Fourteen injured youths surrounded by dozens of Arabs throwing rocks at them and beating them with sticks. Four hundred meters away, three other youths who didn’t make it, also surrounded by dozens of Arabs, also being pelted with rocks. One faints. The commander of a hundred-strong force of the IDF looks on.
The Jewish youths who were beaten by Palestinians with sticks said they had no intention of performing a “price-tag” revenge attack. “If we’d meant to do that,” they noted, “we’d have had to be idiots to do it in broad daylight.” A military source with the Judea and Samaria Division admitted to me that there was no proof the youths had had any intention of spraying graffiti or burning cars.
Still, he rejected the youths’ argument that they had only been hiking in the area.
“If someone goes for a hike right after his vineyard is destroyed, or goes for a hike by the local villages an hour after a confrontation with the neighboring village—that’s a ‘price tag,’ too.”
“Wait,” I said. “What were the Palestinians doing coming down from their village to the Eish Kodesh outpost just when IDF tractors were uprooting the Jewish residents’ saplings? Why didn’t the Border Police kick them out when they came to dance and make merry over what was being done to their Jewish neighbors? The Jewish youths had saved their pennies just to buy those saplings—why did they let the Palestinians come celebrate and take some of those saplings for themselves?”
Notes one of the youths: “Gush Emunim and the settlement movement held a lot of parades and hikes that were meant to demonstrate their presence in the territories. We grew up on those. Walking through the Land of Israel means fulfilling the mitzva of conquering the land: that’s the proper response, the best way to correct being expelled from that place. We said, let’s show that we’re walking through the land and conquering it.”
What they did might perhaps be labeled as venting anger, or even a provocation: the youths staged a provocation by pointedly moving around near the villages after the Arabs of Qusra came to their community to celebrate the downfall of the young agriculturists, who had established themselves on the tough earth of the Judean Mountains and planted trees there, only to be uprooted by the IDF.
Palestinians regularly infiltrate Jewish areas. To provoke. To steal. Sometimes to kill. But the Jews don’t react violently. Normally, the Arabs come on Shabbat or Shabbat eve with leftist organizations and foreign volunteers. They come right up to a community, right up to the fence. Absent a fence, they came right up to the houses at the community’s perimeter.
But the residents don’t attack them. They leave the trespassers to the guards on duty and the community’s chief of security.
The message from the recent episode is clear: violence pays.
But what will become of the hot-tempered youths, who see the legal system buckling under Palestinian violence? The youths see that the government is looking for dialogue and compromise instead of laying down the law. They see that in the Jewish–Arab conflict over the land, he who uses violence captures the land and can even defeat the legal system.
Some time ago, three Jewish youths with clubs drove away several Palestinians who had entered the space adjacent to a community in the South Hevron Hills. The young Jews were photographed, arrested, and put on trial. There too, the message was clear. And since then, even within the Green Line, along the seam running through Jerusalem, you don’t see young Jews putting up a defense against Arab rioters who come to French Hill and the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus.