The footage is sickening.
A bare-chested Israeli settler from an illegal outpost firing what appears to be an American M-4 at Palestinians in the West Bank town of Urif. Next to him, smiling giddily, two uniformed IDF soldiers.
Nine Palestinians were injured in the chaos. 25-year-old Nidal Safadi, father of three, was killed.
Collaborative reporting from Israeli and American organizations including The Intercept, +972 Magazine / Local Call and B’Tselem has now detailed a series of five unprovoked, joint attacks from settlers and IDF soldiers that day, May 14. Each joint attack included violence against Palestinian civilians, the burning of farmland and the use of live ammunition. Four Palestinians were killed.
I’m a former IDF officer. My kids have served in the IDF. I’ve trained hundreds of young recruits. And I’m absolutely disgusted by these attacks.
IDF participation in attacks on civilians is brutal and a violation of Israel’s founding values. It feeds a cycle of injustice and retaliation which undermines Israel’s security, degrades the IDF’s reputation and increases the risk of reprisal attacks.
I am appalled at the violence and impunity. I cannot, however, say that I am surprised.
Just the other week, 100 former IDF combat soldiers called on the Defense Minister to do more to deter settler violence. “Settler violence has been raging for years,” they wrote, “and is being answered with tacit support.”
I share their frustration and anger. When it comes to violence in the West Bank, impunity is the norm, justice the rare exception. Only one investigation is underway into only one of the May 14 killings, and it only came following public pressure.
As abhorrent as this case is, it is also just the sharpest edge of a systemic problem. This type of violence and injustice will always be present within a system that maintains indefinite military control over millions of non-citizens who are denied civil rights and access to justice. This system destroys lives, violates our values and is corrosive to our shared vision of a just, democratic homeland for the Jewish people.
The Israeli government has sent generations of young Israelis to the front lines of this unjust occupation. We have been too ready to ask them to put their lives on the line to defend unlawful settlements. Too often, we have asked them to act as private security for individuals bent on carrying out violent, ideological extremism.
To care about Israelis and to care about Palestinians is to care about what is happening in the occupied territories.
We must not hesitate to condemn this systemic violence.
We must confront the injustice of this decades-old occupation.
We must demand our leaders pursue a plan to end this cycle of injustice and violence, rather than merely ‘managing’ this cruel, unjust reality.
That’s why J Street is working to organize within local communities and in Washington to push our leaders to speak out against settler violence, settlement expansion and indefinite occupation — and in favor of real Israeli-Palestinian peace.
It’s why our legislative advocacy teams are working to advance transparency and oversight measures to ensure our military aid to Israel is used only for legitimate security purposes — and cannot be used to support demolitions, settlements or indefinite occupation.
And it’s why we’re demanding the US-Israel relationship be fundamentally realigned to emphasize a clear commitment to the rights of Palestinians and Israelis to justice, security, freedom and self-determination.
With so many well-established, organized and well-resourced forces pushing back, we need to continue to build a broad, inclusive movement for progress that spans from our grassroots supporters right up to our most senior elected officials.
And if you know someone who might be interested in adding their name to our call for a truly just and democratic Israel, please forward this article and ask them to consider signing up.
We can change the status quo and work toward a better future, but only if we fight for it together.