JERUSALEM (Nov. 1)
Jewish settlers in the administered territories have launched a series of violent attacks against Palestinian homes and property to protest what they see as an Israeli government that is insensitive to their security needs.
The attacks represent an escalation of the peaceful demonstrations of recent weeks, when settlers groups registered their dissatisfaction with the self-rule accord signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization on Sept. 13 in Washington.
On Monday, a group of Jewish settlers rioted through a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank, breaking the windows of a school and setting fire to a classroom.
The group was from the West Bank settlement of Beit El, the home of Chaim Mizrachi, 30, a relative newcomer to the settlement who was kidnapped and murdered last Friday by Hamas gunmen.
Settlers proclaimed the start of a Jewish rebellion when Mizrachi’s body was discovered.
On Saturday night, Israeli settlers blocked roads in the West Bank with burning tires. They set fire to fields, stoned Arab cars and smashed them with clubs.
Along with the violent incidents, the murder has triggered widespread and increasingly organized protests by Jewish settlers, who say they are frustrated and angry about the government’s failure to protect them.
Hundreds of settlers, coordinated by the Council of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, Strip on Monday morning.
The settlers built roadblocks and set fire to tires, preventing Palestinians from going to work within Israel.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin acknowledged on Sunday that the settlers live in “difficult circumstances.” But he urged them to comply with the efforts of the Israel Defense Force to defend them and not to go looking to “buy cheap eggs.”
Rabin was referring to Mizrachi, who was abducted from a Palestinian chicken farm where he had gone to purchase eggs.
‘A CRY FOR HELP’ FROM GOVERNMENT
Rabin has been roundly criticized for recent comments he made that appeared to equate Palestinian terrorism with Jewish protests that have turned violent.
But on Sunday he tried to clarify the remarks by drawing a distinction.
“It is clear,” he said, “that the (Hamas) killings are not like the (settlers’) rioting, but it is clear that the will of Hamas is to attain the same result as those Israelis who are exploiting a despicable murder to oppose peace.”
Aharon Domb, spokesman for the Jewish settlers’ council, said the roads were blocked to protest the government’s failure to protect the settlers.
He also said the settlers were protesting Israel’s release of “murderous terrorists,” which he said has already “increased the level of the terrorists’ daring.”
Last week, Israel released more than 600 Palestinians in an effort to shore up Palestinian support for the self-rule accord.
The settlers’ protests were also described as “a cry for help to the government, which seems to want to abandon us,” another settler told Israel Radio.
The situation is not a political one, the settler said, but one of “frustration and fear for the very lives of our wives and children.”
The community was outraged, he said, that “one of its own was murdered brutally and the prime minister of Israel speaks disparagingly, both of the community and the dead victim himself on the day of his own burial.”
The settler was referring to Rabin’s criticism of Mizrachi for risking his safety in a search for cheap eggs.
Meanwhile, a 24-year-old Jewish resident of the coastal town of Or Akiva north of Hadera was arrested for allegedly producing bumper stickers calling for the death of Rabin.
At the same time, a campaign is apparently being launched calling on settlers and soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate settlements in the event such orders are ever issued.
Labor Knesset member Hagai Meirom has implied that the sponsors of the disobedience campaign, whose appeals appeared in newspapers this week, are inciting rebellion. He called on the attorney general to look into the case.