In retaliation for the forced evacuation of Jewish settlers from a Hebron house last Thursday, some Jewish settlers attacked local Palestinians, throwing stones and burning cars and houses. A video shot by the human rights association B'Tselem shows some Jewish men shooting at Palestinians at close range.
Following the forced eviction from the "House of Contention" in Hebron on Thursday, some settlers have adopted a retaliatory process they call the "price tag" policy: every time they are evacuated from an outpost that the Israeli government deems illegal, they will exact "a price" by targeting the local Palestinian population. In the hours following last week's eviction, settlers made incursions into Palestinian neighbourhoods, torching houses and cars, shattering windows and damaging satellite dishes and water tanks.
An amateur video of the unrest seems to show settlers arguing with and then shooting two Palestinians. Villagers fight back by throwing stones and beating up one of the Israelis. In the beginning, you can see two men wearing kippas and armed with pistols. Later (at 1 minute, 58 seconds), another Israeli fires a machine gun into the air and runs at the person holding the camera, who stops filming to run away. The shooting was filmed by a member of the victim's family equipped with a camera donated by Israeli Human Rights organization B'Tselem.
Two residents of the settlement, suspected of being responsible for the shooting, turned themselves in to Israeli authorities on Saturday and have been transferred to the custody of the Hebron District police for questioning. One was released on bail.
"There is an unspoken policy of leniency against Israeli settler violence"
Sarit Michaeli is the Communication Director of the human rights association B'Tselem.
The process of "price tag" retaliation has been around for months. Palestinians are targeted every time that there has been an evacuation of Jewish homes. The Israeli police in Hebron had no excuse not to prevent these latest attacks and protect the Palestinian populations around the new Israeli settlement.
B'Tselem had in fact anticipated acts of revenge by settlers and called on security forces to act, but nothing was done, or too little. A journalist on the site at the time of the attacks said that there was no law enforcement present in the area, which is only a five-minute walk away from the evacuated Israeli settlement.
The two Palestinians who were shot were a man of 40, who was shot in the chest and seriously injured, and his father, 65, who was shot in the arm. Both were hospitalized, then detained by Israeli police in Hebron where they are currently being held for questioning.
The government has to deploy the necessary troops and ensure the safety of the population in disputed territories. It must also vigorously enforce the law in a way that will send a clear message to settlers who resort to violence and deter them from acting that way in the future.
For years, there has been an ongoing and very well documented lack of law enforcement in occupied territories. This unspoken policy of leniency is systemic, and has to be dealt with in a systemic way. It has created a climate where settlers seem to think that they are above the law."
"The violence is intended to send a strong message to the Israeli government"
Betse-el Rodrig is a Jewish settler in Hebron.
I don't justify the burning of houses per se, but I understand the logic behind the "price tag" rhetoric. The idea is not to make it easy for the government to order these evictions; it's a form of intimidation. I think Thursday's events will send a strong message to the government, to dissuade them from ordering future settlement evacuations.
Of course the government is wrong to evacuate our settlements: all of Israel is ours, why shouldn't we settle where we want to? These evacuations are illegal. If the government must evacuate, it has to offer a viable alternative to settlers, which it hasn't so far.
I wouldn't be surprised if Palestinians respond to these events violently — they are violent anyways, they have been attacking Jews here for the past 70 years. Settlers are rarely those who attack first, or only in isolated incidents.
I don't think there can be lasting peace until Arabs, including Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, understand that there can only be one state, Israel, and that they are citizens of that state, with the same rights and obligations as other Israelis."
"I understand the settlers but don't condone the violence"
Ariel Woolf is a teacher in a rabbinical school in Efrat.
I personally don't agree with the settler's reaction — I can identify with them and understand them, but I don't condone their violence. However, I do believe that the evictions last Thursday were completely unjust. The house in question is subject to a municipal dispute that is currently being discussed in courts. It is a judicial matter, not a political matter, not a defence matter: then why did the Defence minister send over soldiers to evacuate its owners? I'm only speculating, but I think that, being newly appointed, he was trying to gain following among leftist Israelis by ordering the evacuation.
The evictions were violent, some settlers were injured in the process. They feel they have been badly treated, and that by losing their home they are subjected to a financial prejudice.
Their reaction was a response to that.
Nobody wants an escalation in violence, but unjustified evictions like this one are only fuelling resentment. The population in Hebron is much too radical, both on Israeli and Palestinian sides, for there ever to be lasting peace in that part of Israel."