Radical Jewish settlers spark soul – searching in Israel, govt announces crackdown

December 15, 2011

(A labourer cleans graffiti off a vandalised mosque in Jerusalem December 14, 2011. The unused mosque was set ablaze and graffiti sprayed on its walls on Wednesday in a manner similar to recent attacks associated to hardline Jewish settlers. The graffiti to the left reads in Hebrew "Mohammed is a pig." REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Young Jewish settlers behind attacks on Palestinian mosques have shaken Israel by turning violent against its most revered institution, the conscript military. The zealots’ escalation from anti-Arab vandalism and arson to a rampage at an Israeli garrison in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday triggered concern for the future of an ideologically driven society that sees its armed forces as a bulwark of unity.

“The red lines have been crossed,” was Mari tabloid’s main headline on Wednesday. An officer slightly hurt by rocks was quoted as saying his assailants had called him a Nazi, trashing a taboo in their fury at Israel’s occasional crackdowns on settlements built without government authorisation.

A top military commander told Reuters that hostility to state authority was “unfortunately not an aberration” among settlers. “We have to deal with this with all means now, because these people are part of us, the Jewish people, and we’d best find a way to remain a democracy,” he said on condition of anonymity. Read more in  Radical settlers trigger soul-searching in Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday approved steps to crack down on the violent ultra-nationalist settlers.  Among the measures were administrative detention of suspects, trials of some suspects in military rather than civil courts, and ejection from the West Bank of settlers suspected of inciting violence. Read more in Israel approves steps to rein in settler violence.

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