Thou Shalt Not Kill: Israel's Hilltop Youth

First published by Al Jezeera, July 2015

In late July 2015, an arson attack on a family home in the Palestinian village of Duma, in the West Bank, resulted in the killing of three members of the Dawabshe family, the youngest of whom, Ali, was only 18 months old.

The firebombing also caused seven-year-old Ahmed Dawabshe, Ali's brother, second and third-degree burns across his body, the scars of which he still bears today.
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Personally, it doesn't bother me if an Arab baby dies ... I don't care if Arabs live or die. I prefer them dead.

Rut Goldberg, Settler/Kahane follower
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Ahmed, who now lives with his grandfather, remains in Duma, across the West Bank border from his attackers: members of the Hilltop Youth.

Residing on outposts often neighbouring areas populated heavily by Palestinians (not to be confused with Israeli settlements) the Hilltop Youth are known for their extreme religious nationalism. Mostly made up of young people between the ages of 16 and 25, the group are followers of Kahanism; an ideology based on the teachings of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Meir Ettinger, Kahane's grandson, was one of several settlers charged for the Duma murders, also known as "Price Tag" killings, alongside 21-year-old Amiram Ben-Uliel and an unnamed minor. They were all released after serving minimal prison time.

The label "Price Tag" was born from actions taken by the group to claim a "price" for any actions taken against them or their hilltop settlements by Palestinians.
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I'm teaching Ahmed that you don't have to seek vengeance. That you do not have to kill. Your vengeance must be your success.

Hussein Hassan Dawabshe, Ahmed Dawabshe's grandfather
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"This is how the concept of  'Price Tag' was created. It's because the government did not take revenge against our enemies," says Kahanist and settler, Moriya Goldberg.

"The people who burned the house in Duma wouldn't have done it if the state treated Arabs as enemies," says Goldberg's sister, Rut. 

Although relatively small, with only several hundred members, the Hilltop Youth are known for having incited violent acts of hatred against Palestinians and Palestinian homes, mosques and churches. 

They are also known for having a difficult relationship with left-wing Israelis, the Israeli army and even with Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service.

"The more nationalistic you are, the more militia-like you become. All of a sudden, every idiot at the top of the hill takes a flag, sticks it down and that's the new border of the country," says former speaker of the Knesset, Avraham Burg. "They're [the Hilltop Youth] insignificant in numbers, they are insignificant ideologically ... they are even insignificant as a crime gang. They are very significant in [how they are] dictating to the government a de facto policy - which is wrong."

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