Yoel Bin-Nun

A second open letter to the American president

Image adapted from Pixabay.

Anyone who is chosen for leadership is chosen by God!

Dear President Joe Biden,

I am writing to you for the second time to address a matter of great importance – the struggle against certain settlers in Judea and Samaria who are labeled as extremists.

My name is Yoel Bin-Nun, and I am known both in the Land of Israel and among the settlers in Judea and Samaria as someone who has consistently been a vocal opponent of any form of violent action by our community towards Palestinian Arab residents. This stance has been a personal commitment for many years, predating your decision to run for president.

I strongly opposed what was once referred to as the “Jewish underground” (1980 -1984) and have consistently rejected their talk and their actions. It is crucial to understand that the vast majority of settlers share my perspective, unequivocally dismissing violence against Arabs. We firmly believe that the responsibility for security in Judea and Samaria lies solely with the Israeli government and security forces, and there is no authorization for independent vigilante operations. This sentiment is also endorsed by the majority of rabbis in the settlements.

However, I am concerned that the stories presented to you, such as the incident in the village of Huwara, paint a distorted picture, driven by the agenda to delegitimize the entire enterprise of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria – a land that has been the ancestral home of our people since biblical times.

Historically, Huwara has been a peaceful village, with both Palestinian and Israeli traffic passing through without significant issues. I myself have traveled through Huwara on numerous occasions. However, in recent years, there has been a notable increase in violent attacks against Jews in the village. It is crucial to highlight that these attacks are perpetrated by individuals coming from terrorist enclaves in the city of Nablus and surrounding areas, rather than by the residents of Huwara.

Tragically, these attacks have resulted in the loss of Israeli lives, including two brothers from a nearby settlement and a father with his son. Additionally, both soldiers and civilians have been stabbed and wounded in these attacks, including an American citizen (David Stern) who was traveling there with his wife, and miraculously survived because he shot in the air.

I do not imagine that this background information has been shared with you.

It is essential to understand that the terrorists responsible for these acts do not originate from Huwara, but exploit the slow traffic within the village to target Israeli vehicles.

Following the murder of four Israelis in terrorist attacks in Huwara, some extremist settlers took matters into their own hands. Acts of revenge, including the burning of houses and cars in Huwara, have not only caused significant damage but have also instilled enormous fear among the residents. Additionally, there are reports that these retaliatory actions may have resulted in the death of a Palestinian from the nearby village of Za’tara. It is important to note that such acts of revenge are not only forbidden under both Jewish law and civil law, but are also counterproductive, as they play into the hands of the terrorists and may lead to further recruitment of terrorists.

I wish to emphasize that the majority of settlers, including myself, unequivocally oppose vigilantism and violence. The actions of a few should not overshadow the broader sentiment of those who seek peace and coexistence.

I also want to address the unfortunate statement made by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich about “erasing” Huwara. This statement reflects a misunderstanding of the situation, as the terrorists responsible for the attacks did not originate from Huwara. Such remarks contribute to tensions and hinder efforts for understanding and resolution.

President Biden, I fear that only the last story of vigilante violence was shared with you, including the name of an extremist settler who led the vigilantes, together with the foolish sentence muttered by Smotrich that grabbed headlines.

I fear that you also do not understand what really happened in Huwara and have been led astray by interested parties in Israel whose dislike of their fellow citizens lead them to share partial information without offering context, to mobilize you against the settlers – the vast majority of whom are absolutely opposed to vigilante revenge.

This phenomenon reminds me of disturbing events in Jewish history, when Jews who converted to Christianity in Europe in the Middle Ages pointed authorities to out-of-context statements from the Talmud that were “against Christianity,” bringing about the burning of about 1,200 volumes of the Talmud in Paris in 1244 (or 1242). Tens of thousands of Talmud tomes were burned in various cities in Italy between 1553 and 1559, and in Poland, about 1,000 volumes were burned in 1757! All this because of Jews who betrayed the Jewish religion found some statements “against Christianity” in the Talmud.

Does an American president who loves Zionism and the people of Israel want to go down in history as someone who persecuted hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers because of the crimes of a few extremists, encouraged by Jewish turncoats who shared with you an incomplete and untrue story?

I close with the traditional Hebrew blessing of peace – Shalom!

About the Author
Dr. Rabbi Yoel bin Nun is one of the founders of Yeshivat Har Etzion. He received his rabbinic training at Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav and his Ph.D. from Hebrew University. In 1986, he established Michlelet Yaakov Herzog for training Jewish Studies teachers, especially in Bible instruction. Between 2000-2006 he served as the Rosh Ha-Yeshiva of Yeshivat HaKibbutz HaDati in Ein Tzurim.
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