Left-wing orgs decry move as 'fascistic'

Ben Gvir forms police team targeting left-wing activists in the West Bank – report

Far-right minister said to have set up team two weeks ago in response to sanctions on settlers, says it will ‘deal with anarchists who harm state security’

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir takes part in a march to the Evyatar outpost, near the West Bank city of Nablus, during the Passover holiday, on April 10, 2023. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir takes part in a march to the Evyatar outpost, near the West Bank city of Nablus, during the Passover holiday, on April 10, 2023. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has established a special team within the Israeli Police force to target and arrest left-wing activists in the West Bank, according to a Tuesday report.

West Bank district police formed the team at Ben Gvir’s behest in direct response to sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe earlier this year against West Bank outposts and extremist settlers, Ynet reported.

The report said that the police minister accused the activists of passing on information about the now-sanctioned settlers to the Biden administration.

“Establishing a team to deal with anarchists is consistent with my clear policy that talks of a struggle against those who violate [public] order,” Ben Gvir was quoted saying.

“[These are] the same anarchist elements that I see in Judea and Samaria [the biblical name for the West Bank] and Hebron, cursing IDF soldiers, fanning the flames, inciting and encouraging harm to Jews, thereby harming the security of the state. My outlook is zero tolerance for those who harm security, settlers and the State of Israel,” he continued, according to the report.

According to an anonymous security official who spoke to Ynet on Tuesday, the “anarchists” in question fit into three categories.


“First, foreign nationals who come here from all over the world straight to the territories and create provocations against IDF soldiers. Second, tourists who come here under the guise of a visit, but end up at the same areas of tension in Judea and Samaria. Third, [there are] Israeli citizens who confront IDF soldiers,” he explained.

The official added that the team began operating two weeks ago, and has already arrested a number of people.

Near the start of this month, two foreign nationals with American citizenship suspected of interfering with IDF soldiers during a large-scale military exercise were arrested and taken in for questioning. Two Israeli activists were arrested alongside them.

Israeli activists Guy Hirschfeld and Rabbi Arik Ascherman argue with Israeli soldiers after they asked Palestinian shepherds to leave an area designated as a military zone in Um Zuka town, north of the Jordan Valley, on February 19, 2020. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

The two foreigners were then released, barred from entering the West Bank for a span of two weeks and made to deposit their passports at the police station. Law enforcement forbade the Israeli activists from entering the region for 60 days.

The organization Looking the Occupation in the Eye, which monitors settlement activity and enlists Israelis in the sort of activism that Ben Gvir’s new unit is attempting to stamp out, blamed the fragile security situation of the West Bank on Israel’s military occupation, which it said “produces violent friction between an occupying army and disenfranchised civilian population.”

Ben Gvir formed the special team amid an ongoing dispute between him and top West Bank general Yehuda Fox over how to handle settler violence.

About two months ago, Fox created a special unit subordinate to the IDF to deal with instances of settler violence, bypassing the Israel Police, which was accused of being too lax in prosecuting nationalist crime.

“The attempt by convicted terrorist Ben Gvir to keep activists away from the West Bank is a dangerous, fascistic step taken from dark regimes. This is a clear attempt to persecute those who expose incidents of violence, dispossession and robbery by settlers against Palestinians,” said the Peace Now organization, which campaigns to end Israel’s hold on the West Bank.

A Palestinian inspects the damage to a home in the village of al-Mughayyir near Ramallah in the West Bank on April 13, 2024, after an attack by Israeli settlers on the village. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/ AFP)

Following the murder last week of 14-year-old Benjamin Achimeir, a settlement outpost resident, settlers stormed neighboring Palestinian towns, setting houses and cars ablaze, allegedly killing four residents and injuring dozens of others.

Last month, a Knesset subcommittee held a hearing on the alleged harassment of security service personnel by pro-Palestinian activists in the West Bank.

Right-wing and pro-settlement organizations, together with coalition MKs, termed the activists “anarchists” and alleged that they were conducting a coordinated campaign to inflame tensions in the West Bank and smear the settlement movement.

In recent years, the phenomenon of large shepherding and agricultural outposts erected adjacent to Palestinian communities has grown rapidly and led to increased friction between settlers and West Bank Palestinians, prompting anti-occupation activist groups to step up their involvement.

Tensions in the West Bank have risen since Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, with many anti-occupation activists reporting having been beaten badly by settlers while trying to protect rural Palestinian communities in the region.

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