Smotrich’s call to ‘wipe out’ Hawara is reminiscent of the SS Generals who Wiped Out Lidice & Oradour-sur-Glane
Those who cavil at the comparison between the attack on Huwara on 27 February and Kristallnacht, should read the remarks of Bezalel Smotrich, the Finance and Defence Minister in charge of the Civil Administration in the West Bank with his call to wipe out Huwara. Smotrich is a Zionist version of Nazi Governor Hans Frank of Poland.
Smotrich was asked at a financial conference why he had ‘liked’ a tweet by Samaria Regional Council deputy mayor Davidi Ben Zion that called “to wipe out the village of Huwara today.” Smotrich’s response was: “Because I think the village of Huwara needs to be wiped out. I think the State of Israel should do it,”
The pogrom in Hawara last Sunday was horrific by any measure but it was not unprecedented. The Labour Zionists did far worse in 1947-8 during the Nakba. It is one of the few achievements of the Israeli state that the pogroms that Jews experienced in the diaspora are now being visited on the Palestinian population.
There was no mention by the Board of Deputies in its statement of the complicity and participation of the Israeli army in the attacks. This too was a feature of pogroms in Czarist Russia and Kristallnacht.
The Board painted the pogrom in Harawa as the result of the killing of two settlers brothers by Palestinians. What it didn’t say was that the killing of the settlers was the result of the murder spree by the Israeli army which resulted in the death of 35 Palestinians, including 8 children, in January alone.
To the Zionists Palestinian violence is always the cause not the consequence. But we should not fall into the trap of believing that everything was rosy in the garden until Hawara.
In the last ‘change’ government in Israel, in which the Israeli Labor Party and Meretz were partners, when Security Minister Omar Bar Lev criticised settler attacks on Palestinians he was immediately rounded on by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked.
“They serve as a protective wall for all of us and we must protect them in word and a deed.” Tweeted Naftali Bennett. Shaked described the settlers as ‘the salt of the earth’ and called Bar Lev, in his talks with State Department as ‘confused’.
Two settlers were gunned down by a Palestinian assailant in revenge for the murder of 11 Palestinians and the wounding of 102 in Nablus. A mob of 400 settlers, armed to the teeth, invaded Hawara. Instead of preventing them the army joined forces with the pogromists.
Cars and homes are torched by settlers in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023.
36 houses were burnt along with 15 cars and 9 families were evacuated. The settlers set a house on fire when a Palestinian family was inside but Israeli security forces rescued the family. 37-year-old Sameh Aqtash died from gun shots to the stomach and another is seriously injured from head wounds after being hit by a rock. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that 98 Palestinians have been wounded along with damage to 3 ambulances.
The military claimed that soldiers were not involved in the killing of Aqtash but his family has claimed otherwise. One thing is clear, there is no appetite in the Israeli state to investigate who did kill him.
Limor Son Har-Melech MK of Otzma Yehudit went to Hawara on Sunday evening in order to:
“support the just demands of hundreds of West Bank residents who are protesting and demanding security.”
Of one thing we can be sure. If 400 Palestinians had attacked a Jewish settlement then there would have been dozens of dead and injured. This is Zionist racism in all its glory.
Knesset member Zvika Fogel from Otzma Yehudit declared
“Yesterday a terrorist came from Huwara – Huwara is closed and burnt. That is what I want to see. Only thus can we obtain deterrence,”
Fogel is Chairman of the Knesset National Security Committee. He said in an interview that:
“The act that the residents of Judea and Samaria carried out yesterday is the strongest deterrent that the State of Israel has had since Operation Defensive Shield. After a murder like yesterday, villages should burn when the IDF does not act,”
Later on Monday morning, Fogel explained that he would prefer that the Israeli army and not settlers be responsible for demolishing Harawa. When asked if he looked favourably upon what happened, Fogel said that he “looks very favourably upon” the results.
Likud MK Tally Gotliv refused to condemn the pogrom, saying she “could not judge people when they mourn.” Imagine the fate of a Palestinian who wrote something similar about Jewish Israelis.
Palestinians inspect a damaged house and scorched cars in the town of Huwara, near the West Bank city of Nablus, February 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
What was the reaction of Netanyahu? Did he condemn it? Not at all. What he did, as Huwara burned, was to release a video message asking Israelis “not to take the law into their own hands” and to “let the IDF and the security forces do their job.”
As Orly Noy wrote when Israeli officials call on settlers not to take the law into their own hands against Palestinians, they are actually saying ‘let the army do the job for you.‘
Over the past years there has been an alarming rise of joint settler-soldier militias across the West Bank as they murder and terrorise Palestinian communities. Those same militias left Huwara burning. Immediately following the killing of the two settlers, the Israeli army shut down the two entrances to Huwara and allowed the settler mob to enter town by foot, doing nothing to prevent the ensuing pogrom.
In a TikTok video settlers are seen handing out food to the soldiers stationed at the town’s entrances, which the soldiers gladly took and warmly thanked them for.
Netanyahu did not hesitate to remind people that the army had “eliminated dozens of terrorists” in recent weeks, in other words the massacres committed by Israeli forces in Jenin and Nablus. President Isaac Herzog, too, made a similar plea to the settlers.
Netanyahu and other spokespersons are accepting that collective punishment is acceptable. All they are asking is for the Israeli army to be allowed to commit the atrocities.
Israeli settler colonialism and the new government
At over 700,000, the settlers have achieved a critical mass. Their aim is the theft of more Palestinian land with the intention of driving Palestinians off the land and into the townships as a prelude to expulsion. It is that, not the killing of settlers, which drives Israeli settler colonialism.
The phenomenon known as “settler violence” is an endless sequence of assaults. Israeli Ministers are playing their part in stoking the flames. Smotrich too later echoed Netanyahu’s and Herzog’s plea urging settlers not to take the law into their own hands.
Anshel Pfeffer, a mainstream Zionist at Ha’aretz, described how Palestinian Rabia Domedi, 22, was with his mother and younger sisters in their home on the northern edge of Hawara when settlers began stoning their windows and set the neighboring house alight.
“They’ve thrown stones at our house before, but I’ve never seen so many of them. They came from different directions and the soldiers in the street didn’t try to stop them.”
Pfeffer wrote how
there were plenty of excuses from the Israel Defense Forces, but no real explanation for how they had lost control, for five hours, of a town on the main highway to Nablus, and one where there are constant military patrols.
That was because
the army’s main task during those hours had been to hunt down the two brothers’ killer’ not protect Palestinians.’
Hawara has some 7,000 residents living along Route 60, just south of Nablus. The regional Samaria Brigade headquarters is ‘literally around the corner at Horon Camp, just two minutes’ drive away.’
Pfeffer described how senior officers, including IDF Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi, were soon on the scene.
‘And yet the rampaging, which began at just after 6 P.M., continued until shortly before midnight…. The settlers’ march in response to the killings had been announced well in advance – including its route – on social media.
Imagine that in response to the killing of a Palestinian it had been decided to march on a nearby settlement and burn a few buildings and attack the residents. What would have been the army’s response? Live fire would have been used without a second’s thought. Pfeffer wrote:
The reluctance of the IDF to confront settler violence was evident to the south of Hawara as well, where hundreds of settlers, mainly youngsters, defied the army’s orders and occupied the illegal outpost of Evyatar – the scene of on-and-off confrontations for nearly two years now.
A Border Police checkpoint blocked the narrow road winding up to the hilltop, but officers didn’t try to stop the settlers streaming up just a few meters from the road. On Monday morning, officers went up to start evicting them in a desultory fashion that lasted well into the afternoon. A settler and police officer both used the same words – “We’re playing hide-and-seek until everyone gets tired” – to describe events there.
As Pfeffer admitted it’s tempting to attribute the pogrom in Harawa to the new far-right coalition
But that’s much too easy. Violence and impunity have been a feature of daily life in the West Bank for many years.
Gallant arrived in Hawara on Monday morning. The media filmed him at the site of the killing of the two brothers, far from any of the burnt-out Palestinian homes. Most of his statement dealt with the need to fight terror and capture the killer of the settlers. His only reference to the pogrom was an appeal not “to not take the law in your own hands and let the IDF deal with it.” As Pfeffer observed,
Not one minister has said a word actually condemning the settler rampage. They didn’t even say there was anything wrong with what any of them did, except for not letting the army get on with its job.’
The Israeli security establishment gave up trying to fight settler violence several governments ago. Sunday night in Hawara was just the inevitable result of a long, ongoing process. No one should have been surprised.
Amir Fakhoury and Meron Rapoport warned that this could be Israel’s “second Nakba government.” That is certainly what most members of the coalition would like to see. The real question is how to effect it. Israel’s Police Minister Ben Gvir was a supporter of Kach which believed in expelling all Arabs. Now he ‘only’ supports the deportation of ‘Arab terrorists’ but to Gvir all Arabs are terrorists.
Since the start of the year more than 60 Palestinians in the West Bank have died, the deadliest in the territory in two decades. The government has expedited plans for settlement expansion and pushed through legislation that would revoke the citizenship and residency of Palestinians. During the Huwara attack, Knesset members pushed forward a bill to legalize the death penalty which has now received its first reading.
Ben-Gvir also demanded that the illegal settlement of Evyatar, illegal even by Israeli standards, which was evacuated in 2020 but reoccupied during the night, should stay.
In Israel itself there was a small demonstration of hundreds in Tel Aviv Against the pogrom. This demonstration was attacked by a 19 year old thug with a pepper spray. A 70-year-old woman was taken to Hospital with facial burns. Two of the protesters were reportedly arrested. Thousands of Israeli Palestinians also held a demonstration.
Demonstrates in Tel Aviv tonight Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
It is Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz who appreciated the significance of the attack on Hurawa in an article Israeli Settlers’ Hawara Pogrom Was a Preview of Sabra and Chatila 2. What we saw in Harawa is only the beginning. Israel has a genocidal government that western leaders from Biden to Sunak, not forgetting Starmer, will do their best to excuse whatever their atrocities.
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz’s Defence Correspondent wrote that The Lions’ Den, which the security establishment thought it had overcome some four months ago, is alive and kicking. The operatives killed and arrested were replaced by new ones. What was once described derisively by Israeli sources as “a bunch of punks” now has real stature in Nablus unlike the discredited Palestinian Authority.
This is the significance of what is happening. A new Palestinian resistance is arising. No one is under any illusions about the cost in blood but Palestinians have no alternative but to fight.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, last week.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Harel wrote that:
Some two months after the inauguration of Netanyahu’s government, it’s clear that Palestinian terrorism isn’t particularly impressed by political changes in Israel. The tough rhetoric, such as the revival of efforts to advance the death penalty for terrorists, will surely not help matters….
The situation in the West Bank is too sensitive, and the Palestinian Authority is too weak, for the tide of violence to be stemmed with a bit of external pressure and promises of American gestures toward the administration in Ramallah.
The weakness of the Palestinian leadership hinders its security apparatus from making good on promises made to American officials. If the PA police sergeants or petty officers fear that the Authority might collapse in a matter of months, they have zero incentive to take on the Lions’ Den militants.
In other words the Quisling Palestinian Authority is losing its ability to act as subcontractor to Israel’s occupation.
Last week Israel took another significant step towards annexation, with the agreement dividing authority between ministers Gallant and Smotrich.
Smotrich will now hold most of the powers, allowing him to shape the map of construction in the West Bank, further entrenching the two separate legal systems, for Israelis and Palestinians.
What it will also do is make it clear that the West Bank has effectively been annexed and that Apartheid is Israel’s official policy.
A report in the Times of Israel speaks volumes. ‘All suspects in Huwara settler rampage freed; IDF chief vows to probe ‘lawlessness’. Not however Jewish ‘lawlessness’. Three settlers were put under house arrest and 5 were simply released.
If ever proof were needed that two sets of laws operate, one for settlers and another for Palestinians then this is proof. There must be hundreds of photographs of the settler mob yet all those arrested, a mere 8, have been released.
Those who perpetrated Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom of November 9/10 1938 were also given immunity from prosecution. In Russia in the Kishinev pogrom, it was those who defended themselves who were attacked by the Police, not the pogromists. So too in Hawara.
We should also note the silence of the Board of Deputies which never misses an opportunity to condemn the Palestinians and justify Israeli repression. All in the name of British Jews. It condemned the ‘killing of two Israeli brothers by Palestinian terrorists’ and noted the ‘subsequent rampage by extremist settlers that resulted in the killing of a Palestinian civilian.’
The murder of a Palestinian was not Jewish terror, merely extremism. Still this is better than its total silence over the Israeli army’s murder of 11 civilians in Nablus preceded by 11 civilians in Jenin. The BOD is an apologist for Israeli war crimes.
When it came to the murder, by Israeli snipers, of unarmed civilians at the Gaza fence the BOD put the blame on Hamas, not those who fired the shots.
US Jewish groups were little better. Whilst condemning the ‘Huwara settler rampage’ they managed to avoid all mention of Netanyahu and the government which had encouraged the settler pogrom.
As the Times of Israel noted the Anti-Defamation League,
‘when asked to elaborate on its statement, condemned lawmakers who incite violence, while avoiding mentioning the fact that they are members of the governing coalition.’
William Daroff of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, did not mention the Israeli government either.
‘The Jewish organizations approached for this story did not reply when asked what they planned to do if Netanyahu fails to take action.’
Amazingly the Jewish Federations of North America commended “the Government of Israel for speaking out quickly to lower tensions.” And Israel lobby group AIPAC tied the settlers’ vigilantism to Palestinian terrorism.
vigilante action cannot be tolerated,” its spokesperson said. “Terrorism will not decline as long as the Palestinian leadership continues incitement, rewards terrorism with payments to terrorists and their families, and encourages the public celebration of Israeli fatalities.”