When people used to refer to the Israeli-controlled West Bank as the Wild West Bank, there was only one connotation: Palestinian terrorism. Now, the term has taken on a completely different meaning.
Israel’s troubling double standard of law enforcement and the maintaining of democratic justice in the disputed West Bank Palestinian territories cannot be more apparent as the aftermath of the recent violent anarchy by Jewish zealots continues to unfold.
More torched and desecrated Mosques; continuous stoning of Palestinian vehicles; incitement within local religious centers and schools; the storming of an Israeli military base. This series of events resembles the making of a civil war, with a blatant display of a dangerous type of pseudo-religious, Israeli manifest destiny.
This is not a condemnation of Israeli settlers, nor is it meant to be a scathing critique of their nationalistic, religiously-driven political movement. This is not even a debate about whether or not Israel should evacuate its West Bank settlements.
However, as long as Israel remains in control of the disputed Judean and Samarian territories, it must commit itself to enforcing an identical rule of law and judicial standard that applies to all those living under its mandate – both Jew and Arab alike.
It is harder to decide what is more troubling: the viciously sinister acts of hatred themselves; the fact that the perpetrators are rarely apprehended and prosecuted; or the Israeli Government’s prolonged silence in taking responsibility for its failure in stopping the violence and insane acts of complete disregard for any basic human values.
Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, has suggested that the legal definition of terror be examined as a means to include such calculated acts of aggression. But no one can deny the terror and fear that these actions are meant to incur both physically and psychologically.
Furthermore, the lack of initiatives to invest the proper resources in curtailing these oppressive and thug-like practices only perpetuates the blind-eye that the Government and security forces have given in allowing certain groups of West Bank settlers to dictate their own agenda within the rule of law – or in this case, the lack thereof.
Had these situations been reversed - the perpetrators Palestinian - there is no doubt that the military would have used full force – even lethal force - in stopping the aggression, while the designated Police units would have turned over every rock in the area in order to apprehend those responsible for the destruction.
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Labor MK and former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer was brazenly truthful and spot-on when he said that the soldiers should have defended themselves against the assailants by shooting them. Differentiation mustnotbe made.
As soldiers we are taught to discharge our weapons when facing a direct threat to our lives.
Was it the illegal entrance into the base by dozens of ravenous ‘hilltop’ youth, foaming violently at the mouth that was not considered enough of a threat? Or was a brick in the face of the base’s Brigade Commander not enough of an imminent danger?
If it had been 55 Palestinians storming the base, 55 would probably not have come home alive.
The semantics of the word terror need not be debated, as the recent incidents - regardless of the definition – have unarguably terrorized the military, the West Bank’s Arab residents, and the spiritual comfort that houses of worship are supposed to provide.
The growing plague of nationalist and religious hatred has reached a level that resembles the prevailing sectarian violence that has plagued Israel’s neighbors in the region throughout the years.
Israel must look at itself in the mirror and decide if this is how it seeks to define the future of Jewish democratic rule and self-determination. Currently, as it appears in parts of the West Bank, the word ‘democratic’ has been left out of this doctrine.
Instead of building the land, elements of fanatical, religious Zionism are destroying it.
If the Israeli settlement movement truly sees itself as visionary in the country’s future survival, it must do all it can to destroy its extremist components. The failure to do so will not only shatter the remaining credibility it has, but will also destroy the country it claims to embody.
Let’s just hope the Government does its part.