Middle East Eye / August 13, 2023
Amiram Levin says the Israeli army condones violence by settlers, which could make it liable for ‘war crimes’.
Amiram Levin, former head of the army’s northern command, made the comments on Sunday on Israeli public broadcaster Kan.
“There hasn’t been a democracy there in 57 years. There is total apartheid,” Levin said, referring to the situation in the West Bank.
He said the Israeli army was “forced to exert sovereignty there” and is “rotting from the inside”.
“It’s standing by, looking at the settler rioters and is beginning to be a partner to war crimes. These are deep processes.”
Levin went further, comparing those processes to Nazi Germany.
“It’s hard for us to say it, but it’s the truth. Walk around Hebron [Al-Khalil], look at the streets; streets where Arabs [Palestinians] are no longer allowed to go on, only Jews,” he said. “That’s exactly what happened there, in that dark country.”
Criticism of comments
The comments were condemned by lawmaker Danny Danon, who belongs to the ruling Likud party.
“Those who compare us to Germany or the Nazi regime should be examined,” Danon said.
Levin, who was also a former deputy chief of the Mossad, had a military career which spanned from 1965 to 1998.
Earlier this weekend, he made a speech at an anti-government demonstration in Tel Aviv in which he called on military leaders to stand up to Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, both of whom he said were “trying to drag you into war crimes”.
Levin’s views on Israeli abuses appear to have taken a marked turn: in a 2017 interview with Israeli daily Maariv, he claimed that Palestinians “deserved the occupation”.
Several human rights groups, including B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have in recent years determined that the term “apartheid” applies to the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Last year, Michael Lynk, the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, said in a report that the treatment of Palestinians “satisfies the prevailing evidentiary standard for the existence of apartheid”.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the war in 1967.
The territory is home to around 2.9 million Palestinians. Around 475,000 Jewish settlers also live there in Israeli state-approved Jewish settlements, which are illegal under international law.
Retired Israeli general says West Bank occupation is ‘apartheid’ [and more]
The National / August 13, 2023
The former head of the Israeli army’s northern front has condemned “absolute apartheid” in the Israeli occupied West Bank, singling out far right politicians allied to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for continuing rights abuses in the area.
Amiram Levin, who also served as the deputy head of Mossad, was speaking to radio Kan Reshet Bet radio on Sunday. Israel’s Northern Command is part of the armed forces responsible for the Lebanon and Syria border region.
Former general Levin is known for making a series of inflammatory remarks about Palestinians in the past but turned his anger at the Israeli government in Sunday’s radio interview, saying the Israeli army was “standing by and watching the rampant [Jewish] settlers and is beginning to be complicit in war crimes”.
Extremist Jewish settler violence has risen in the occupied West Bank this year, spurred on by members of Netanyahu’s far right government, including National Security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir – who has been linked to a terrorist organization – and Finance minister Belazel Smotrich, who last week attempted to pass a decree withholding government funds for Arab Israelis and some Palestinian areas under Israeli occupation.
In the West Bank, Israeli soldiers have been blamed for taking little to no action against the settlers, during a series of attacks including a rampage in Turmus Ayya in June, a Palestinian town north of Ramallah, which left one dead, many injured and at least 30 homes burned. down.
Settler violence, including another rampage in the town of Huwara near Nablus in February, has left at least 200 Palestinians injured and six dead this year.
In some cases, security forces have been accused of complicity, for example, shooting dead a Palestinian man during the Turmus Ayya attack.
‘Criminals and draft dodgers’
“I am not pitying the Palestinians, I am pitying us. We are killing ourselves from within. Bibi (Netanyahu) failed here. He placed criminals and draft dodgers in key positions who, in a civilized country would be sitting behind bars.”
General Levin was likely referring to Smotrich and Ben-Gvir. In 2019, Yitzhak Ilan, the former deputy head of Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet, said Smotrich had been held in connection with a planned “terrorist attack”, to disrupt Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza. Ben-Gvir has been linked to US and Israeli-designated terrorist organization and was charged by an Israeli court in 2008 with inciting violence and supporting terrorism.
Gen Levin’s remarks follow a growing chorus of political statements by former senior members of Israel’s army and intelligence services directed at Netanyahu’s government, although the majority of them have focused on the prime minister’s controversial judicial overhaul plans.
Protests have rocked Israel for eight months over his plans, which critics call an attempted coup.
Thousands of Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday, rejecting an offer of compromise from the PM, which they dismiss as an insincere distraction.
While protests have rocked many cities including Jerusalem, the epicentre has been the commercial hub of Tel Aviv, where protesters have rallied every Saturday against Netanyahu’s government.
“Democracy, democracy,” protesters chanted as they marched on Saturday. “We won’t give up until it gets better.”
“Despite months of protests, things are not going the way we wanted as one important part of the judiciary overhaul has been passed a few weeks ago,” protester Ben Peleg, 47, told AFP.
“But if we continue to apply pressure on the streets, there is a possibility that we can still stop these changes.”
Last month, the Israeli parliament voted to limit the so-called “reasonableness” law.
The new legislation curbs judicial review by Israel’s top court of some government decisions, and critics fear it could pave the way to more authoritarian government. It has led not only to strikes and mass protests, but also a growing number of Israel’s vital military reserve force withholding their service in anger.
At least 10,000 soldiers, pilots and intelligence operatives have threatened inaction if called upon in the event of a security crisis.
Israel’s traditional bedrock ally Washington has described parliament’s vote as “unfortunate” and repeatedly raised concern about the political turmoil.
Netanyahu’s coalition government, which includes far-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, argues the reforms are necessary to rebalance the relationship between elected officials and the judiciary.