Cowboys and Indians and Utter Lawlessness

The violence in the West Bank drones on barely noticed by the world. Palestinians are almost always the victims. That changed on January 9, 2018 when an Israeli man, Raziel Shevach was killed as he was driving, presumptively by a Palestinian shooter.  Suddenly the news is big.  Shevach, 34 years old, was a Rabbi and a settler in an illegal outpost near Nablus, the 3rd largest Palestinian urban area in the West Bank.  The tragedy is undeniable. He was a young father of 6 and by all accounts a decent man. But, he was a radical man. He had formerly lived in Gush Katif, an illegal settlement in the Gaza Strip. This was just prior to the entire settlement being dismantled (to the outrage of many Israelis) by the Israeli government when they sealed off the Gaza strip, effectively turning it into an open air prison for the nearly 3 million Palestinians crammed into this tiny strip of land.

So Shevach went  from one illegal settlement to establish another, this time in the West Bank. He was a resident not of one of the monolithic, concrete suburbs sitting atop hills in the West Bank, but rather at an “outpost.” This is an important distinction, because all of the illegal settlements in the West Bank began as “outposts.”  These are  essentially encampments of radical, religious Jews. Many of these settlers stem from places like New York City and Russia. For people like Shevach, they are doing God’s work, and in his case, settling the land of Judea and Samaria, aka the West Bank which under international law belongs to the Palestinians. In their minds, Jews have a God-given right to every speck of land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, and even beyond. They pay no mind to the fact that this is in defiance not only of international law and even Israeli law, but of of reality – ignoring the existence of over 6 million Palestinians who legally occupy the region. But what has Israel done to stop this activity?  Almost nothing. They turn a blind eye to the initial outposts, and once concrete starts to be poured, it becomes a fete accompli.

In reading the outraged accounts of his death, I am struck not so much by the rage and indignation.  It was a murder, after all, which by any account is a huge moral wrong and made particularly tragic by the fact that Shevach leaves 6 small children behind, but rather by the lack of understanding with statements like, “how could this happen?” How could this happen?  When Palestinians witness the brutality of occupation every day of their lives, see the tiny amount of land left to them being slowly, but surely gobbled up, having their freedom of movement and their right to the water that sits underneath them denied, what are they expected to do? To be compliant and willing victims?

Shevach’s widow is already calling not only to have her husband buried at the illegal outpost, but now, to have it finally legalized. Pressure on Netanyahu to legalize Havat Gilad.

Havat Gilad
The outpost of Havat Gilad

And in the meantime, nearby Jewish settlers are taking matters into their own hands, rampaging on nearby farms, destroying the olive trees belonging to hapless Palestinian farmers who had nothing to do with the murder while Israeli soldiers look on, doing nothing to stop then. Masked settlers destroying olive trees

The whole country of Israel is outraged and a huge manhunt is underway for the murderer. But where is the outrage for what is happening to Palestinians?  Where is the reflection that leads to the obvious conclusion that stealing land and rights from Palestinians can not have a good outcome and that plopping settlements in their midst is throwing gas on the fire?

What will be next?  Perhaps another gruesome kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian youth as happened to Abu Khdeir, an innocent who was burnt alive by Jewish thugs in retribution for the murder of three Israeli youth three and a half years ago.Murder of Abu Kdheir I can guarantee you that many, many Palestinian homes are being raided in the middle of the night and young men and boys are being detained without any warrants or semblance of due process to quell the collective Israel outrage.   Will one wrong be undone by visiting a hundred fold more wrongs?

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