Sunday, September 4, 2011

Looming Disaster in the West Bank

The Palestinians are about to make their case in the UN General Assembly; the vote will surely go heavily in their favor; West Bank Palestinians will march to once again assert their right to nationhood.

And the Netanyahu government, in its infinite wisdom, has chosen to stockpile water cannons, tear gas, and such; to provide additional training to the military and police - but most worrisome, to arm the West Bank settlers with tear-gas and similar deterrents.  These are, of course, the same cowboy settlers who tend to walk around with Kalashnikovs over the shoulders, taunting and abusing local Palestinians, poisoning their wells, tearing down their olive trees.  Now, with the permission of the Israeli government (and the implicit complicity of the US), these hotheads are ramping up for a confrontation:

In coordination with the military, each Israeli settlement has
identified a "response line" around its perimeter, said Shlomo Vaknin,
security officer for a settler umbrella group known as the Yesha
Council. Should Palestinians cross that line, the military will shoot at
marchers' feet or in the air. If soldiers are not on hand,
responsibility to react will fall on the settlements' civilian guards,
Vaknin said.

In response, the Association for Civil Rights in
Israel sent a complaint last week to the military's advocate general
claiming the settler training amounts to inciting vigilante violence
against unarmed civilians exercising their right to protest. The army
did not immediately comment on the complaint.

Mike Guzafsky, 47, a
settler who trains guard and attack dogs for settlements, noted that
the army appeared to have been caught by surprise last month when
militants crossed the Egypt-Israel border and ambushed vehicles in
southern Israel, killing eight people. He said he got 100 requests for
dogs ahead of September, far above the usual.

"What happens," he
said, speaking at the West Bank settlement of Elazar, if the army "is
once again caught off guard when 500 hostile Arabs are trying to
penetrate a settlement with knives and guns?"

Michael Ben-Ari, an
Israeli lawmaker associated with the extremist fringe of the settlement
movement, issued a pamphlet to settler leaders encouraging settlers to
match every unarmed Palestinian march with an Israeli one.

more soldiers and border police against groups of Arab children and
women. Instead, children versus children, youth versus youth, and women
versus women — this is how we will destroy the September effect," he

This could get out of hand in a heartbeat - and if it does, the Egyptian public will be demanding that their military government do something about it; Mr. Assad in Syria may be provided with a new tool with which to rally support around himself; and Mr. Erdogan in Turkey (who is prepared to challenge Israel's blockade of Gaza in the ICC, and reportedly will visit Gaza in the weeks ahead) will come down even harder on the Israeli government - and on a US that stands aside as Jewish settlers "defend" settlements that were illegal to begin with.

And Perry, Bachmann, and Israel's hallelujah chorus in the US Congress will demand that Obama stand with Israel - even if that means standing by as the IDF and settlers armed to the teeth slaughter dozens of Palestinian Arabs.

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