the son of a retired IDF colonel and former commander of the Israeli army’s most revered assassin-terrorist squad, Sayeret Matkal. In the violent and hate-filled discourse that exists among Israelis, anyone who served, let alone commanded this murderous brigade, is considered a god. Among the Israeli politicians who served in this unit are two former prime ministers: Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu.
Zionist settlements in the West Bank would not have been possible without the support of the Zionist Labor-Left, who were in power in the years after the 1967 conquest of the West Bank. Labor-Left Zionists were also responsible for the Zionist settlements in the larger part of Palestine that was occupied in 1948. However, for reasons beyond understanding, Labor-Left Zionists abhor the West Bank settlers while they see the pre-1967 settlers as heroes and pioneers.
Barlev is a member of the Israeli Labor Party, which is part of the coalition government led by the former head of the West Bank Settlers movement, Naftali Bennett. Zionists who align themselves with the Labor or Meretz political parties, like to think of themselves as better than the settlers who are part of the more blatantly racist and violent Religious-Zionist movement. The question is how does one differentiate between the Zionist establishment’s violence, which Barlev represents, and the gang-mentality violence that is represented by West Bank settlers?
Religious-Zionist politicians and their supporters immediately came out against Barlev. The leader of the Zionist-Religious Party, Bezalel Smotrich, tweeted:
I’m sorry for being blunt, but you are simply contemptible. Hundreds of thousands of heroic residents of Judea and Samaria [Zionist-speak for greater Palestine] absorb terrorism on a daily basis and have paid a heavy price, and you shed their blood with wretchedness and participate in a false and antisemitic campaign that defames them in order to look enlightened and please a bunch of hypocrites. Shame on you, little man.”
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked also distanced herself from Minister Barlev’s remarks, tweeting:
You are confused, the settlers are the salt of the earth […] The violence over which we must be shocked is the dozens of incidents of rock-throwing and firing on Jews that happen every day – only because they are Jews, and all this with the encouragement and support of the PA. I recommend that you talk about this violence with Ms. Nuland.”
Demand for resignation
An attack by Palestinian resistance fighters against Israeli settlers near the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank took place on the night of December 16 and resulted in two settlers injured and one dead. Immediately after this, West Bank settler spokespeople began a campaign of accusing Barlev of being responsible for the attack and demanding his resignation. Calls also went out to Prime Minister Bennett – who, as mentioned earlier, was himself the leader of the West Bank settlements at one point – to fire Barlev. They all claim that Barlev’s comments condemning the violent attacks by settlers against Palestinians somehow encourage and embolden Palestinians to attack Israeli settlers.
Truth be told, Palestinians do not need Barlev to motivate them to retaliate against Israeli violence. Be it by soldiers or settler gangs, Palestinians are constantly killed, their property destroyed, their lands taken away and their children detained and tortured. One has to be quite insane to expect that there would be no retribution.
What is settler violence? Zionists in Palestine have always relied on settler violence to reach their objectives. When Barlev and his father before him served in the IDF, they were in fact doing the work of setters and colonizers by terrorizing Palestinians. The fact that they were an official army of a recognized state does not make their violence any more legitimate than that of the gangs of West Bank settlers. Barlev and the army in which he served are an arm of Zionist settlers, and as such, they use enormous amounts of violence against a people who have never so much as possessed a tank or a warplane, let alone an actual army.
If Under Secretary of State Nuland was really worried about settler violence in Palestine, she ought to have discussed this with the victims of the violence, such as the Palestinian-Bedouin in the Naqab whose homes are demolished at an alarming rate of 2,000 per year. She should have met with Palestinians in the cities of Lydd and Ramle and Yaffa to hear about the terror they endure at the hands of Zionist terror gangs. She should have discussed this with Palestinians who are subjected to violence by the Israeli police and intelligence agencies. She could have met with Palestinians in Hebron who suffer from settler violence inflicted both by soldiers and by armed Zionist gangs who wear no uniform.
Instead, the under secretary chose to meet with a man who made a career as a commander of a glorified murder squad whose mission is to inflict violence so that Zionist settlers can steal Palestinian land and feel protected. The hypocrisy never ends. Now that a Palestinian actually retaliated against Zionist settler violence, there will be even more violence inflicted on Palestinians.
Feature photo | Jews walk through the street with guns in the mixed Arab-Jewish town of Lod, central Israel, May 28, 2021. David Goldman | AP
Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”
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