Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Daniella Weiss: Arabs are a filter through which we will find our way to land

Militant pro-settlement activist who wants to see a Greater Israel, goes on trial today

She is a 63-year-old grandmother who uses "revolutionary" and "extremist" as terms of praise. She is a religious former mayor who regards many forms of illegality short of murder as permissible in the cause she passionately espouses.

And her image as the idol to many hundreds of militant young supporters in their teens and early twenties will only be enhanced when she appears in an Israeli court this morning on charges of assaulting and hindering police.



Daniella Weiss's activism is right-wing, in defence of a Greater Israel, including the West Bank, and she openly strives for the annexation of that territory. She is one of the most formidable individual forces in a struggle to ensure that the Israeli government does not withdraw a single Jewish West Bank settlement-– unilaterally or by agreement with the Palestinians.



It's a struggle which she herself describes as an "ongoing rebellion" against a West Bank withdrawal plan, which she is convinced the Israeli government is determined to implement, a rebellion "against any attempt to make any change of the map of Israel between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean".



As she speaks in calm, excellent English at her home in this settlement north-west of Nablus, her two-week-old grandchild gurgling nearby in a pram, it's hard to recall that Ms Weiss was the firebrand who some 20 years ago was deposed from the leadership of the pioneering settler movement Gush Emunim, because it considered her propensity for joining in often violent riots against the military and Palestinians to be too extreme. At the height of the intifada in 2002, her son-in-law, his parents and grandfather were killed by a Palestinian militant.



What is unusual about Ms Weiss is that her approach – unlike that of the more established settler leadership, many of whom she despises as "collaborators" – has not softened with age. "If the right-wing parties were representing the Zionist agenda, then it wouldn't be so necessary for me to act," she explains. "But in the past few years there has been a very sad fading out of right-wing ideology, so there is a need for refreshing [it]."



It's in that capacity that she has become a mentor to the so-called "hilltop youth" or "Youth for a Greater Israel". They form the backbone of the militant resistance to the removal of settlement outposts that are illegal even under Israeli law. Ten days ago the police arrived, suspecting — wrongly, she says — that the 15 young settlers sheltering in her home at the time included arsonists who had set fire to two Palestinian olive groves. When she intervened, she was arrested. The fields were torched shortly after police had yet again dismantled structures in the nearby illegal Jewish outpost of Shvut Ami.



Ms Weiss is helping to organise the creation of three more West Bank settlement outposts during the Sukkot Jewish holiday next week, a severe provocation to the authorities. She sees the battle for the outposts as the front line of a larger war, and senses that it is being won, given the Israeli government's reluctance so far to implement calls from George Bush and others to dismantle the established illegal outposts. But this only reinforces the need for constant struggle.



After the 2005 withdrawal of the 8,500 Gaza settlers, she says, there has been a dramatic change in the mindset of the settlers. The "number one obstacle" to what she sees as the government's goals "is the spirit of the young generation of settlers... What I know of Jewish history and of my own life, and my efforts for the land of Israel, if the spirit is strong, the victory is certain."



So she sounds like a revolutionary? "Of course, [that's] a big thing, a good thing." And what are the limits she wouldn't cross? "Not killing. Just not killing." Burning or stoning? "Stoning is complicated, because stoning entails dangers." Ms Weiss adds: "Damaging property I don't consider a sin, because the dearest property, the land [of Israel] is now in danger."



She insists that she is not talking here about "the Arabs but the Israeli authorities." My energy is directed in one direction: Jewish. I expect of the Jews, I confront Jews, I criticise Jews." So where exactly do the Arabs fit into the Weiss vision? "What will be with the Arabs is what it was with all the nations that were here all through history; they came and went... They are a sort of – I am going to use a very, very dangerous word – a sort of filter through which our nation finds its way towards the land."



This may not mean expulsion of every Arab; but it does apparently mean the end of Palestinian nationhood in a greater Israel stretching from the river to the sea. The guiding rules, she says, were those laid down by Joshua in his conquest of Canaan: "Those who make peace, we will make peace with them; those who fight, we will fight them. And those who do not accept our sovereignty... will leave the land. These are the options. And they haven't changed."

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