A modest proposal for stopping settler violence

For years, Israeli police and the Shin Bet have complained that they can’t deal with ‘price tag’ attacks. Here’s a simple proposition.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

A modest proposal for stopping settler violence
Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinians as soldiers stand on the side. Settlers attacked the West Bank village of Asira al Qibliya, burned fields and threw stones at houses after an Israeli settler was stabbed to death by a Palestinian man. April 30, 2013 (Photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

The phenomenon of “price tag” attacks has been with us for some seven years now, and during this period, Israeli authorities have failed utterly in dealing with them. Time and time again, we are told by the police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) that we’re dealing with an ultra-sophisticated group, which cannot be penetrated.

A new report in this genre was broadcast on Tuesday on Channel 10 (Hebrew). The police and Shin Bet seem to have made a great effort, if not in getting their hands on the terrorists, then at least in massaging their image: the reporter, the very able and honest Roey Sharon, received a copy of an internal Shin Bet document, as well as footage of detectives capturing “price tag” attackers red-handed.

No Shin Bet or police representative was quoted, but former General Avi Mizrahi spoke at length, saying you simply cannot recruit these guys as informers. Mizrahi bemoaned the fact that price taggers are irresponsible people who can easily set the entire sector on fire. You don’t say. Maybe Mizrahi ought to have thought about that when, as commander of the Central Command, he agreed to attend a ceremony honoring Dov Lior (the latter is considered to be one of the most extreme rabbis around, and at the time was wanted by the police for failing to show up for interrogation). If Mizrahi – a uniformed officer, and in fact the “stand-in for the sovereign” of the West Bank – decided to honor the man who penned his agreement with the Torat Ha’Melekh book, how seriously should his commitment to fighting price tag terror be taken?

We are told that the Shin Bet and the police have a hard time gathering human intelligence (HUMINT) among price taggers. That’s probably true. Then again, it’s hard to believe the price taggers are a band of particularly hardened veterans of the KGB-school of dirty tricks who also graduated from the Spetznatz. The Shin Bet says a document written by Noam Federman exposed all its tricks a decade ago. Well, that was a decade ago; come up with new ones.

But, given that the Shin Bet finds it hard to get HUMINT on Price Taggers, we at Yesh Din are happy to aid them, and ask them to kindly watch the short video below. It was taken by Yesh Din investigator, Munir Qadus, during Tuesday’s pogrom. (Watch more videos of the events here.)

As can be seen, a group of hooded settlers is briskly marching home from yet another successful pogrom, while a group of tired-looking IDF soldiers waddles behind, obviously there to make certain the hoodlums don’t get into too much trouble. The price taggers, how do I put it, do not operate as a particularly secretive military unit.

We suggest the Shin Bet adopt the following operational plan:

1. In the future, the IDF troops should not accompany the rioters, but rather detain them. This is innovative, true, and will force the IDF’s command to update its thinking, but for that same reason will be very surprising to the rioters. The element of surprise, as is well known, is the main ingredient in military success.

2. Furthermore, as the IDF does when it encounters left-wing demonstrators, it should diligently document the incident in video and photographs.

3. As the rioters are detained, their veils should be removed and they should be photographed. The investigators can then cross-reference the pictures of the suspects with hoods on and off.

4. As soon as they are photographed, the detainees should be sent separately to different interrogation facilities, where they can be interrogated according to legal procedures.

5. In addition, the security forces should use the revolutionary method of getting search and seizure orders for the settlements, in order to look for illegal weapons, as well as stolen Palestinian property.

We would further inform the Shin Bet that the report mentions the fact that IDF troops repeatedly inform the price taggers about plans to evacuate outposts. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not new. These soldiers ought to be identified (which shouldn’t be at all difficult), tried, imprisoned and drummed out of the army, as befitting armed men who betrayed their oath of service.

There are just two problems with this nice plan: אhe first is that the settler political establishment would rise on its hindquarters to prevent it. We are certain that the Shin Bet, which is dedicated to an apolitical battle against terrorism, would not be perturbed. Even so, it’s important to remember that the former Shin Bet chiefs interviewed in the movie The Gatekeepers have already testified that the political will to fight Jewish terrorism is basically non-existent. As our latest report, “The Road to Dispossession,” shows, Jewish terrorism manages to accomplish what it sets out to accomplish: the continuation of the land grab in the West Bank.

The second, more severe problem, is that I find it hard to believe that anything written here is actually news to the police and Shin Bet. It’s hard to shake the feeling that the Shin Bet – despite all the high-minded words about the strategic dangers of price tag terrorism – still invests much more energy, and much more thought, into detaining Palestinian political activists than it does in thwarting Jewish terrorism.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.