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Israel’s Enemy Within: Why Radical West Bank Settlers Put The Country At Risk

Op-Ed: The violence of Jewish settlers on the West Bank is no longer only aimed at Palestinians. Some settlers are attacking soldiers who are there for their protection. In the end, though, Jerusalem’s leadership has no one to blame but themselves.

Peter Münch

Israel is armed against enemies like few other countries. It has fighter jets and drones, tanks and submarines and, just in case, an atomic bomb. The Jewish state is a steeled state, and probably has to be that way in view of threats to its survival that exist to this day.

But for a long time, the threat to Israel hasn't only been coming from the outside. There is an enemy growing within, an enemy that hurls stones and sets fires and won't even hesitate in attacking the country's own army. The internal threat comes from radical settlers on the West Bank, who are openly challenging the Israeli state. And in Jerusalem, a normally punchy government is showing itself to be only conditionally ready to take defensive action.

And yet there was plenty of writing on the wall. For years, the settlers have been terrorizing their Palestinian neighbors. Hit groups have cut down entire groves of olive trees just as farmers were getting ready to harvest. According to reports from various human rights groups, in 2011 alone, 10,000 trees were destroyed or damaged. The Palestinians can expect no help from Israeli police. There were no charges brought in over 90% of complaints. And violent groups will continue to prevail for as long as the Israeli army perceives its mission to be protecting settlers from Palestinian attacks instead of the opposite.

None of this is new. For a long time it's been part of the grim everyday reality of the occupied zones. In the meantime, however, settler violence has reached a new level, with radicals espousing "price-tag policies." Underlying these "policies' is the perfidious concept of monetizing every restriction on unconstrained appropriation of land. It's mostly Palestinians who pay the price – whenever, that is, that the Israeli government actually dares to intervene. When it does, vengeance includes torching cars -- and mosques -- in Palestinian villages. A historic mosque was recently burned in Jerusalem as well.

Biting the hand that feeds them

Most Israelis look upon all this as highly shameful. Yet acts like this fit into the old pattern of conflict between Jews and Palestinians. What is thoroughly bizarre is when groups of radical settlers attack the very power that is there to protect them. For the first time, in September, a mob of settlers attacked an Israeli military base. And when rumors started circulating that some settlers were going to be cleared out, soldiers were stoned and another base was attacked.

By now the government in Jerusalem is alarmed. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called heads of security to a crisis meeting and announced "aggressive" measures. Minister of Defense Ehud Barak said investigations will be opened to determine if what are known as the "hilltop youth" – which claims responsibility for the attacks – constitutes a terrorist group. But all of this rings cheap and hollow, because this radical internal enemy has been fed by Israel's government, which to this day collaborates with it.

The settling of the West Bank, which goes against international law, is not only the official government line, but the government practicing its own version of "price tag policies." When the Palestinians were recently accepted by UNESCO, by way of "punishment" Netanyahu called for the building of 2,000 new units. And when Israeli courts call for illegal settlements to be cleared, the government quickly forges some kind of law for their legalization.

It's simple. The fact is that whoever is pro-settlement is pro-violence, and risks falling victim to their own policy.

Read the original story in German

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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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