John Brown* — +972 May 8, 2015
“[Palestinians] are beasts, they are not human.” — MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, Aug 1, 2013. (Hebrew)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finalized the formation of a new government this week when he signed a coalition agreement with far-right settler party Jewish Home. As part of the agreement, Rabbi Ben-Dahan will be Israel’s next deputy defense minister, responsible for the army’s “Civil Administration.”
The Civil Administration is responsible for all aspects the occupation that don’t involve boots-on-the-ground security operations — it administers planning, building, and infrastructure for both Jews and Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank. It also administers the Palestinian population database and is responsible for granting and revoking entry and travel permits for Palestinians, controlling every aspect of their movement.
In other words, the man slated to take charge of an organization entrusted with supervising the theft of Palestinian land and supervising Palestinians’ lives, is a racist who said he does not see them as human, but rather as animals (nothing against animals, of course, but we can be fairly certain Ben-Dahan didn’t mean it as a compliment). That’s more or less like appointing a member of the local Klu Klux Klan chapter to investigate claims of violence and discrimination against the Baltimore Police Department — that is, if Baltimore residents were deprived of citizenship and the right to vote.
But MK Ben-Dahan wasn’t appointed just to continue abusing Palestinians and to advance [Jewish Home party chairman] Naftali Bennett’s apartheid annexation plan, an essential component of which is ethnically cleansing Area C of the West Bank. (Watch Bennett explain his plan here.) The Civil Administration has been quite diligent about that in recent years. For instance, the forced transfer of the entire Palestinian village of Susya (approved this week by the High Court’s settler Justice, Noam Solberg, which is almost as absurd as Ben-Dahan’s appointment), or the theft of water from Palestinian villages in the Jordan Valley, whose residents are being forced to either abandon their lands or die.
Strange as it is, the truth is that settler representatives have been trying to shut down the Civil Administration for years, and time and again have tried to defund it. In the previous Knesset, for example, Jewish Home MK Orit Struck, also a settler, tried to freeze the transfer of NIS 310 million to Holocaust survivors so that NIS 29 million wouldn’t be transferred to the Civil Administration. That’s just one example out of many. Local government officials for Jewish settlements in the West Bank have called for the Civil Administration to be shut down and its inspectors have even been attacked by settlers.
It appears that the settlers live in a parallel universe in which the Civil Administration’s Jewish inspectors and Jewish workers and Jewish legal advisors, are racist toward them, despite the fact that they recent the exclusive protection of the IDF and enjoy near immunity from criminal prosecution.
The thing is, that Jewish settlers don’t really need the Civil Administration in order to oppress and abuse Palestinians. And according to them, the Civil Administration doesn’t oppress Palestinians enough. Sure, it has inspectors and the army and legal advisors to make every part of Palestinian life impossible in large swaths of Area C. But that’s not always enough.
The settlers want to feel that they, too, are taking part in the reclamation (read:theft) of Palestinian land — and not just the army and state authorities who declare entire plots to be “state land.” The problem is that every once in a while — very rarely, actually — Civil Administration inspectors and legal advisors turn their attention to the settlers themselves.
That is where Rabbi Dahan comes in, reducing already rare Civil Administration enforcement, and putting to bed the whole annoying concept of laws and regulations.
Israelis are right to be worried about MK Ayelet Shaked becoming the next justice minister, and Naftali Bennett the education minister. But try being a Palestinian in the West Bank, where the man in charge of administering your day-to-day life doesn’t even see you as a human being.
*John Brown is the pseudonym of an Israeli academic and a blogger on +972′s Hebrew site, Local Call, where a version of this article was first published in Hebrew.