Bennett cries blood libel after Golan says Homesh settlers are subhuman

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett slammed Golan - a member of his coalition - and said that the residents of Judea and Samaria were the modern day pioneers of Israel. 

 Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/POOL, YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett

Settlers in Homesh are “subhumans” Deputy Economy Minister and Meretz MK Yair Golan charged on Thursday, sparking the political ire of the Right that accused him of blood libel and antisemitism, and called for his ousting.

These are not people, these are subhumans, they are despicable,” Golan said of settlers during an interview on the Knesset Channel.

Right-wing politicians in both the opposition and the coalition immediately attacked him, with some saying he used Nazi-era antisemitic slurs to demonize settlers.

The Likud Party called for Golan’s ouster. Even politicians in the Center and the Left said his language was out of line.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the right-wing Yamina Party, weighed in with serious charges of his own.

 Israeli Border Police evacuate modular building on the West Bank Homesh hilltop. (credit: HOMESH YESHIVA) Israeli Border Police evacuate modular building on the West Bank Homesh hilltop. (credit: HOMESH YESHIVA)

Golan’s words are “shocking, insulting and border on blood libel,” Bennett said. “Those who settle in Judea and Samaria are the pioneers of today. We have not taken a foreign land, we have reclaimed the land of our forefathers.”

Golan, a former IDF deputy chief of staff, underscored in his interview that those who reside on the Homesh hilltop are there illegally, according to Israeli law.

“There should be no one there,” he said. “When I commanded the Judea and Samaria Division, I did not let anyone settle there.”

Now the setters are “shouting their cry of ‘shame and disgrace,’” over plans to evacuate them, Golan said. “They do not mention that those people who come to settle there [in Homesh] riot in the [Palestinian] village of Burka, smash tombstones, carrying out a pogrom. We, the Jewish people who have suffered from pogroms throughout history, now enact pogroms against others.”

He spoke days after the IDF accused settlers from Homesh of “vandalizing property and burning Palestinian flags on the outskirts of the village of Burka.”

The left-wing NGO Yesh Din also accused the settlers of desecrating graves in the village’s cemetery, and provided photographs of smashed tombstones.

In response to Bennett’s accusation of blood libel, Golan later tweeted that he did not make a global accusation but rather deliberately targeted those responsible for nationalistic crimes.

“My words dealt with those who desecrate graves, attack innocent people and destroy property,” Golan clarified. “What is the right way to deal with such people? What are the right words to call them? It’s time to state the truth: this is not our Judaism.”

Golan later partially apologized to Channel 12 News for his word choice, but not for condemning the violence of some of the settlers associated with Homesh.

“I regret the use of what was perhaps an unfortunate choice of words” that was a “bit incorrect in connotation and context,” Golan said, adding that this can happen in an interview.

Perhaps a better phrase would have been “lowly rioters,” he said.

“I have fought terrorism all my adult life,” he said. “I do not need to be taught what it is to fight terrorism. I think the internal danger [to Israel] is greater than the external one.”

There should be a unified condemnation of this danger, he said.

When it comes to regrets, “I am sorry that my friends on the Right and the Left, those who are settlers and those who are not, have not sharply and unequivocally condemned violence against security forces, innocent people and their property,” he said.

The failure to do so “endangers Naftali Bennett more than any statement,” Golan said. The danger comes from people who do not respect the law. This is a phenomena that threaten any government. The phenomena of a rebellion in the kingdom present a grave danger.”

Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana (Yamina) tweeted that the words Golan had chosen were akin to the language the Nazis had used to describe Jews.

“The term ‘subhuman’ in German is Untermensch,” he explained. “It is a notorious expression used by the Nazis to describe ‘inferior people’ in Nazi ideology.”

MK Yorai Lahav Hertzanu (Yesh Atid), who chairs the Knesset Ethics Committee, tweeted: “Calling people sub-human is not criticism. It is blatant, severe verbal violence that falls in line with antisemitism.” He called on Golan to retract his words.

MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionist Party) wrote a letter to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid asking that he fire Golan from his deputy minister position.

“I call on you to take responsibility and immediately fire Golan from his position in the government,” said Rothman. “Anyone who spreads antisemitic propaganda against Israeli citizens should not represent them, and certainly should not hold any official position in their country.”

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that those who live in Judea and Samaria are “Zionist pioneers who are setting the land of their ancestors. After such a shameful statement, taken directly from Nazi terminology, against the Jewish people, Bennett must fire Yair Golan today.”

The Likud’s Knesset faction wrote a letter to Bennett asking that Golan be removed from his job as deputy minister job.

Lapid (Yesh Atid) took a more neutral tone in attacking Golan, whose Meretz Party is part of the government coalition.

“I condemn any abusive discourse that drags Israeli society into polarizing and destructive extremism,” he said. “I expect the coalition members to set a personal example of respectful and fair discourse even toward those who think differently from we do.”

MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) said that those on the Homesh hilltop “are not subhuman. They are lawbreakers who should be evacuated.”

The political storm over Golan’s comments is the latest in a string of incidents that have placed Homesh in the headlines in the last three weeks.

The land on the Homesh hilltop belongs to the Palestinian village of Burka. Israel initially seized the land in 1978 for military purposes. Two years later, the settlement of Homesh was built there.

In 2005, Homesh was one of four northern Samaria settlements the government destroyed as part of the disengagement plan, under which Israel pulled out of Gaza destroying 21 settlements there.

To protest the pullout, the Homesh Yeshiva, which opened its doors in the settlement in 2002, illegally rebuilt its seminary on the hilltop near Nablus soon after the destruction of the settlement, relying on modular construction.

The High Court of Justice in the interim has upheld the right of Palestinians from Burka to farm their land on the hilltop.

The IDF has repeatedly destroyed the yeshiva, only to have settlers quickly rebuild it.

On December 16, Palestinian gunmen killed Homesh Yeshiva student Yehuda Dimentman, 25, as he left the hilltop, spraying the car in which he was driving with bullets.

His family has asked that the government authorize the yeshiva and rebuild the settlement in response to the terrorist attack.

Dimentman’s murder revitalized the battle to rebuild Homesh as a public statement about the need to reverse the 2005 disengagement.

Left-wing organizations have argued that violence against Palestinians in northern Samaria, which was already high in that area, has increased following Dimentman’s death.

Left-wing NGO Yesh Din said that it had investigated 27 incidents of nationalistic violence against Palestinians in the area of Homesh since 2017, of which only seven were limited to property damage.

Of those, only nine were reported to the police, which is still investigating one incident but otherwise has closed eight of the cases without taking any action, Yesh Din said.

The Right and settlers feared that in the aftermath of the terrorist attack, Defense Minister Benny Gantz would demolish the Homesh Yeshiva.

Nonetheless, Gantz condemned Golan’s statement, explaining that he had visited the Dimentman family and met with some of the people connected to the Homesh hilltop.

“Despite the fact that one must act according to the law, these are valued people who love the country and the state no less than anyone else,” Gantz tweeted. “As elected officials, we have a duty to promote a unifying discourse rather than a divisive discourse.”

On Thursday, the Dimentman family, right-wing politicians and settler leaders, including Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, opened a campaign against the government and on behalf of Homesh.

This is not the first time that Golan stirred controversy with comments against the Israeli Right or his observations about the Holocaust.

On Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2016, Golan made a controversial speech allegedly drawing parallels between Israel and Nazi Germany.

“If there is one thing that is scary in remembering the Holocaust,” he said, “it is noticing horrific processes that developed in Europe – particularly in Germany – 70, 80 and 90 years ago, and finding remnants of that here among us in the year 2016.”

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.