Settler violence and impunity in the West Bank

by the Yanoun team.

On the 31st of July, 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsheh was burned to death in a fatal arson attack on his family home in the Northern West Bank village of Duma. Israelis from a nearby settlement are believed to be behind the attack which saw two Palestinian homes torched by petrol bombs.  Ali’s parents and 4-year-old brother survived the attack but were taken to the hospital in a critical condition. Sadly on the 8th of August Saad, Ali’s father, died from third degree burns just one week after his son. Two members of the family are still in a critical condition. The family living in the second house were not at home when the attack happened.

31.07.15 Nablus, Duma. Leaflet dedicated to Ali distributed during funeral ceremony, Photo EAPPI / J. Burkhalter

31.07.15 Nablus, Duma. Leaflet dedicated to Ali distributed during funeral ceremony, Photo EAPPI / J. Burkhalter

EAs’ covering the Northern West Bank region traveled to Duma to offer their condolences and support to the relatives and the community affected. When we arrived at the scene we saw that slogans, written in Hebrew,  had been spray-painted on the walls of burned houses. They read: ‘Revenge’ and ‘Long Live King Messiah’. While it was not clear for us or residents of Duma what the word ‘Revenge’ referred to in this context, it seemed to indicate that the incident was a ‘Price-tag’ attack. ‘Price-tag” attacks are acts, like vandalism e.g. damaging cars, uprooting olive trees, cutting off the access to the water, religious desecration and arson attacks [1]. According to Jane Corbin who described the ‘price-tagging’ for BBC, Israeli settler use this tactic to primarily warn their own government that there is a price to pay for any attempt to give what they believe is Jewish land to the Palestinians as part of the fragile peace process. The-price tag is also carried in response to the Palestinian violence against Israelis. [2]

31.07.15 Nablus, Duma. Funeral Procession for Ali Saad Dawabsheh, Photo EAPPI / J. Burkhalter

31.07.15 Nablus, Duma. Funeral Procession for Ali Saad Dawabsheh, Photo EAPPI / J. Burkhalter

31.07.15 Nablus Duma. House of Dawabsheh family firebombed by settlers. Photo EAPPI J. Burkhalter

31.07.15 Nablus Duma. House of Dawabsheh family firebombed by settlers. Photo EAPPI J. Burkhalter

The incident has sparked international outrage and thousands of Israelis took to the streets in protest ‘to warn against a radicalised and violent fringe growing within the country. Read more here.

Duma and nearby villages in the Northern West Bank have been the targets of attacks by Israeli settlers before. The consequence of this latest attack, however, has terrified everybody.  Villagers told us that they were extremely worried that they might face attacks like this again in the future. They said that they feel like they are facing this threat alone because they are not given any protection from either Israeli or Palestinian authorities. One of the villagers explains that Palestinian police has no jurisdiction in Area C, therefore they have no power to protect Palestinians from attacks such as these perpetrated by settlers. In the absence of any reliable law enforcement the villagers in Duma told us that they were organising their own security system, consisting of villagers who will voluntarily patrol the village in the hope that they could prevent further attacks.

31.07.15 Duma, spray-painted slogan Revenge on burnt house, Photo EAPPI / J. Burkhalter

31.07.15 Duma, spray-painted slogan Revenge on burnt house, Photo EAPPI / J. Burkhalter

Article 43 of the Hague Regulations and Articles 4, 27 and 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that Israel as the Occupying Power is obliged to protect Palestinians and their property against all acts of violence or threats. This also includes acts committed by settlers in the occupied territories. Furthermore, the occupying power is responsible for maintaining public order and ensuring the basic needs and welfare of the Palestinian civilian population under its control.

According to UNOCHA Israeli settler violence against Palestinians and their property has sharply increased over the last few years [3]. Just one day after the arson attack in Duma, EAs were at the scene when settlers from an illegal outpost of Esh Kodesh verbally harassed Palestinians of the village of Qusra (adjacent to Duma). The residence of Qusra were preparing their land for cultivation when they were approached by a hostile group of settlers who tried to obstruct their work.

01.08.15 Nablus, Qusra Village, Settlers entering the Palestinian land, Photo EAPPI / S. Trebunia

01.08.15 Nablus, Qusra Village, Settlers entering the Palestinian land, Photo EAPPI / S. Trebunia

The Israeli soldiers were several meters away when the settlers began harassing the Palestinians. The soldiers however did not intervene until 15 minutes later. We observed that they didn’t afford the Palestinians any protection nor did they ask settlers to leave the Palestinian land. In fact when Israeli military forces arrived, the tensions increased as the settlers began making offensive and provocative comments about the Prophet Muhammad while standing behind the soldiers. When the tension between the two groups escalated the soldiers responded by shooting teargas and rubber bullets at the Palestinians.

Settler disturbing Palestinians’ work (preparation of the land for cultivation),

01.08.15 Nablus, Qusra village. Settler distupt Palestinians’ at work in their fields, Photo EAPPI / S. Trebunia

As a result of the clash, the Palestinians had to postpone their work in the area close to the Esh Kodesh outpost until Monday 10th of August. For farmers and workers in Qusra this clearly indicates the impunity that the settlers of the illegal outpost enjoy and the failure of the soldiers to provide any security to the Palestinians working on the land. Significantly, the land that the Palestinians were working on is located in Area B. Area B is the 22% of the West Bank in which the Palestinian Authority controls civil matters and Israel retains security control of the area.

Under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, Israel is obligated to prevent attacks against civilians or their property and ensure that all incidents of settler violence are investigated in a thorough, impartial and independent manner. The Israeli authorities repeatedly fail to enforce the rule of law in response to Israeli settlers’ acts of violence against Palestinians. Over 90% of monitored complaints regarding settler violence filed by Palestinians with the Israeli police in recent years have been closed without indictment. UNOCHA Fact sheet: Israeli Settler Violence in the West Bank

Related:

[1] UNWRA settlements and settler violence; OCHA Israeli Settler Violence in the West Bank, November 2011; http://www.btselem.org/settler_violence

[2] Jane Corbin ‘Price-tag’ tactics of Westbank Jewish settlers (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-19601311)

[3] UNWRA settlements and settler violence; OCHA Israeli Settler Violence in the West Bank, November 2011; http://www.btselem.org/settler_violence

Press Release: B’Tselem: A burned infant was only a matter of time in view of policy to not enforce law on violent settlers

IMEU Factsheet: When Israeli Settlers Attack: A history of Impunity and Incitement

5 thoughts on “Settler violence and impunity in the West Bank

  1. Reblogged this on Peacing Stories and commented:
    This posting originally appeared on the blog that is maintained by the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (www.eappi.org), a programme run by the World Council of Churches.

  2. A very sad story indeed. And to think that Canada supports Israel seemingly unconditionally. Since we do not read very much of this ongoing injustice in our every day news, Peacing Stories serves a very important and vital role in giving us a more realistic picture.

  3. Pingback: Our top 10 posts from 2015 |

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