Fighting extremism

It is one thing to hold these views, and quite another to avail oneself of destructive means and violence in order to realize them.

Settler arrested for crossing Jordan border 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Settler arrested for crossing Jordan border 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Over the last day or two, there has been a spate of attacks by Jewish extremists. About 50 extremists forced their way into the Efraim Regional Brigade’s base near Kalkilya early Tuesday morning and destroyed IDF property. In parallel, hundreds converged on Ramat Gilad, an illegal outpost in Samaria, and threw rocks at passing Palestinian cars. They also attacked brigade commander Col. (res.) Ran Kahana, who was lightly wounded by a rock. The violent demonstrations were apparently sparked by rumors of the imminent dismantling of Ramat Gilad, in line with a Supreme Court decision from August.
This is not the first time Jewish extremists have attacked the IDF. In September, activists infiltrated a base in the Binyamin region, slashing the tires and cutting the cables of 12 army vehicles in a mechanics workshop.
Meanwhile, earlier Monday night, a group of about 30 activists broke into abandoned churches in Qasr al-Yahud – the site of Jesus’s baptism – and declared they would establish settlement outposts. Some threatened to cross the nearby Jordan border. They were protesting Jordan’s opposition to the building of a new ramp – known as the Mugrabi Bridge – which would give Jews and other non- Muslims access to the Temple Mount from the Western Wall plaza.
In another incident overnight, a group of five Breslov Hassidim illegally entered Joseph’s Tomb in Palestiniancontrolled Nablus to pray. Palestinian security forces opened fire. No one was hurt, though one of the five said a bullet had hit his hat.
IT IS completely legitimate to support Israel’s right to replace the Mugrabi Bridge, which provides Jews with their only means of access to a site the Jewish faith considers the holiest place on earth. On November 28, in a Jerusalem Post editorial entitled “Building bridges,” we argued that “Israel must not cave in to the insanity of Muslim extremism” on the issue of replacing the Mugrabi Bridge. We have also argued in the past that Jews should be given freer access to Joseph’s Tomb for the purpose of prayer. Similarly it is perfectly legitimate to protest the evacuation of Jews from their historical homeland, whether in Ramat Gilad or elsewhere.
But it is one thing to hold these views, and quite another to avail oneself of destructive means and violence in order to realize them. The extremists who attacked IDF soldiers near Ramat Gilad and those who infiltrated the Efraim Regional Brigade’s base went too far. Not only did they attack the institution most responsible for safeguarding the security of Israelis, they endangered Israeli lives by needlessly preoccupying IDF soldiers with maintaining order when they should have been defending our country.
The same is true of the extremists who occupied abandoned churches in Qasr al-Yahud and who entered Nablus without coordinating with IDF forces beforehand.
RABBIS, SETTLEMENT leaders and right-wing politicians were nearly unanimous in their opposition to the sorts of tactics the extremists used. MK Ya’acov Katz (National Union), noting the high percentage of IDF soldiers and officers hailing from settlements, declared that anyone who attacked the IDF “is trying to hurt the settlement movement.”
Rabbi Nahum Rabinovitch, head of the Birkat Moshe Yeshiva in Ma’aleh Adumim, told Army Radio that the demonstrators who had attacked IDF soldiers were “crazies” who needed psychological treatment.
Unfortunately it seems that many of the extremists involved in these incidents are rebellious youths who refuse to listen to authority of any kind. Dani Dayan, chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, said, “These people are anarchists... they treat even the most respected rabbis as if they were nobodies.”
Under the circumstances, the only solution is a more stringent enforcement of the law. At Ramat Gilad, only one demonstrator was arrested. Police need to do more to prevent these sorts of destructive activities and punish those who take part in them.
As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted in an emergency meeting with defense officials, “we must deal with these rioters with a heavy hand.”
While it is legitimate to oppose the dismantling of settlements on the West Bank, resorting to violence against IDF officers and soldiers endangers Israeli lives and does more harm than good to the settlement cause.