Running Wild: the Settler Intifada in Israel

Rome–(Update with arrest of settler leader) A baby was burned alive in a West Bank village, apparently by marauding settlers. It’s the latest episode in a pattern of radical Jewish terrorism directed at Palestinians with a side message to the government: don’t mess with us.

It’s called pay back or price tag, though it’s not clear why killing a Palestinian infant is the price to pay for pay back to the government. One thing is clear: settlers nourished primarily by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party for almost four decades are perfectly willing to bite the hand that feeds them to accomplish their own ideological end.

If Netanyahu’s government, which is not unfriendly to the settler movement, considers tearing down an unauthorized settlement or stopping settlers from uprooting olives, settlers feel justified in trashing a mosque or church or burning down someone’s house with people inside. Israeli President Reuvin Rivlin has received threats because he condemned the baby killing.

It’s a kind of intifada, Arabic for shaking off, a word which has become synonymous with rebellion against authority. Since 1977, Likud has patronized fundamentalist settlement movements that don’t bother to justify land takeovers on the grounds of providing security for the State of Israel. For them, settlements in the West Bank are the fulfillment of God’s Will. He gave the “Whole Land of Israel” to Jews. It’s up to “Whole Land of Israel” fanatics to  make good on the promise.

No one, especially the Palestinians, but also governments can stand in the way. The 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin was a prime example of the distance this line of thinking can go. His murderer believed he needed to kill Rabin to stop the peace process and ensure no land would be given to Palestinians. The influential settler movement Gush Emunim, “Bloc of the Faithful,” argued that giving up land to non-Jews was a sin while settling it obeyed the highest commandment of a religious life–to to speed up the arrival of the Messiah.

It is no surprise that graffiti on the burned West Bank house included the slogan, “Long Live the Messiah.” The Israeli government says that settlers also torched a Catholic church near the city of Tiberias. The Israelis have made their first arrest in that case, though it’s not yet clear whether the detainee, Meir Levinger, was actually involved or ordered it.

If this kind of exclusive, God-given claim to land sounds familiar, it ought to. Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement that rules the Gaza Strip, believes that all of Palestine is holy Muslim land and can’t be ruled by anyone else but Muslims–it’s another gift from God. To reclaim it, holy war is in order. In Salafi and Wahhabi teaching, turning the whole world toward Islam, by conquest or otherwise, also speeds up the end of days.

Can’t wait.

A quick look at the ideological religious grounds for settlements.

Peace Now‘s history of settlements.

More history of messianic settlement movement.

Something I wrote a while back about fanaticism spreading inside Israel.

Arrest of settler.


Daniel Williams

Published by Daniel Williams

I am a former correspondent who, for more than 30 years, did time in China, Southeast Asia, Central America, Mexico, the Middle East, Europe and Africa and covered wars that went from episodic to non-stop. My book, "Forsaken," about Christian persecution in the Middle East came out January, 2016. NextWarNotes is a news and analysis blog designed to fill gaps, provide background and think about what’s next. The name of the site comes from a 1935 article by Ernest Hemingway in Esquire Magazine called “Notes on the Next War,” in which he predicted the coming conflagration in Europe, told why it would happen and warned Americans to stay out.

2 Replies to “Running Wild: the Settler Intifada in Israel”

  1. These barbarities committed by folks for whom the USA provides a security umbrella diminish our claim to moral superiority vis-à-vis the barbarians of ISIS et al. In due course, they may also diminish our enthusiasm for continuing to provide that security umbrella.

  2. At least we have a President who seems to genuinely care about moral authority, unlike LBJ and Tricky Dick, while at the same time seeming capable of kicking ass, unlike Saint Jimmy. We’re stuck with a morally bankrupt bunch of “allies,” from Israel to Iraq to Saudi Arabia to Pakistan to the EU. I’m looking forward to Pope Francis’ visit to Washington, which I think will not only be a phenomenal event but also an opportunity for conservative and liberal Americans to begin coalescing around redirecting our government toward more moral policies and programs.

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