Peace activists descend on West Bank crossing to thwart extremists blocking aid trucks

Ben Gvir criticizes use of police to secure humanitarian aid trucks, says he ‘understands pain’ of extremists who stopped aid convoys in West Bank but they shouldn’t burn trucks

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Activists from the Standing Together organization help reload cartons of humanitarian aid destined for Gaza thrown off a truck by extremists opposing the supply of aid to Gaza at the Tarqumiyah Crossing in the West Bank, May 19, 2024. (Courtesy Standing Together)
Activists from the Standing Together organization help reload cartons of humanitarian aid destined for Gaza thrown off a truck by extremists opposing the supply of aid to Gaza at the Tarqumiyah Crossing in the West Bank, May 19, 2024. (Courtesy Standing Together)

Peace activists from the Standing Together organization on Sunday helped secure humanitarian aid trucks from Jordan as they passed through the West Bank on their way to Gaza, despite efforts by extremists to stop them.

Some 50 activists from Standing Together — a left-wing coexistence, peace and social justice movement — went to the Tarqumiyah Crossing in the southwestern West Bank close to the border with Israel, through which humanitarian aid trucks from Jordan pass on their way to Gaza in order to confront the extremists attempting to block the convoys.

Far-right activists and settlers have attacked aid convoys passing through the West Bank and destined for Gaza on several occasions since the beginning of April. National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who has authority over the police, has faced accusations that he does not want the force to prioritize protecting the convoys and ordered them to treat those attacking the trucks with a light hand.

“Last week, settlers and far-right extremists succeeded every day in stopping humanitarian aid trucks, they did whatever they wanted and no one bothered them, they attacked people, left them bleeding on the road, and destroyed the aid,” Standing Together director said Alon-Lee Green told The Times of Israel.

“Today was the first day in a week in which all the humanitarian aid trucks to Gaza managed to pass without the settlers stopping or attacking them,” he added.

According to Green, the modus operandi of the peace activists is to simply turn up at the crossing and confront the right-wing activists, forcing the police to intervene and ensure public order by separating the two groups.

An aid convoy heading to the Gaza Strip that was attacked by protesters in the Hebron Hills region, May 13, 2023. (Video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Green said that since the police were then at the crossing, they were forced to deal with the far-right activists trying to stop the humanitarian aid trucks at the same time.

“It’s the Israel Police’s responsibility to stop crimes, they are the ones responsible for protecting the aid trucks. Last week the extremists managed to stop the trucks every day, attacked drivers and burnt the aid.

“Our goal is to allow the aid to get to the hungry people in Gaza and prevent this country from becoming a society which sanctifies death and starving people and violently takes the law into their hands.”

Green said that the far-right activists did manage to halt one truck and throw off some of the cargo it was carrying, but that the Standing Together members helped reload the aid onto the truck and see it on its way.

During an interview with Army Radio on Sunday, Ben Gvir praised the extremists blocking the humanitarian aid, saying it was “very good that they’re protesting”  but added “I don’t think they should burn trucks or beat people up.”

In several incidents, extremists have attacked trucks in the West Bank and assaulted drivers who were not actually delivering humanitarian aid.

Ben Gvir also took pride during the interview in voting in the security cabinet against Israel’s facilitation of humanitarian aid to Gaza, claiming he was the only cabinet minister to do so.

Asked about reports in the Hebrew press whether he had reprimanded senior police officers for providing protection to the aid convoys, Ben Gvir said, “It is not acceptable to me… that they’re bringing out all these forces only to help these aid trucks.”

Activists from the Standing Together organization at the Tarqumiyah Crossing in the West Bank to thwart extremists from blocking humanitarian aid trucks destined for Gaza hold signs saying “Don’t starve [others],” May 19, 2024. (Courtesy Standing Together)
He was also asked repeatedly if he thought the police should stop the far-right activists from blocking the aid trucks, saying merely that “I understand their pain, I understand their frustration.”

“I am in favor of freedom of protest, I totally understand them blocking the aid, I am against violating the law and that they burn trucks. After saying that, I think that the ones who need to stop the aid is the security cabinet,” said the minister.

According to a report in Haaretz, Ben Gvir reprimanded Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai on Thursday because police allocated two special units to protect the aid trucks and was trying to instead reassign the task to a force with a smaller budget and fewer resources.

A police spokesperson did not immediately comment as to how many far-right activists were arrested last week for halting and attacking the aid trucks, or how many were arrested on Sunday.

According to Honenu, an organization that provides legal services to far-right activists, two people were detained for blocking aid trucks close to Kiryat Gat which lies just 20km west of the Tarqumiyah Crossing.

The Biden administration is looking into sanctioning the extremists involved in the recent spate of attacks targeting the humanitarian aid convoys.

One potential candidate is Ben Gvir’s chief of staff Chanamel Dorfman, who has a long history of involvement in extremist activity, including in the West Bank.

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