Israeli minister wants to give ‘a medal’ to Jewish Power extremist who allegedly shot to death an unarmed Palestinian youth

Juan Cole

Informed Comment  /  August 7, 2023

Ann Arbor – The Israeli newspaper Arab 48 reports that on Friday evening, Israeli squatters in the Palestinian West Bank went wilding at a nearby Palestinian hamlet, Burqa, in the northwest of Nablus governorate, attacking the Palestinian inhabitants as Israeli troops gave them cover. We might note that the settling of Israelis in a militarily occupied territory is grossly illegal in international law and is the sort of thing Nazi Germany did to Poland, and that these squatters had no business being there at all, and certainly had no business rampaging into a Palestinian hamlet.

We might also note that Jews are typically expected to be involved in other activities on Friday evening than shooting up their neighbors’ town. I don’t know about these people, but at my independent undergrad house at Northwestern we had some wonderful Jewish students living there, some of whom would not so much as turn on a light from Friday night through Saturday, because they considered that a form of work on the Sabbath. So I’m sure there’s some stricture about offing people with Glocks during that period.

The squatters were armed, as usual, and two young Kahanist fanatics began firing live ammunition. When the squatters angrily invade a Palestinian town, the helpless and unarmed population sometimes responds by throwing whatever stones they can find.

An Israeli bullet hit and killed a nineteen-year-old young man, Qosai Jammal Mi’tan, and another young man was wounded badly enough to go to hospital, while others received lighter injuries. Some of the truculent squatters also were slightly injured by the stone-throwing.

A picture was posted on Telegram of Qosai in happier times, astride a caparisoned horse, having fun.

It turns out that Qosai’s assassin, Elisha Yered, wasn’t just a random squatter fanatic. He is part of the “Hilltop youth” movement of extremist young Israelis seeking to squat on privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank and make apartment buildings on people’s orchards, farms and front yards. If you consider how you would feel if these people showed up in your back yard, declared that your land now belonged to them, began building an apartment building on it, and took potshots at you if you objected, you might sympathize a little with the Palestinians.

The Israel human rights organization Yesh Din visited Burqa and their interviewing showed that Qosai was shot from about 160 yards away. They conclude that the shooter must have used a long gun and could not personally have been in any danger when firing.

Israeli security authorities have had their eyes on Yered as a provocateur who is “heating up” the occupied West Bank, according to Maya Lecker at Haaretz.

It does not always happen, but there were consequences for Yered for killing the unarmed Qosai. He was arrested and charged with murder, along with another extremist. Yair Wallach noted that Yered gets to go before a civilian court, whereas Palestinians are tried in Israeli military courts.

I take it that someone in the Israeli military wants to send a message to the Hilltop Youth and their supporters in the cabinet of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that you can’t just go around killing Palestinians. The Lion’s Den Palestinian guerrillas in Nablus have vowed revenge, and reprisal killings can spiral out of control. Nor does the tension remain in the Occupied Territories. A Palestinian young man shot an Israeli patrolman in Tel Aviv on Saturday night.

The Israeli government is also getting pressure from Washington. Not much, but a little is more than usual. The Biden State Department castigated the attack on Burqa and the murder of Qosai as “terrorism.” So if he is guilty, Yered is no different in Washington’s eyes from an al-Qaeda operative. At least that is the language being used.

Yered, has been coached to be a murderer by high Israeli politicians. Lecker points out that he was the spokesperson last winter for the Jewish Power extremist in parliament, Limor Son Har-Melech. But the extremist Jewish Power bloc seemed to him to be going soft as they made some compromises to remain in Netanyahu’s cabinet. So he gravitated to the Hilltop Youth instead.

Video surfaced on X of Ms. Har-Melech coaching her toddler to say he wants to grow up “to kill Arabs [Palestinians]”.

So Yered was just acting out the violent and hateful rhetoric of the Jewish Power politicians who groomed him.

The Minister of National Security and Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has a long record sheet of convictions on charges of racist incitement, denounced Yered’s detention on X, posting, “a Jew who defends himself and others from murder by Palestinians is not a murder suspect, but a hero who will get full backing from me.”

Yes, armed persons invading and trashing a neighboring town of unarmed residents surely have the right to “defend” themselves by murdering the locals.

For Netanyahu to make Ben-Gvir minister of national security would be like a US president asking the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan to run Homeland Security.

There are about 4,500 people living in the town of Burqa. Their ancestors lived there way back in the Byzantine Empire, when they were part of First Palestine province, and then the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, and then the Ottoman Empire, where the area they dwelled in was referred to as Filastin, the Arabic word for Palestine, by writers and geographers. Today many Burqans are farmers bringing in crops of olives, fruits and vegetables. Some money comes in from former residents now living abroad, who send remittances. Another source of income is government service with the Palestine Authority, where a number of the men are employed.

The United Nations estimates that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank has cost local residents $58 billion in reduced economic productivity.

 Juan Cole is the founder and chief editor of Informed Comment ; he is Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan and the author of, among others, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam