Bitterlemons (Opinion)
August 15, 2011 - 12:00am

The so-called "price tag" campaign is regarded as a product of the illegal Israeli settlement of Yitzhar, yet the price tag of Israeli occupation and fanatical land grabbing is much more generally aligned with the policies and practices of Israel, the state. The price tag campaign, after all, is the settler pursuit to claim as much indigenous land as possible by terrorizing Palestinians with arson, gunfire, vandalism and other forms of harassment and even death. While domestically, Israelis may see a difference between illegal settlers and the state, the Palestinian who loses self-autonomy and land ownership at the hands of the military or fanatical settlers sees only what seems to be a mutually-shared national agenda.

The phenomenon of the price tag campaign is a reaction by the settlers to the demolition of settler construction by Israel, where illegal settlers seek revenge for this destruction from the innocent Palestinians of nearby villages. By destroying small structures within settlements, one might think Israel is taking a step towards stopping the settlement project. Yet, despite the settlements' illegal status, Israel continues to include them in official "national priority maps" and station soldiers to protect these illegal pursuits at the cost of Palestinian rights and peace.

In mid-2010, structures in the illegal settlement of Bat Ayen near the Palestinian village of Beit Omar were destroyed by the Israeli military. Settlers then attacked the Safaa neighborhood of Beit Omar in a systematic effort to burn olive groves, damage buildings, and threaten the overall security of locals. When the Israeli military showed up, it arrived just as residents of the Palestinian village began to leave their homes to see those terrorizing them. The Israeli military fired tear gas and stun grenades at the Palestinians, injuring a number of residents while their assailants were protected and not apprehended.

The Palestinian village of Burin can also attest to the relationship between Israeli military and Israeli colonizers. In 2009, for example, a group of international observers saw about 50 settlers descend from their illegal settlement to attack the home of a local Palestinian, Ghalib Najjar. The settlers were carrying rifles and assaulting the 13 members of the household. When the Israeli military showed up and allowed the settlers to leave without consequence, the soldiers threatened the international observers against reporting or photographing the event. Snipers were positioned at the top of the family home, and international observers were threatened with detention.

Islam Fakhuri lives in the H-1 area of Hebron (which is under Israeli military control). He describes the collaboration between settlers and Israeli military forces: "My father had two shops--souvenir shops--on Shuhada Street. In 2000, during the intifada, the army came into our house one day and they said they wanted to buy our house. I said, 'This house is not for sale. We don't want to sell our house to you, nor to settlers.' That night, around two a.m., they [Israeli settlers] came back and set our house on fire. Two of the family's children sleeping in one room died from the fire. And then the army came back and forced us to move out."

He gestures at his home. "You see, my house is empty now. Everyone has a story like mine."

These violent actions occur almost weekly in various villages throughout the West Bank, with other Israelis calling on the military to act "more responsibly". But how can one ask a military to act responsibly when its state continues to violate international law and disregard Palestinian rights?

Whether one is looking at the disappeared villages of historic Palestine, Nabi Saleh, the Jordan Valley, Hebron, or Sheikh Jarrah (or all the places erased of their names and labeled in the language of imperialists), it is clear that what is happening is that a colonial state has birthed violent colonialists who take it upon themselves to do the traditional job of the Israeli military. And thus, to the Palestinian, both are the same.

One wears fatigues, but both carry guns


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