A Palestinian man surveys cars torched by Israeli settlers during an attack on Huwara, in the occupied West Bank, on February 27, 2023.

(Photo: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP via Getty Images)

Conservative US Jewish Groups Issue Rare Rebuke of Israeli Settler Violence

But attacks viewed by the Rabbinical Assembly and Orthodox Union as an aberration are seen by human rights groups as inherent in Israeli policies and actions.

The leading Conservative and Orthodox Jewish organizations in the United States on Monday issued rare condemnations of Sunday's deadly rampage by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the illegally occupied West Bank, joining U.S. and Israeli human rights groups in decrying the violence.

The Rabbinical Assembly, the New York-based international association of Conservative rabbis, published a statement saying that "we are in pain and join the condolences to the families of those killed, among them the Yaniv family and the Al-Aqatsch family," a reference to 19-year-old Yigal Yaakov Yaniv, one of two Israeli brothers murdered by a Palestinian gunman on Sunday, and Sameh Al-Aqatsch, a 37-year-old Palestinian man killed by rampaging settlers in Hawara hours later.

"Committed to Zionism and the state of Israel, we are deeply disturbed by the acts of terror, vandalism, and violence supposedly carried out in the name of Israel or of God," the assembly continued. "These actions both harm Jewish sovereignty and constitute a danger to the existence of the Jewish state."

"We are deeply disturbed by the acts of terror, vandalism, and violence supposedly carried out in the name of Israel or of God."

Meanwhile, the Orthodox Union—also based in New York—issued its own condemnation of what the group's vice president, Rabbi Moshe Hauer, called the settlers' "undisciplined and random fury" in Hawara, where Jewish settler colonists burned homes, businesses, and vehicles while violently attacking Palestinians as Israeli soldiers looked on.

"We need to speak consistently and clearly, pledging security and a decisive response to those who commit acts of terror and violence against Jews, but absolutely condemning and decrying indiscriminate violence committed by Jews against anyone, anywhere," the statement added.

Rabbinical Assembly and Orthodox Union joined progressive organizations including the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem and U.S.-based Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in condemning the settler rampage.

However, where Hauer asked "how can such a thing happen... that young Jewish men should ransack and burn homes and cars," JVP called the settler attack "the inevitable result of Zionism."

"Zionism has always required the displacement and removal of Palestinians from their lands to make way for a Jewish state," the group noted. "Under the leadership of Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, the current far-right extremist Israeli government is escalating the ethnic cleansing begun in 1948 with the Nakba, when 750,000 Palestinians were forced from their land."

Where Rabbinical Assembly said it expects the Israeli government and military "to act to prevent harm to people and to property, and to try any person who has chosen to harm another person," B'Tselem placed blame for the violence squarely upon the "Jewish supremacist regime."

"The Huwara Pogrom was an extreme manifestation of a long-standing Israeli policy," the group argued. "It was carried out by the state of Israel."

Ironically, anti-Jewish pogroms—organized terror campaigns—in Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries were a major driver of Zionist migration to Palestine.

Refuting claims that the murderous settlers were "out of control," B'Tselem asserted that "this isn't 'loss of control.' This is exactly what Israeli control looks like."

"The settlers carry out the attack, the military secures it, the politicians back it," the group said. "It's a synergy."

Sunday's killings and rampage came days after Israeli troops killed 12 Palestinians, including a child and two elderly people, during a raid in Nablus, home of the Lion's Den, a militant Palestinian resistance group.

More than 60 Palestinians—around half of them resistance fighters—and 14 Israelis, all civilians save for one paramilitary police officer, have been killed this year alone. This follows what human rights advocates called the deadliest year for West Bank Palestinians since the second intifada, or general uprising, ended in 2005.

Meanwhile, two weeks after approving the "legalization" of nine apartheid settler outposts in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem that are considered illegal even under Israeli law, Israel's far-right government is pressing ahead with plans for a settlement project that would bisect Palestinian territorial contiguity in the West Bank.

Last week, the Israeli government also approved the construction of 7,287 new Jewish-only homes in West Bank settlements, the largest number ever authorized in a single proposal.

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