TEL AVIV (Jun. 14)
President Chaim Herzog has again lashed out against the “dangerous phenomenon in Israel where persons–some of them under the guise of the Jewish religion–take the law into their own hands.”
Herzog’s remarks, in a speech to graduates of Tel Aviv University Law School Thursday night, were an obvious reference to militant Jewish settlers in the West Bank who have committed acts of violence against the local Arab population and clashed with the Israel Defense Force.
“We have reached a most dangerous stage in which hands are raised against IDF soldiers, they are harmed and held in contempt, and violent acts and ‘reprisals’ are carried out indiscriminately against the civilian population,” Herzog said. His words were borne out by a public statement released Wednesday by three IDF officers and 27 soldiers after completing three weeks of reserve duty in Hebron. The reservists, whose personal views cover most of the political spectrum, testified that “Service in Hebron demonstrated to us the existence of a kind of popular militia there which acts in an organized and dangerous fashion.”
The statement, published in Hadashot, said: “We witnessed the helplessness and confusion of the army when it had to confront these radical, violent and armed Israeli citizens. We can testify to grave violations of order, provocations and attacks against Arabs perpetrated by children, youth, women and men from Beit Hadassah and Tel Rumeida and the Beit Romano yeshiva.”
All of the sites mentioned are enclaves established by militant Orthodox Jews in the heart of the Arab town. The reservists urged the Defense Minister and the government to end the phenomenon.
Herzog, without referring to the soldiers’ report, said: “These are deeds of the utmost gravity, deserving denunciation and condemnation. They not only constitute legal offenses, but denial of the State’s authority and directly help the terrorist organizations and our enemies who are striving to prove that peaceful coexistence is impossible under Israeli rule.”