I will always remember the crime of the torture and murder of the 80-year-old ill Palestinian citizen, Omar Asaad from Ramallah, by the Israeli army in January 2022, when soldiers arrested, blindfolded and handcuffed him. They then took him to an abandoned building and threw him to the ground in temperatures close to zero, and his heart stopped.
This Palestinian man returned to his land after a long journey of exile. He was an American citizen and an investor who wasn’t lacking money. He had returned to his homeland to live out the rest of his life in his ancestral home, among his family and people.
His killers are from a battalion known as Nahal Haredi. This battalion was established by a right-wing Haredi association, Netzah Yehuda (Judah’s Eternity Battalion), in cooperation with the Ministry of Defence. The ultra-Orthodox association asked the Ministry of Defence to establish this special battalion to attract Haredim to the army because they consider the Israeli army a sin. The battalion was established and became part of the Kfir Brigade. This battalion does not accept women or non-Jews. Its main loyalty is to rabbis more than to army officers. It specialises in suppressing and torturing innocent Palestinians without supervision or accountability. It was established in 1999, and the battalion focuses its killings in Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah and the Jordan Valley. Four of its members filmed themselves heinously torturing a Palestinian, putting the barrel of a gun in his rear, and posted the pictures on social networking sites, proud of what they did.
This criminal battalion irked the US Embassy, which demanded that Israel conduct an investigation into the murder of Asaad because he is an American citizen, which prompted Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi to issue a decision to question some soldiers (as a formality) and then ordered the transfer of this battalion to the Golan Heights.
However, Bezalel Smotrich, Netanyahu’s partner in the Rabbinic government, who is the second defence minister, confided to those close to him a few days ago that he intends to return the battalion to the West Bank to continue its criminal missions.
I will also remember the crimes of this battalion in the Gaza Strip in 2014, during the 50-day war under its Israeli name Operation Protective Edge. When I visited a residential building in the far east of Al-Bureij refugee camp, which the Nahal Battalion had used as the headquarters for its soldiers, I saw what the Nahal soldiers did to the building. They completely destroyed the contents of the building, leaving their waste on the bedroom bed.
The members of this battalion are followers of Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of the Kiryat Arba settlement in Hebron. He and dozens of rabbis are the leaders of the Nahal battalion, providing them with religious rulings. Israeli newspapers published a ruling by Rabbi Lior on 23 July, 2014, saying: “Jewish law permits destroying the entire Gaza Strip to bring peace to the south of the country. At a time of war, the nation under attack is allowed to punish the enemy population with measures it finds suitable, such as blocking supplies or electricity, as well as shelling the entire area according to the army minister’s judgment. In the case of Gaza, it would be permitted for the defence minister to even order the destruction of all of Gaza. Talk of humanitarianism and consideration are nothing when weighed against saving our brothers in the south and across the country and the restoration of quiet to our land.”
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These statements even provoked the Israelis, as Head of the Meretz party Zehava Gal-On responded: “Rabbi Dov Lior’s racist comments have for some time not been in the realm of freedom of speech. We’re talking about a man who praises mass murder, who stands behind those who murder innocents and who took part in the incitement that led to the murder of a prime minister.” Gal-On called on the attorney general to open an investigation against him for incitement.
Be careful – in the coming days, the Israeli army will be led by a gang of rabbis whose main goal is to wage a relentless war against the Palestinians, especially in Jerusalem!
Translated from Al Ayaam, 25 January, 2023.
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