Clashes between settlers and Israeli forces left several border policemen hospitalized Tuesday morning. While the mainstream media was quick to condemn the settlers’ behavior, it missed the bigger story.
We have been asking here for some time why the so-called “price tag” attacks don’t get the media attention they deserve. For those unfamiliar with the term, price tag attacks refer to attacks by radical settler groups – “hilltop youth” and others, mostly from the settlement outposts – on Palestinians and their property, including: beatings, arson, graffiti on mosques, and most frequently – the destruction of olive trees.
The name “price tag” represents the twisted logic behind these crimes, which are carried out as a form of retribution by radical settlers every time a few structures or an outpost is evacuated by the army (or any similar event that is not to their liking). There are dozens of such attacks each year. Last week, for example, a shepherd from Burka was attacked with iron rods by seven men who covered their faces with shirts. The shepherd’s skull was broken. Very few people heard of this event (Larry Derfner sought to understand the reasons behind Israeli indifference to price tag attacks, I strongly recommend reading his piece).
Today’s (Tuesday) events, however, were different. In the early hours of the morning, Israeli Border Police officers were confronted by dozens (some reports said hundreds) of settlers from the radical settlement Yitzhar, just south of Nablus, after demolishing several structures in the settlement. The policemen were attacked with sticks and stones, and an IDF posts was vandalized. Despite the fact that nobody was seriously hurt, the story dominated Israeli news sites with condemnations for the settlers’ behavior coming from both the usual suspects, as well some unusual ones – Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, among others. Peace Now wrote to the attorney general, demanding that the vandals be brought to justice.
This is all good and well, but such incidents should remind the Left that, first of all, attacks on defenseless Palestinian civilians are far worse than confrontations with soldiers. It is these incidents that should receive attention, both in the media and in terms of law enforcement. Secondly, price tag attacks are a side story of the occupation – at times even a distraction.
Vandalism is unpleasant, but the occupation is carried out by the state and the army, not the settlers. It is the IDF that places checkpoints, restricts Palestinians’ freedom of movement, arrests people – including minors – without trial, and at times kills. It is easy to rally public opinion against the settlers – sometimes unfairly, as most of them oppose price tag attacks – but the truth is that the occupation is first and foremost an Israeli project. Opposing it means taking the (political) battle to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, not just Yitzhar and Hebron.