To return to the new Peace Now website click here.

JPost Blog: "The radicalization of the right-wing" by Yariv Oppenheimer, Peace Now Secretary General

From the moment I joined 'Peace Now', threats, hate mail and hostile telephone calls have become the norm.

9/28/08

From the moment I joined 'Peace Now', threats, hate mail and hostile telephone calls have become the norm. Sometimes, the actual amount of letters and phone calls served to indicate the level of influence of 'Peace Now'. In periods where we were able to influence the public agenda, public attacks on the organization and on our persons increased accordingly and when our voice resonated less, the threats lessened accordingly. Nevertheless, I never felt that there was a tangible reason for worry, beyond the episodes of spontaneous violence during demonstrations, particularly in settlements. The feeling was that hate mail would not translate into actual physical harm. 

On Thursday night, my feelings of personal safety - as well as those of my friends - were shattered the moment we received news that an explosive device had detonated outside Prof. Ze'ev Sternhell's home.

The device was not big and it was lucky that Prof. Sternhell was only lightly hurt, but the echo of the explosion was heard across the country.

There are those who opine that the political struggle on the fate of the settlements has already been decided and that the conflict between left and right is history. The explosion in Sternhell's home, the slashing of reserve soldiers' tires in protest to their part in evacuating an illegal structure, and the abuse of Palestinians in the territories all prove that even though it has been transformed, the struggle for the fate of the settlements and Israel's image is more important than ever.

For the past two years, the mass demonstrations organized by Yesha, the distribution of the orange ribbons and the sticker and poster proliferation have given way to acts of violence, the establishment of illegal outposts, violent demonstrations and the harming of peace activists, IDF soldiers and Palestinians.

The settlement industry has grown to include thousands of impassioned youths who see the state and 'democracy' as direct enemies. For them, the vision of a Greater Israel trumps everything.

As long as Israeli democracy upheld the decision to invest and build beyond the Green Line, settlement youths saw themselves as an inseparable part of the State of Israel. However, should that same democracy make a decision that is contradictory to their beliefs, the State and its institutions would become enemies of the Jewish People and all acts to fight it would become justified, including violence.

So far, unfortunately, this new tactic is working. Recently, the Shin Bet and the IDF advised the defense minister not to forcibly evacuate the Migron outpost, which was built on private Palestinian land, and to do everything possible to reach a consensus on the evacuation so as to avoid a violent clash with settlers. The defense minister heeded the advice and chose not to put the IDF and police forces in a situation in which they would clash with the 'hilltop thugs'. In doing so, he enabled those who are breaking the law to continue living in the outpost for years to come.

In a similar fashion, the physical attacks have recently turned against Yesha's veteran leadership which has tried to keep a relatively moderate tone in its struggle with the Israeli government. The slashing of tires of the heads of the Amana settler movement in protest of the discussions on the fate of West Bank settlements, led the Religious-Zionist movement to understand that it had created a monster.

I do not know who detonated the device at the entrance to Prof. Sternhell's home, but I do know that a growing group of extreme right-wing activists is succeeding in terrorizing Israeli society and influencing its policies using violence.

The radicalization of right-wing activities is not only the Palestinians' problems, but of Israeli society as a whole, right and left as one. The continuation of apathy and lack of willingness to deal with the phenomenon only strengthen the extremists and endanger not only the chance for peace but Israeli democracy itself.