We had a great reception from the wonderful people of Yanoun, most of whose land has been confiscated for the nearby Jewish settlement of Itamar, and who endure frequent beatings and shootings from these same fanatical settlers who want to ‘redeem’ the rest of the land by driving out the remaining Palestinians. Yanoun shows the destructiveness of Zionism in a microcosm.
Heavily-armed settlers march through the village regularly, usually on their Sabbath, intimidating and beating up villagers. Any villager who strays over invisible lines, perhaps to retrieve a stray sheep, risks a severe beating or worse. While we were there one farmer was still in hospital after being shot in the foot during the settlers’ previous foray, a serious injury for a working farmer. When one of us used binoculars to observe the settlement, we were warned never to give the glasses to a Palestinian; a Palestinian looking at Itamar through glasses could provoke one of the snipers there.
We drank the obligatory sweet tea under a tree while the farmers told us of their woes. All the time we were under the gaze of the settlers’ watchtower on the hill, the Israeli flag of occupation flapping in the wind. During one foray, the armed settlers had urinated and washed their dogs in the village’s drinking water. UN-donated generators, housed in a small shed with huge UN letters and flags for “protection”, had been burned by settlers not once but three times in recent years.
The current generator gives the village three hours of electricity every evening. International volunteers rise every morning in the beautiful valley to accompany villagers while they bring in their flocks of sheep. But the settlers follow their movements with powerful glasses and seem keen to arrange beatings to catch Palestinians without benefit of foreign witnesses. The settlers’ leader, we were told, is a friend of Ariel Sharon.
Since walking the short distance up the hill to the settlement is too dangerous, we left Yanoun for Scotland wondering about the people of that settlement. How could they treat their neighbours in this way? Many might see this as just a case of two warring tribes, squabbling over land? To learn more, we visited the settlers’ own website [www.shechem.org/itamar/econt.html]. Anyone with an insight into their mindset will fear even more for the Palestinian farmers of Yanoun and everywhere else across Palestine.
“A hundred years ago, the first settlers had to deal with the murderous Arabs,” declares the website about a people who had provided a haven for Jews fleeing Europe for centuries, but who committed the “crime” of resisting their dispossession by British-supported Zionists from Europe. The genocidal nature of the settlers of Itamar is not in doubt. They grieve on their website for recent settler victims of the Intifada, but for the much greater numbers of Palestinians, many of them children, there is only racist hatred. Not even the Nazi British National Party would dare to talk openly like these Zionists.
Of one thug, Gilad Zar, who was killed by a Palestinian fighter, the website tells us that “he told reporters that ‘we have to put (the Arabs) on their knees, send them back in time 15 years and make them grateful every day for us letting them work for us.’” Zar, the website proudly tells us, was “the son of Moshe Zar, convicted in the mid-1980s as a member of the Jewish Underground, for serving as the driver of the getaway car when members of the underground planted bombs that crippled then Nablus Mayor Bassam Shaka.”
The settlers’ website also approvingly quotes their rabbi, Nathan Chai. This holy man attacks those who negotiate in any way with the Palestinians and goes on to say that “None of the Palestinians is free of guilt.” The website tells us that their religious teacher then “called on the prime minister to ‘wipe them all out’.”
One can imagine the school curriculum in Itamar! The elected head of the Itamar council is equally public in describing Palestinian farmers as sub-human: “We commit ourselves here not to give them a state but rather more and more settlements on this land … These Palestinians do not deserve any human rights. We cannot talk of human rights for people who are not human.”
One granny has posted a piece in praise of her fellow colonists. Life is wonderful, but there is trouble with the unreasonable natives: “The one sore point and never ending anguish is the problem of trying to live in peace with the hostile Arabs who won’t let us live in peace. (Pray to Hashem that all evil be removed from the earth)” A clearer genocide-wish could not be written [http://www.shechem.org/itamar/enew.html#MEIR].
The religious settlements across the Occupied Territories can match Itamar in virulent racism towards Arabs. One leader of the settlers’ organisation, which is called Gush Emunim, was asked, following Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of 29 Palestinians at prayer in a Hebron mosque in 1994, if he felt sorry. Rabbi Levinger replied: “I am sorry not only about dead Arabs but also about dead flies.”
The Itamar settlers’ religious Messianism leads them to see “a sign of the speeding up of the end of days”, much as millions of American Christian fundamentalists do. Palestinian farmers have no right to the land they have farmed for generations. “We came here to LIVE and revive the ancient earth THAT HAS ALWAYS BEEN OURS. That can only be done through action,” writes Leah Goldsmith. She gloats at the prospect of success in completing the theft of all of Palestine and at the desperation of the natives who can foresee the doom she has in store for them: “Why do you think the Arabs are willing to blow themselves up? Because they know the end is very near, the sands in Yishmaels hourglass have just about run out.”
We shouldn’t make the mistake of dismissing the racist fanatics of Itamar as an isolated minority in a “democratic Israel”. The passage of yet more virulently racist legislation by the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) last Thursday shows us that such racism permeates the whole state. By a huge majority, it passed a law preventing Palestinians who marry Israelis from living in Israel. While anyone else from around the globe who marries an Israeli will be entitled to Israeli citizenship, Palestinians alone will have no such right. This is just the latest violation of the rights of a people subject to a state that wants to replace them with Jewish immigrants.
Israel, in truth, is a racist, Jewish-supremacist state from top to bottom, in which Palestinians are legally and socially inferior from birth to death. The settlers of Itamar, waiting to swoop down on the unarmed Palestinian farmers below, have the militant support of the Junta of generals who dominate every Israeli government. Settlers are the violent, fanatical cutting-edge of the Zionist project to cleanse the land of native Palestinians, the modern day inheritors of the “socialist” kibbutz which spearheaded the conquest of much Arab land in earlier decades. These settlers marchin step with the builders of Sharon’s “apartheid wall”, now tightening like a noose around Palestinian villages and towns. They are in harmony with the soldiers who cage up the brave people of Gaza in the world’s largest open prison and deploy snipers against their children, and helicopters against their resistance fighters and bystanders. Their army massacres children, and, as one refusenik Israeli soldier told us in Ramallah, sentences one soldier to six months imprisonment for smoking a joint, and another to seven days for the premeditated killing of a Palestinian. (Usually there is no investigation of such killings, never mind any charge or penalty).
When we read the description of Palestinians as ‘murderous Arabs’, we recalled that when we were in Nablus ten days ago, 11-year-old Waleed Ouda, suffered a critical fall. Waleed has since died and we learned that his family have donated his organs to Israelis in need to promote, they said, “hope for values of life and peace. Murad Aouda, one of Waleed’s brothers, said with tears in his eyes, “We want Israelis and Americans to know that while the Israeli army kills Palestinians we give life to Israeli children.”
We are afraid that Murad and others will make no impression on the settlers of Itamar - for whom they are sub-human - or the Israeli Junta or the huge slice of Israeli opinion that votes for a killer like Ariel Sharon and political parties even further to the right than he. How many could rise to the heights of generosity of the Ouda family - witnessing the pitiless cruelty and racist arrogance of the occupation would harden any heart, many to stone. The readiness of the Palestinians to live alongside Jews as neighbours is remarkable, given the viciousness of the Zionist conquest and colonisation of their homeland. Sharon, however, like every other Israeli leader before him (Palestinians kept on stressing this to us), is hell-bent on suffocating or expelling these people, who are obstacles to the Zionist dream-nightmare.
Israeli peace activists stressed constantly the need for international solidarity with Palestine (and with the anti-war camp in Israel). They cannot, they recognise, win without such solidarity. Think how much harder our tasks would be in Scotland, how much the society and the whole body politic would be corrupted, if the American regime transferred,as it does to Israel, the equivalent of $1,000 for every man woman and child to the Scottish budget every year to produce and sustain a society more militarised than any other on earth. They also stressed how dangerous Israel is — a veritable rogue state — with hundreds of nuclear weapons aimed at every Arab city. We should work for solidarity with Palestine for the sake of those who suffer and resist their dehumanisation; we should also alert people to the danger of a nuclear-armed, regional superpower which is building a monstrous apartheid system, beyond anything the most crazed white-supremacist thought possible in South Africa. When we fight for the Palestinian people, we fight to make the world a more just, and safer, place.
Mick Napier, recently visited the beleaguered Palestinian village of Yanoun near Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on behalf of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign is organising a solidarity delegation from Scotland to visit Yanoun, and elsewhere in Palestine, during the Christmas 2003 break.