In an previous blog post, I covered what IMHO was a potentially bad idea by Israel to supplement the army enforced protection of Jewish settlements by arming the settlers with ostensibly non-lethal arms in order to counter possible protests by Palestinians in the wake of their soon to fail UN bid for statehood. My main concern is that actions by the armed settlers in an already tense environment could lead to a violent confrontation as the settlers lack the crowd control training of the army. Non-lethal rounds, in my experience, are used more freely than lethal munitions. Shooting a guy throwing rocks at you with a bean bag round is emotionally and legally easier than killing him but, non lethal rounds if used incorrectly can kill. Miss center of mass and strike your target in the head and he is dead, get unlucky and slam the round too close to the heart and you can cause heart failure. I foresee a possible blood bath if one protestor is shot and dies, as angry mobs are not rational actors. Turning a peaceful protest towards violence or giving extremists the opening they need to push the Palestinians closer to another round of armed conflict.
Armed French citizens ‘tanning under the sun’ in a West Bank settlement [Photo: Jewish Defense League] – From Al Jazeera English
Now the French chapter of Jewish Defense League has sent 55 armed militants to supplement several settlements and they are reported to carry assault rifles. In the picture above, taken from the linked Al Jazeera English article, I count only one of the seventeen weapons that is capable of less than lethal fire, the M203 grenade launcher, unless of course the assault rifles are heavily modified. I doubt these fighters will heed the words of Israeli military authority. Who do they report to? Who commands their deployment? Who will watch them to ensure that deadly force is used only as a last resort and in self defense? Armed fundamentalists of any type are never a recipe for non violence. They have an agenda, unlike the Israeli Soldiers who, if they are anything like American Soldiers, don’t really want to be there in the first place and are following orders of a Government that is not necessarily spoiling for a fight.
Worse, JDL in France has had numerous members convicted of vandalism and violent crime against French Muslims, notably the assault of 4 university students. Not the people I would want with me to keep a complicated standoff from getting worse. As the UN bid for Palestinian statehood marches towards its inevitable no vote from the Security Council, tensions are rising to a breaking point throughout Israel. What was already a powder keg of potential violence now has a French extremist militant standing close by with a lit match.