Given the relative lull of Palestinian terror in Judea and Samaria and the fact that the General Security Service, better known as Shin Bet, has less on its plate, one might have expected [Shin Bet chief] Yoram Cohen’s troops to step up efforts to scuttle rampant Jewish terror that could stoke a third intifada.
Seventeen mosques have already been torched within Israel proper and across the Green Line. Graffiti such as “Muhammad is a Pig” has been sprayed on the walls of mosques. Muslim cemeteries have been desecrated. Thousands of olive trees have been uprooted or set on fire. Property has been vandalized. If that were not enough, the last two years have seen a precipitous rise in violent actions by settlers against Palestinians – not just roughing-up or clubbing, but actual shooting. At the same time, we have seen a growing number of incidents where IDF bases and property have been vandalized too. [Israeli settlers vandalized, for the first time, an Israel Defense Forces base in the West Bank on Sept. 1, 2011, signing it as a "price tag" operation against the army.]
Mincing no words, the U.S. State Department calls it “settler terrorism,” which would be the precise epithet to describe the recent events in the territories, the climax of which was the firebombing of a Palestinian taxi near the settlement of Bat-Ayin [on Aug. 16, which seriously injured several Palestinians].
In the aftermath of every "price tag" terrorist act, the [Israeli] political establishment fires away condemnations. Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] announced that he had ordered the suspects arrested and charged. After the attack on the Palestinian cab, Netanyahu hurriedly dispatched his envoy to meet with [Palestinian Authority Chairman] Abu Mazen and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad with promises galore to stamp out terror. Netanyahu, too, realizes the danger inherent in such acts, talking about implementing an iron-fist policy against these outlaws. But in the territories – as is invariably the case – there are the police, but there are also the Lords of the Land.
To drive the point home, here is some data: 91% of the investigations into offenses perpetrated by Israelis against Palestinians are closed without indictment. Only 3% of the investigations relating to property offenses see indictments served. Other cases relating to injuring Palestinians or vandalizing their property are closed because of the failure of the investigators to track down suspects or find evidence. “Unknown offender,” “insufficient evidence” and “lost investigation dossiers” are commonplace pretexts. In light of this data, provided by [the human rights organization] Yesh Din, you should expect Shin Bet, the Israel Police and the judicial system not to sleep a wink.
Foiling Jewish terrorism comes under the mandate of the Shin Bet’s Jewish Division. An examination of its thwarting operations in the past two years shows a small rate of success, although it is considered the organization’s most prioritized division. It has no budgetary problems. Its manpower complement has doubled or tripled, and to the best of our knowledge its operations are unrestricted. And yet it seems that the Shin Bet’s Jewish Division is unable to scuttle Jewish terror. And that’s not some pinpoint failure; rather, it is an ongoing one.
The excuses cited by Shin Bet to the effect that intelligence material cannot be turned into legal evidence or that suspects mumble verses from the Book of Psalms instead of replying to questions from the interrogators are irrelevant and should be of no interest to the public. No one thinks that Shin Bet’s work against these radical right-wing youths is an easy one. But the fact remains that the Jewish wave of terror is swelling. And it’s ominous and menacing. Therefore there is no choice but to have the Jewish Division thoroughly scrutinized to find out the reasons for its failures. And if need be, position holders who have failed to do their job should be replaced. This war should be waged using innovative subterfuge and better intelligence forces. But above all, these vigilantes should be treated as a terrorist underground. All the available legal means and methods to scuttle terrorism should be employed against them before we find ourselves at the start of a third intifada.
One thing remains clear: cautionary talks with the Hilltop Youth [hard-liner nationalist youth in Israel, often noted for establishing illegal outposts outside existing settlements on the hilltops.] or issuing warnings to them, as settlers claimed Shin Bet conducted on Thursday night [Aug. 16, right after the firebombing of a Palestinian taxicab] in Bat Ayin, are amateurish moves. It’s wasting our breath. That is certainly not the way to scuttle terror.
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