Mondoweiss / March 7, 2023
“There is a sentiment among many Israelis, saying, OK these are the circumstances, they’re animals anyway, let’s behave the same way,” Amos Harel says of Israeli view of settler attacks on Palestinians.
Many in Israeli society approve of the settler “pogrom” against the Palestinian village of Huwara because they regard Palestinians as “animals” and accept the occupation as normal, a leading Israeli reporter explained to American Jews last week.
Speaking to the Israel lobby group Israel Policy Forum, Amos Harel of Haaretz said the settlers’ rampage in Huwara on February 26 that killed one Palestinian and destroyed stores and cars was reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan terrorizing blacks in the south, or Russian pogroms against Jews.
Susie Gelman, the chair of the IPF, then asked whether Israelis were horrified by Huwara, and could the pogrom be a wakeup call to those who have compartmentalized the horrors of the West Bank? Harel said most are not horrified, Huwara could be “the dark side of the moon” though it’s 45 minutes from the outskirts of Tel Aviv.
And for many Israelis the pogrom is entirely justifiable, an eye-for-an-eye:
“Most Israelis are avoiding what’s happening in the territories, most Israelis don’t visit there…For most people it’s some kind of unclear reality happening somewhere else that has hardly anything to do with them…
“A lot of Israelis who have strong principles feel very, very badly about what has happened. Others are saying, Serves them right, this is the way to do– eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. And unfortunately what you hear is some — not just the far right politicians– some rightwingers are saying that as well, too.
“There is a sentiment among many Israelis, saying, OK these are the circumstances, they’re animals anyway, let’s behave the same way. And that is very, very frightening. and I think this is some of the results or the implications of a long term occupation. I was born after the Six Day War, this is the reality I know. For many other people they don’t even think about that anymore. This is the part of the reality– Jews are up, Arabs are down, whatever, this is the way things are. But in the long run of course it cannot be maintained forever. In the long run, there will be a deep moral price to pay because of the situation, especially if you put in religion into the equation as well, which is part of the problem in my view.
It is important to note here that when it comes to compartmentalizing the horrors of the occupation, American Jewish Zionist leaders have been key to smothering that awareness in the U.S. The Israel Policy Forum is among the pro-Israel groups that have worked in Washington to give Israel absolute political impunity from its violations of the Geneva conventions in establishing and populating settlements for 55 years, to the point that there are now more than 700,000 Jewish settlers subject to different laws than the Palestinians who live under occupation.
For instance, the Israel Policy Forum has defended Israel from “apartheid” charges, coming from leading human rights groups. Though Harel said that the recent administrative changes under the Netanyahu government only solidify the accusations, by placing West Bank Palestinians under the Defense Minister’s portfolio and Jewish settlers under the Finance Minister’s authority.
He justified using words like “pogrom” and “KKK” for the settler rampage, which followed the killing of two Israeli settlers by a Palestinian gunman on the highway in Huwara:
This is the term that the Israeli media is using, it was a pogrom. It was done by dozens if not hundreds of settlers, who burned down stores and homes all over the village of Huwara… Most disturbing perhaps was the fact that the IDF failed to act, failed to intervene, it took them a long time… until they started preventing the settlers from more retaliation… It looked as if a hurricane went through the main street of the village… It was extremely worrying from a strategic standpoint– this means more escalation and more violence… And from a moral point of view… what we watched and I apologize for the quite blunt language I’m using is a local KKK on a rampage all through the streets of Huwara; this is something that as Jews and Israelis we cannot permit.
The fascistic right wing ministers in Netanyahu’s coalition think that, “maybe a new Nakba is not a bad idea, a deportation of Palestinians,” Harel said. “These are the people who are part of the decision making. They’re not back benchers. These are the people that Netanyahu relies on.”
Harel predicted that Netanyahu will not go forward with the judicial overhaul he set out upon because of the unprecedented mass protests in Israel. And that in the end the government will fall because the far rightwing will be disappointed by Netanyahu, and will abandon him.
He also said that the presence of military reservists and other security forces in the demonstrations has given them a “militaristic” character, but that makes them more effective because they represent “the heart and soul and the backbone of Israeli society.”
If you talk to the officers, all of them are extremely concerned [by Netanyahu’s proposed changes]… Former senior members of Mossad, and Shin Bet officers are demonstrating… There is something very militaristic about the Israeli protests, but it’s also patriotic… This is the way to do it. To use the generals and to use the uniforms and to use the ranks– to pull rank if you like in order to make a point.
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006