The word ‘settler’ is not a synonym for ‘criminal’

A few rotten apples must not allow us to lose sight of the fact that the settlement enterprise is one of the jewels in the crown of the Zionist story.

police settler violence 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
police settler violence 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The violent incident against the Deputy Brigade Commander of Ephraim, placed us, the heads of the municipalities in Judea and Samaria, in an embarrassing and frustrating situation. On one hand, the residents of Judea and Samaria are a pioneering, volunteering group, with high moral standards. In my view, we Judean and Samarian Israelis are nothing short of an exemplary community.
On the other hand, there are periodic acts of violence, abuse and/or vandalism committed by an unidentified handful of people. These incidents cast a pall over our entire populace. Sometimes these attacks are directed against Arabs, sometimes against soldiers and sometimes even against Jewish public leaders.
I reject the argument that these acts are cultivated on the ideological platform of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria. I also reject the notion that we can totally wash our hands for the incidents that have happened in our neck of the woods. As leaders, we are responsible for our communities. As such, our entire community has spoken with one voice in condemning the attack on Lt. Col. Tzur Harpaz, the Deputy Brigade Commander of the Ephraim region. No decent person could defend such criminal activity.
Even worse, I am ashamed. I am embarrassed as an officer in the IDF reserves, I am ashamed as a citizen who enjoys the protection of the army day and night, as a Jew in Israel who takes pride in our people's army, and as a religious person who sees such acts as harming the sanctity of the State Israel. And it embarrasses me as the head of a municipality in Judea and Samaria.
But if someone wants to do here systemic therapy, he can see us, heads of the municipalities, as partners in the struggle. We, the heads of the local regional councils, must be afforded similar status as those held by mayors and council heads in other parts of the country. We should not be viewed as contractors of the Civil Administration, but rather us as heads of independent municipalities with the ability and authority to make decisions.
THE PRIMARY victims of these marginal individuals is the overwhelming majority of Judean and Samarian Israelis who are disgusted by the attacks and who want to help eradicate these damaging phenomena. But for the past three years we have been asking for a meeting with the defense minister, who is responsible for military and civilian affairs in our region, but we have been consistently rebuffed.
Ehud Barak prefers to operate in Judea and Samaria via army officers rather than the civilian leadership, and he prefers to hand down diktats to council heads from above. This sterilizes their public standing and compromises their authority with local residents.
Only cooperation among the senior officer corps, the Minister of Defense and the local elected leadership can ensure proper daily administration of our communities and control of marginal groups.
The media too, has become a dominant player in harming the image of “settlers” by treating that term as a synonym for “criminal.” Nothing could be further from the truth. By freely using the term “settlers” as a catchall, with no distinction made between different communities or groups of Jews who live in Judea and Samaria, the print and broadcast media paint an outrageous picture that all residents of our communities are faceless, unethical terrorists whose sole purpose is to abuse Arabs and steal their land.
Almost all media coverage regarding settlers is negative.
There is nary a mention of the abundant charitable organizations that our communities support – many of which do not differentiate between Jewish or Arab beneficiaries, no mention of community that have been built on the principle that neighbors have a responsibility to look out for and to care for one another, no mention of the efforts in safeguarding the environment. If the media mentions our disproportionately high service in elite IDF combat units, it is only in the context of a supposed “threat” posed by a plethora of Orthodox, “settler” officers and combat soldiers. Do a quick Google search for “Israeli settler” and you will quickly discover just how badly the print and broadcast media have maligned our community.
Let it be said loudly, and in the clearest possible terms: The "price tag" individuals are not a part of us, and we reject their immoral, hateful actions without reservation. The vast majority of the population and leadership in Judea and Samaria wholly reject their anarchistic ideology.
Furthermore, the media must play a constructive role in fighting this phenomenon. These thugs are fueled by the media coverage they know they will receive and they too provide the media with ongoing stories.
To bring an end to this type of anarchistic vandalism, to an end we must stop the obsessive preoccupation with fanatic marginal groups. We must stop granting exposure to that which is destructive and harmful. Let the police do their work, apprehend these criminals and punish them severely.
The writer is an IDF lieutenant colonel and the mayor of Efrat.