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Settler-on-Settler Violence

An evacuation clash reveals intra-settler fault lines

Yair Rosenberg
June 27, 2012

Yesterday, the Israeli government began evacuating 33 families from illegal homes in the settlement neighborhood of Givat Ulpana. Earlier, the Israeli Supreme Court had ordered that these buildings be dismantled by July 1, and Prime Minister Netanyahu had vowed to uphold the ruling, going so far as to threaten to fire any government ministers who voted for legislation to retroactively legalize the homes.

In a classic Netanyahu balancing act, he mollified the evicted settlers by promising to build 300 new housing units in another part of the settlement deemed legal by the Supreme Court. This agreement in hand, the residents of the Ulpana homes agreed to leave peacefully.

Thus, when the day of eviction arrived, settler media like Arutz 7 published “Pictures of Quiet Eviction,” depicting a relaxed, orderly transition.

But while there were no clashes between soldiers and settlers, there were violent altercations on the ground–between the majority of the settlers and a few who attempted to resist the evacuation. According to the local outlet Hakol Hayehudi (“The Jewish Voice”), infighting broke out when one family and some youths barricaded themselves inside the buildings, threatening to derail the otherwise uneventful transition.

In response, some local residents along with teenagers from elsewhere in Beit El attacked the family, beating the husband and stripping the religious hair covering from his wife.

These sort of clashes rarely make it into the mainstream press, but they reveal important fault lines within the settler community. Settlers are often painted with an unhelpfully broad brush in the American and international media, as though all think alike and hew to the same political commitments (usually nefarious ones). As incidents like these remind us, there many kinds of settlers: religious settlers and secular settlers, settlers willing to work with the government and those who view it as illegitimate, and shades in between.

As creative peace-building NGOs like Blue & White Future note, understanding these distinctions between types of settlers is crucial for crafting a workable peace plan amenable to as many Israelis as possible. Offered the right compensation package from the government, many settlers may be willing to move to Israel proper, or to settlement areas that will be annexed by Israel in a peace deal. Others may resist any attempts at evacuation. But without treating settlers like the ideologically diverse group that they are, no peace proposition has any real chance of succeeding.

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.