Settlers fume over IDF ‘siege’ of their town after Israeli protesters riot in Arab village

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir demands police explain why collective punishment was permitted against residents of Israeli town.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Right-wing activists and politicians fumed Saturday night over what they called a “siege” laid against the Jewish village of Ateret by the IDF after some local Jews rioted in a nearby Arab village earlier that day.

“There’s a blockade here already for long hours,” said lawyer Nati Rom of the Honenu legal aid organization that helps nationalist Jews arrested by the authorities. “The Benjamin Region brigade commander is standing at the entrance, with security forces, the Shabak, with masked faces, are not allowing anyone in or out without checking each car very carefully, and they’re making mass arrests.”

“This is collective punishment that we didn’t see when we asked, for example, in the murderers’ village of Al Muayar, after more than 20 roadside bombs, that they blockade it.”

“They told us ‘We don’t have permission from the political echelon, the commanding officer doesn’t allow it.’ But here, there’s no problem to have collective punishment…. This can’t go on, it’s illegal, it must be stopped immediately,” he added.

As the police were also on the scene, sources close to National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said that the minister made it clear to the police chief and commander of the Judea and Samaria region that “he opposes all law-breaking, but it is still forbidden to punish an entire group. Just as it was not possible to close down [Jerusalem Arab neighborhood and hotbed of terrorists] Issawiya, it’s not clear why it was possible to do so in Ateret.”

Read  Contrary to Biden's claims, violence against Judea and Samaria Arabs falls significantly

Dozens of extreme right-wingers had clashed over the Sabbath with Palestinians near Umm Safa, a few kilometers from Ateret, then entered the village and set at least two houses and several vehicles on fire.

Israel’s top security echelon had condemned the violence, with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant saying that he had given “a clear directive to our troops to maintain order and stability, and to prevent acts of violence perpetrated by civilians in the area.”

In a joint statement, IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, police chief Kobi Shabtai and Shabak head Ronen Bar said that the recent “violent attacks” against “innocent Palestinians” should be considered “in every way, nationalist terrorism, and we are obliged to fight them.”

Such violence, they maintained, “increases Palestinian terrorism and harms the State of Israel and the international legitimacy of Israel’s security forces to fight Palestinian terrorism.”

Dozens of mostly youthful Jews had also rampaged in a few Arab villages immediately following the burial Wednesday of the two of the four civilians, two of them minors, who had been murdered in a Palestinian terror attack in Eli the previous day.

Both religious and political leaders of the settler movement joined the condemnation while blasting those who paint all those who live in Judea and Samaria as violent.

Read  WATCH: Footage from helicopter strike in the Gaza Strip

Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, the Chief Rabbi of Samaria, said Sunday, “I protest the haste with which the heads of the security establishment condemned the settlers, and my words are especially directed at the media, which was quick to blame the ‘settlers.’ If a group of lawbreakers chooses to carry out prohibited actions, both according to the Torah and all human morality, this does not mean that the heroic settlers should be tarnished even an iota.”

He praised the residents of the region “who live under the shadow of constant terror and continue bravely to live regular lives, driving on the roads despite the shootings, Molotov cocktails, rocks and roadblocks they experience.”

His words echoed those of Gush Etzion Regional Council head and Yesha Council chairman Shlomo Ne’eman Saturday, who said, “For more than a year, terrorism has been rampant in our streets and most recently has been increasing, and has reached a peak…. In this reality, a small handful of Jews, out of desperation and frustration, have taken the law into their own hands. We should not mimic our barbarous enemy, go wild, and do indiscriminate harm. We have what the terrorists and their supporters don’t have – a sense of humanity.”

“The residents of Judea and Samaria are not violent and don’t take the law into their own hands,” he continued. “And those who are criminals, should be dealt with to the full extent of the law.”