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It is generally claimed that there are between 550,000 and 600,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank of Palestine in 2014. Since the earliest days of the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, the number of settlers in the West Bank has only ever increased, even during peace negotiations or even during the unilateral withdrawal by Israel of Israeli settlements in Gaza in 2005.

These settlers are generally divided into two categories: ideological and economic. The term, economic settler, refers to those settlers that have chosen to live in the West Bank because of the great economic benefits that the State Of Israel confers to such people. This group consists of some 85% of all settlers and one could postulate that the vast majority of them would not be inclined to live in the West Bank had not the state of Israel made the prospect of such a move into “enemy territory” so enticing.

The other 15% of settlers fall into the ideological category and are a vastly different group of people to deal with. Many Israelis find this group of settlers to be offensive and are often embarrassed at the violence and racism that often accompanies the behavior of these highly motivated Zionists.

The experience of my fellow EA’s of ideological settlers has completely vindicated the view of these Israelis as violent, religious, gentile hating fanatics. All of my colleagues have related that they feel a sense of dread and even fear for their safety/lives when these types of settlers arrive on the scene. Ideological settlers are possessed by a fanatic belief in their entitlement to all of the land of Palestine/Israel and they see Palestinians as a disease upon the land that must be cleansed in order to redeem the land and make way for the coming of the Messiah. Their religious zeal is centered on possessing the land rather than obeying the ethical and moral teachings of the Torah that emphasize social justice and mercy to the “alien” in the land.

My experience of ideological settlers has thankfully been limited to the stories told to us by various Palestinian farmers in the West Bank who have the misfortune of living near settlements like Gilad, near the Palestinian village of Far’arta.

One such farmer is Abu Wael, who lives in his house on a hilltop in the village of Far’ata. We visited his house a few weeks ago to hear his story and offer him some moral support. Abu Wael has had many dunams of land confiscated by the settlement of Gilad which contains some of the most extreme ideological settlers in the West Bank. He told of his many encounters with settlers coming onto his land while he has been working; threatening to kill him and his family if they did not leave the land at once. Abu Wael often called the military to come and protect him but found, like many other Palestinians, that the military seemed more intent on “protecting” these settlers rather than the people who were most powerless and vulnerable. He told us how one day his son was in the fields with him when settlers came down and started arguing with Abu Wael and his son. One of the settlers struck Abu Wael’s son, fracturing his skull. Though there were numerous witnesses to this event, no charges were ever brought against the settler and the threats of violence and intimidation continue.

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Abu Wael from the village of Far’arta

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Abu Wael’s son. Brutally beaten by settlers.

This is but one of the many incidents that we have heard from eye witnesses while in the Jayyus area. So far during our stay in the West Bank, there have been 48 recorded instances of violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians that have resulted in personal injury or damage to property according to OCHA’s weekly protection of civilians report. No arrests have been made.

With the State of Israel and the Western media very recently fixated on the actions of some 5,000 Hamas militants who are locked up in Gaza, no attention is paid to the nearly 35,000 ideological settlers who run free in the West Bank. These settler groups include people like Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 people in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, while they were praying, in 1994, in an act that triggered Hamas to engage in suicide attacks on Israeli civilians in order to try and even the score. A cold shiver goes up my spine when I see the increasing power in Israeli politics being wielded by Zionists who are seen as heroes by the ideological settler movement,

It has been overwhelmingly my experience, while here in the West Bank, that Palestinians reject this type of extremism and believe that the majority of Israelis, like them, want peace. They reject the Israeli Government stance that Hamas, with it’s so called rejection of the right of the State of Israel to exist, is a barrier to a two state solution. If a Palestinian state with ’67 borders, no settlements in the West Bank allowed and East Jerusalem as its capital, was offered by Israel, ALL Palestinians would accept it and if Hamas continued to resist such an offer, it would simply be political suicide for them as Palestinians would ignore them by the million.

I still passionately believe that peace and justice is possible in this region. We just need the will to make it happen.

CRAIG NIELSEN

DISCLAIMER

I am participating in a program as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving in the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained here are personal to me and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Council of Churches Australia or the World Council of Churches. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact the EAPPI Communications Officer (eappi.communications@gmail.com) for permission. Thank you.

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While I do not believe that the roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict are to be found in religious issues, it seems clear now that religious extremists have entered the fray from all sides and have made the path to a just peace even more difficult. Whether it be Christian Nationalists in the U.S., Christian Zionists, Right wing Zionists, Radical Islamists or Ultra Orthodox religious Zionists, all these groups have done nothing for the cause of justice, peace, self determination, democracy and reconciliation. This is because all of these groups place a very low priority on these values and hence find it easy to turn religious values that esteem the ideas of compassion and mercy into dogmas where hatred becomes virtuous. The following article was posted on the Mondoweiss website on 8th October 2011.

Muslim and Christian cemeteries desecrated in Jaffa on eve of Yom Kippur
Oct 08, 2011 07:17 pm | annie

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(Photo: Facebook)

From the Facebook photo album “Extremist attack Muslim and Christian cemeteries in Jaffa”:

Images of assault by the Zionist extremists on the Islamic cemetery named “Al-kazachana”, and they also made a assault on the Christian Orthodox cemetery adjacent to it.

They left racist statements such as “Death to Arabs” and “Price Tag” on the graves and walls in addition to Smashing and vandalizing a number of gravestones.

While Haaretz opens its report on the desecration of Muslim and Christian graves in Jaffa with Prez Peres’s denouncement Yossi Gurvitz over @+972 hits all the right notes: “So what can be done? We can begin by closing down the hornet’s nest, the yeshiva in Yitzhar, and ban all its teachers and students from the West Bank.”

The fact that they boil over the Green Line is not accidental. These people, after all, are the disciples of Baruch Goldstein; if they had broader horizons, they could name Abu Musab Al Zarqawi as another mentor. Their whole purpose is ending this calmness. They want blood, fire and columns of smoke. When these will appear, they will lean back and say “we told you so.” Another point worth noting is the desecration of the Christian cemetery: Contrary to the myths, it proves that the hatred of mankind of Orthodox Judaism has little if anything to do with the current conflict with the Palestinians. It is the last in a long, under-reported attacks on Christian establishments in Israel.

One further wonders whether this escalation – how many more steps to the gates of hell? – is not a response, among others, to the arrest of a suspect in the burning of the mosque in Tuba Zangaria. Terror organizations often react in this way to the arrest of their members, and the whole logic of the “price tag” pogroms is to punish Palestinians for the actions of the security forces.

The guilt resides, as Tibi noted correctly, with the government of Israel. PM Netanyahu may denounce these pogroms, but he is speaking out of both sides of his mouth: He had no problem whatsoever sitting on the same platform with Dov Lior, possibly the worst of the inciting rabbis. Shmuel Elihau, the municipal rabbi of Safed, keeps drawing his government salary despite publishing illegal calls for denying apartments to Israeli Palestinians. This is the same Eliahu who openly and clearly refused to denounce the “price tag” pogroms. He is still in office. Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar – the one suspected of kidnapping and assault, not the one suspected of receiving bribes and inappropriately touching men – said this week that the burning of the mosque in Tuba Zangria “may have been a blood libel.” (Hebrew) It’s easy to imagine the uproar had, say, a Polish bishop said he opposed the burning of synagogues, but we should first ascertain this isn’t a blood libel against good Christians. Amar keeps his job as if nothing happened; we didn’t even had a proper public outcry. In short, the government of Israel looks, when trying to fight Jewish terrorism, like the Saudi government of a decade ago, facing the Salafist terrorists: It is a main source of funds to the terrorists, and they can only exist because the government’s armed forces support them.

The West Bank pogromchiks has made a mockery of the IDF’s legal obligation to protect the indigent population from them. Now they are trying to make it plain to Israeli Palestinians that they, too, will not be protected by the Zionist regime – and the latter know it’s not that the regime can’t, it’s that it won’t.

Read the entire article. Gurvitz is Tweeting (Hebrew) from a protest going on in Jaffa right now. “More than a hundred people, in my estimation.”

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict

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