Militant Israeli settlers suspected in pipe-bomb attack on home of Hebrew University professor

The Baltimore Sun

YITZHAR, West Bank - A pipe bomb that exploded late last night outside the Jerusalem home of Zeev Sternhell, a Hebrew University professor, left him slightly wounded and created only a minor stir in a nation that routinely experiences violence on a much larger scale.

But Sternhell was noted for his impassioned criticism of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, once suggesting that Palestinians "would be wise to concentrate their struggle against the settlements."

And the authorities found fliers near his home offering nearly $300,000 to anyone who kills a member of Peace Now, a left-wing Israeli advocacy group, leading them to suspect that militant Israeli settlers or their supporters were behind the attack.

If so, the bombing might be the latest sign that elements of Israel's settler movement are using extremist tactics to protect their homes in the occupied West Bank not only against Palestinians, but against Jews who some settlers argue are betraying them.

This aggressive doctrine, according to Akiva HaCohen, 24, who is considered to be one of its architects, calls on settlers and their supporters to respond "whenever, wherever and however" they wish to any attempt by the Israeli army or police to lay a finger on property in illegally built outposts slated by the government for removal.

In settler circles the policy is called "price tag" or "mutual concern."

Besides exacting a price for army and police actions, the policy also encourages settlers to avenge Palestinian acts of violence by taking the law into their own hands.

Hard-core right-wing settlers have responded to limited army operations in recent weeks by blocking roads, rioting, stoning Palestinian vehicles and burning Palestinian orchards and fields all over the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967.

They have vandalized Israeli army positions, equipment and cars.

"The army was complaining that we were bothering them in their efforts to catch the terrorist," said Ephraim Ben Shochat, 21, a resident of Shalhevet Ya, an illegal outpost consisting of three permanent houses and a trailer halfway down the slope between Yitzhar and Asira al-Qibliya. "To us, deterrence is more important than catching the specific terrorist. We're fighting against a nation."

The religious, ideological wing of the settlement movement has grown more radical. Those on the extremist fringe - like Ben Shochat, who belongs to the so-called hilltop youth - are increasingly rejecting any allegiance to the state, backed up by an older generation of rabbis and early settler pioneers.

In Samaria, the biblical name for the northern West Bank, and in Binyamin, the central district around the Palestinian city of Ramallah, settlers recently ousted their more mainstream representatives in local council elections, voting in what they called "activist" mayors instead.

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