Hebron, Occupied Palestine – Checkpoints are numerous and inescapable in the H2 area of al-Khalil (Hebron), where thousands of soldiers guard around 600 Israeli Zionist settlers occupying heavily militarised settlement enclaves in the heart of the most populous Palestinian city in the West Bank. The Israeli military imposes numerous restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians in the neighbourhoods of H2, affecting people as they attempt to live, work, study, and travel through their city. Shuhada checkpoint, leading from the H2 neighbourhood of Tel Rumeida into Palestinian-administered H1, is one of the larger and more heavily manned checkpoints.
One Israeli soldier looked through the purse of a young Palestinian woman as her daughter looked on. Even Palestinian children too young to carry bags for a soldier to search are subjected to the everyday sight of their older relatives being stopped, searched, questioned and detained by Israeli forces. Over a period of a couple of hours on Tuesday afternoon, an ISM activist witnessed Israeli soldiers stop and search around fifty Palestinian children, women, and men.
Barbed wire and fences frame the entry way into Shuhada checkpoint, as Israeli soldiers patrol the heavily militarised passage between the Palestinian neighbourhoods of Tel Rumeida and Bab el-Zawiye.
A very young Palestinian girl took a moment to look up at the heavily armed Israeli soldiers standing in her path. Armed with enormous rifles, chests strapped with body armour complete with pockets full of stun grenades and tear gas, the soldiers looked incongruous on the otherwise quiet, sunny street.
“I don’t understand why people think we want war, we just want peace,” one Israeli soldier told an ISM activist. The absurdity of his statement, as he stood with his rifle beside the checkpoint, seemed entirely lost on him. Deploying eighteen-year-olds with M16s to search kids’ shopping bags and their mothers’ purses, giving them control over the lives of Palestinians trying to keep surviving in the neighbourhoods of H2 in al-Khalil, creates a situation which, though it may sometimes seem quiet, is anything but peaceful. The soldiers stop whole families at the checkpoint: mothers, grandfathers, sisters laden with shopping bags. This young girl stood waiting off to the side as the Israeli military checked to make sure her relatives did not pose a “threat.”
Photo credits – ISM
A Palestinian family from a village east of the town of Yatta, near the southern West Bank city of Hebron, narrowly escaped death on Wednesday at dawn, when a number of fanatic Israeli settlers hurled Molotov cocktails into their home as they slept.
The head of the Yatta City Council Mousa Makhamra told the Maan News Agency that the attack is a very serious and dangerous escalation, adding that it is an attempt to annihilate a family of seven; five children and their parents.
Makhamra added that the fanatic settlers, from Karmiel illegal settlement, infiltrated into ad-Deerat village, east of Yatta, at approximately 3 am, and throw the Molotov cocktails into the Palestinian home after writing racist graffiti on its outer walls.
Makhamra further stated that the family woke up in time, and their neighbors rushed in when they saw the house on fire, and rescued the family.
The fires consumed the furniture in the living room, but was controlled before it spread.
The settlers wrote racist anti-Arab graffiti, including the infamous statement “Death To Arabs”, and other graffiti.
Image Shehab News
Israeli occupation forces, since the early hours on Monday, have been holding military training sessions with live ammunition, in the Khirbet Taweel area, South Nablus.
Member of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee of Aqraba, Yousef Deriyyah, said that Israeli occupation forces, Sunday evening, bulldozed and damaged several dunams of wheat fields in preparation for the training.
The PNN further reports that military training has often targeted Palestinians, including children, causing injuries and home evictions.
Back in August, Israeli authorities evicted 1,300 Palestinians from their homes in the south Hebron hills, of the occupied West Bank, claiming that they are located in a military training zone.
Eyewitness said that soldiers were training by using families, children and homes as military practice.
Also in October, Israeli authorities distributed eviction notices to 19 Palestinian families in the Northern Jordan Valley area, in order to use the area for military purposes.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – Mohammad Saleh, a sixty-six-year-old Palestinian resident of Tel Rumeida, al-Khalil (Hebron), waited with his mule outside Shuhada checkpoint for nine hours over the course of two days. He spent four hours waiting before being allowed through on Monday (15/12/14) evening.
He then spent five hours Tuesday (16/12/14) attempting to cross in the opposite direction before eventually turning back, after being denied repeatedly by Israeli forces claiming that donkeys, mules, horses, and carts are not permitted to pass through the checkpoint.
Shuhada checkpoint serves as the only clear passage between the H2 (Israeli-controlled) neighbourhood of Tel Rumeida and the H1 (Palestinian Authority-administered) neighbourhood of Bab Al-Zawiye, a route many Palestinians must traverse regularly in the course of their work and daily routines.
Mohammad arrived at the Bab Al-Zawiye side of the checkpoint at 13:40 on Mondayafternoon, his mule laden with empty milk jugs and saddlebags packed with various provisions. Israeli forces refused to let him through, claiming no animals were allowed past the checkpoint – a claim no one, including other international organisations at the scene as well as the Palestinian District Coordination Office for al-Khalil, had ever heard before.
Mohammad explained that he had been allowed pass the checkpoint on Monday morning, with the promise that he would be let back through later in the day. When he returned, he found a new shift of soldiers and no one willing let him pass. The soldier manning the checkpoint claimed he needed permission from his commander to open the gate, which would allow Mohammad to pass with his mule.
An ISM volunteer at the scene later received a call explaining that the Israeli military’s new rule stated that horses, donkeys and mules were not permitted to pass through the checkpoint. No one, however, was able to explain why Mohammad had been allowed through that morning, but denied on his way home. “Look at my ID,” he told the soldier at one point, “I’m in your computer. I go through here all the time.”
He stayed waiting, sitting beside his mule on the cold concrete base of the fence, even as the afternoon turned into evening. The sky grew dark, though the lights from the checkpoint still illuminated the fences,
turnstiles, and barbed wire. Even the soldier seemed concerned, telling him to please go home, as it was cold and late and staying would not help him. But Mohammad had already made it clear he would not leave. About ten minutes later the soldier finally opened the gate, saying it was the “last time” that he would be allowed through. Although Mohammad heard the soldier’s message, it was clear he would not heed it. He intended to continue to resist, no matter what anyone told him.
Sure enough, the following morning he was once again standing outside the checkpoint, this time on the Tel Rumeida side, with full milk jugs tied to the back of his patient mule. The soldiers presented multiple reasons from denying him passage, from a prohibition on taking anything through the checkpoint too large to be carried through the turnstile, to the new rule against allowing donkeys, horses and mules through. ISM volunteers attempted to find a solution, offering to carry the milk jugs around the checkpoint and meet Mohammad and his mule on the other side. The Israeli soldiers manning the checkpoint rejected all suggestions.
“Is the donkey the problem or the milk the problem?” One ISM activist eventually inquired.
“The donkey’s the problem,” a soldier replied.
The animal could have easily passed through the metal detector; only last night ISM activists had witnessed the ludicrous sight of Mohammad’s mule strolling through the concrete structure, empty milk jugs banging against the corners of the gateway. The turnstile served as the only obstacle to the his passage – an obstacle the soldier could easily remove by opening the gate on the other side of the metal detector and letting the mule pass around the turnstile and into Bab Al-Zawiye.
After five hours of waiting, Mohammad’s comment seemed by far the most accurate. “The soldiers are the problem,” he had responded in Arabic.
Barring donkeys, mules, and horses and carts is only the latest in a string of frustrating, humiliating regulations imposed on the people living near the checkpoint, who must pass through to work, study, and shop for essentials such as fresh food. Just a few days earlier a group of elderly Palestinians, ill people, young children, and teachers at a local school had also been forced to wait, some for up to three hours, before being allowed through.
When Israeli forces shut down the checkpoint after it was burnt nearly a month ago , barring most people from passing through for over three weeks, the Palestinians were forced to adapt. Local people know ways around the checkpoint; several paths lead through local families’ yards and over the walls and rubble between Tel Rumeida and Bab Al-Zawiye. These “rabbit runs,” however, are entirely unsuited to traveling through with a mule – as well as for anyone sick, elderly, or carrying large heavy objects.
Since the attempted burning of the checkpoint, the Israeli military rebuilt it larger and with more obstacles for anyone traveling through. One side now has a metal detector, and both sides are equipped with vertical metal turnstiles which are a major impediment to anyone trying to move through with large baggage. Soldiers continue to use the burning of the checkpoint to justify collective punishment imposed on the entire Palestinian population – young and old, men and women, healthy and ill – who live or work near the Shuhada checkpoint.
Any Palestinian might be stopped while attempting pass through. Even with the checkpoint officially open, far too many are. Soldiers regularly search bags and make people remove their belts and empty their pockets before being allowed through. These everyday humiliations accompany frequent ID checks and detentions, serving as an inescapable reminder of the illegal Israeli occupation. Soldiers present at checkpoints routinely cite newly imposed rules and orders from superior officers as reasons for denying people passage, but whether someone passes easily through a checkpoint or must wait for hours often seems to be determined by nothing more than the soldiers’ caprice.
Many Palestinians must pass through Shuhada checkpoint multiple times in a day, carrying items as diverse as fresh vegetables, tubs of oil, and gas for cooking and heating their homes. During the hours ISM volunteers stood waiting with Mohammed, they witnessed multiple people struggle with the cumbersome design of the rebuilt checkpoint. One woman was carrying too many grocery bags to be able to fit into the turnstile. Someone on the other side of the turnstile had to reach a hand between the metal bars and move one bag through, returning it to the woman once she had passed. Another Palestinian, this time a young boy, needed the help of multiple passers-by over several minutes to figure out how to get two tubs of oil and a metal trolley through the turnstiles. Soldiers denied passage outright to boys who wanted to walk through the checkpoint with their bicycles.
At one point on Monday night, a group of off-duty soldiers ran up Shuhada street and stopped near the checkpoint to rest, stretching and laughing, their easy freedom of movement a stark contrast to experiences of Palestinians struggling through Shuhada checkpoint. Almost all of Shuhada street has been closed off to Palestinians, reserved instead for the settlers and soldiers occupying H2. Even Palestinians who manage to get through the checkpoint must pursue long, circuitous routes between the surrounding areas of al-Khalil. Many, especially the elderly or disabled, are effectively barred from traveling to significant portions of the city their families have lived in for generations.
“I want to resist,” Mohammad told the ISM activists the first day they waited with him. He made sure the man translating said it twice, to make sure the ISM volunteers understood. “I want to resist,” he said, after over three long hours of waiting to be allowed through.
Relations between Israelis and Palestinians have descended into a dangerous melee of tit-for-tat attacks and killings, with the violence of the past few weeks centred on Jerusalem. The city, claimed by Israel as its “undivided capital”, has been torn apart by clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian residents since the summer, when 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir was burnt alive by Jewish extremists.
Subsequent attacks by Palestinians culminated last week in a shooting and stabbing spree by two cousins at a synagogue that killed four Jews and an Israeli policeman. In this atmosphere, both sides have warned that the political conflict is mutating into a religious one.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, cautioned that Israel’s intensified efforts to extend its control over the Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, including by imposing severe restrictions on Muslim worship, risked plunging the region into “a detrimental religious war”.
Yoram Cohen, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service, concurred. He warned last week that Israel was stoking religious discord by encouraging Jews to pray at the site over rabbinical objections.
But despite these warnings, the Israeli government announced today it was drafting a law that would ban Muslim guards on the esplanade, making it yet easier for Jews to visit.
Government ministers, meanwhile, accused Abbas of religious “incitement” and masterminding the violence in Jerusalem.
Ari Shavit, an influential Israeli analyst, also blamed what he termed an emerging “holy war” not on oppressive Israeli policies, but on the spread of an Islamist extremism.
Shavit and other Israelis have preferred to overlook the obvious parallels between last week’s killings and an even graver incident 20 years ago. Then, Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish settler, entered the Ibrahimi mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron in his Israeli army captain’s uniform and opened fire on Muslim worshippers, killing 29 and wounding 125.
One can only wonder why the timeline for Shavit’s holy war did not extend back to Goldstein’s massacre, or include the waves of attacks, including arson, by settlers on Muslim and Christian places of worship ever since.
Israel’s responses to these two massacres are more helpful in illuminating the fundamental causes of the recent surge in violence.
In Hebron, Palestinians rather than the settlers paid the price for Goldstein’s slaughter. Israel divided the Ibrahimi mosque to create a Jewish prayer space and effectively shut down Hebron’s commercial centre, displacing thousands of Palestinian residents.
Instead of pulling the settlers out from the occupied territories following the massacre, Israel allowed their numbers to grow at record pace.
Although the anti-Arab Kach group Goldstein belonged to was outlawed, it has continued to operate openly in the settlements, including in Jerusalem. Goldstein’s tomb, next to Hebron, is a site of pilgrimage for thousands of religious Jews.
Palestinians, not Israelis, are again the ones suffering, this time after last week’s synagogue attack.
Israel has begun demolishing the homes of those involved in recent attacks, and is drafting laws to jail stone-throwers for up to 20 years and harshly penalise the parents of those too young to be jailed themselves.
On Sunday the interior minister revoked the Jerusalem residency of a Palestinian convicted of driving a suicide bomber into Tel Aviv 13 years ago – a prelude, according to prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to many more such revocations.
Israel is also preparing to relax gun controls to allow thousands more Israeli Jews to carry weapons at a time when Palestinian taxi and bus drivers in Jerusalem say they are being regularly assaulted. Last week a bus driver died in mysterious circumstances, which Palestinians suspect was a lynching.
It should be no surprise that Jerusalem is the eye of the storm. For more than a decade it has served as a laboratory for the Israeli right to experiment with a model of political despair designed to make Palestinians either submit or leave.
House demolitions for Palestinians and settlement building for Jews, brutal policing and the encouragement of crime as a way to recruit collaborators are happening faster and more aggressively in Jerusalem than anywhere else in the occupied territories.
Since the second intifada erupted in 2000, East Jerusalem has been a political orphan. Israel expelled the Palestinian Authority, and jailed or deported Hamas leaders as they tried to fill the vacuum. Since then, Palestinians in Jerusalem have been defenceless against Israel’s intrigues.
Netanyahu and the right have made little secret of their wish to export a similar model to the West Bank, gradually eroding what control the PA still enjoys. But the spiralling violence in Jerusalem has exposed the paradox at the heart of their strategy.
Palestinian anger in the West Bank is every bit as intense as in Jerusalem but Abbas’ security forces still have the will and, just barely, the upper hand to keep a lid on it.
In Jerusalem, on the other hand, protesters face off directly with Israeli police. Because the city lacks organised Palestinian groups, the security services have been unable to penetrate them with collaborators. Instead Israel has been caught off guard by unpredictable attacks as individual Palestinians reach their breaking point.
By refusing to recognise any Palestinian national claims in Jerusalem, Netanyahu has forced the population to recast the conflict in religious terms. Unable to identify politically with either Fatah or Hamas, Jerusalem’s Palestinians have found powerful consolation in a religious struggle to counter the mounting threats to Al-Aqsa.
From this perspective, Netanyahu’s continuing efforts to weaken and undermine Abbas and the PA appear strategically self-destructive. Without them, the West Bank will go the way of Jerusalem – an ever more unmanageable colonial conflict that risks heading towards religious conflagration.
SOUTH HEBRON HILLS — On Saturday, 15 November 2014 the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee (a nonviolent Palestinian organisation resisting occupation in the South Hebron Hills region), coordinated an action to develop the road that connects the city of Yatta to At-Tuwani and surrounding villages located in the area Israel has designated Firing Zone 918. Under the watchful eyes of the Israeli military and police, the action was attended by members of the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee, residents of At-Tuwani, Israeli peace activists from Ta’ayush, and internationals from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and EAPPI.
The unpaved road that runs between villages and the town of Yatta is the access route that Palestinians travel for employment, education, water, healthcare, and other necessities of life. Surrounded by the tarmacked roads developed by the Israeli state for the settlers living illegally in the area, the rubble and holes in the Palestinian roads illustrate the stark inequalities of power that characterise the Israeli occupation, and the specific context of the South Hebron Hills and Firing Zone 918.
Because Israel bans Palestinian construction with tractors and other machines in the area without rarely-given Israeli permits, busy hands set about with buckets and hoes attempting to remove rubble and stones and fill in the many potholes on the road.
A member of the South Hebron Hills Popular committee from At-Tuwani explained, “This road serves all the people from Yatta and around… This is a very bad road – the school bus can’t [travel on it] and when people need to bring something by tractor, it is very difficult. This road is also not good if you need to use an ambulance to take people to the hospital. Ten years ago it was an asphalt road, but at the start of the Al Aqsa intifada (in 2002), Israel demolished the road.”
He also said, “we need to build a channel for rain water… Last year with the snow, all this is closed with water…You need a machine to fix this road but the DCO asks us for a permit, but will not give one to us to use a machine to work here… Now every week we try to fix it with small things, with our hands, before the rain comes.”
The racial politics of occupation are clear in his statement that “if a Palestinian comes alone to work here, the army and the police would arrest him quickly and stop him working, but it helps having international people and cameras to film everything.”
Despite the slow progress made with hands, buckets and hoes, six Israeli police and military jeeps arrived. They told the Palestinians they could not carry the work out without a permit, and a soldier declared such work a supposed ‘health and safety’ hazard, an ironic statement given the ‘health and safety’ hazards of the current state of the road, not to mention the myriad physical and psychological effects of occupation.
Legal issues surrounding the firing zone and the South Hebron Hills are complex, with numerous bureaucratic intricacies through which it is nigh impossible for Palestinians to gain a permit for construction. Members of the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee asserted the unlikelihood of gaining such a permit demanded by the military, and managed to converse with soldiers until the action ended at the time initially planned by the committee.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – Today in al-Khalil (Hebron), as part of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, thousands of settlers and Zionist tourists descended upon the city. The Israeli military presence in Hebron, which is already a large and oppressive part of everyday life, greatly increased.
Hebron is the only city in the West Bank where there is an illegal settlement in the heart of the city. It is split into H1 and H2, H1 under Palestinian Authority Control, and H2 under Israeli military control.
This morning, in both the Salaymeh and Qeitun neighbourhoods, the checkpoints designating the end of H1 were extended further into Palestinian territory.
Israeli soldiers drove between Salaymeh and Qeitun, entering houses, hiding in alleyways, and aiming their guns at passing schoolchildren and other people in the area.
In the afternoon, the army presence was just as heavy, with children walking home past heavily armed soldiers.
In H1, Bab al-Zawiye (the centre of Hebron), Israeli forces partially closed the road to allow settlers and Zionist tourists through the checkpoint to visit a religious holy site.
They were escorted by approximately 45 Israeli border police and soldiers. Several Palestinian shops were forced to close for several hours, to allow the setters and tourists to pass.
The Ibrahimi mosque and nearby checkpoint was also closed today, with all Palestinian shops in the area forced to close with it.
HEBRON – Israeli soldiers raided a private Palestinian home in Hebron on Sunday morning and turned the third floor of the house into a military post, the owner said.
Salim al-Salayma told Ma’an that Israeli troops broke into his house in the al-Baqaa neighborhood in eastern Hebron and locked him and his 17 family members on the first floor.
While the family was locked on the first floor, al-Salayma said, Israeli soldiers brought military equipment to the third floor, turning it to a military post.
An Israeli military spokeswoman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Israeli forces regularly occupy the homes of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank located in what they deem sensitive areas to conduct surveillance and enforce control.
Israeli forces took at least 127 Palestinians across the occupied West Bank into custody, during the first week of September alone, according to recent statements by the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS).
PPS said, according to Ma’an news, that most detainees came from the Hebron district, where 28 Palestinians were taken by Israeli forces.
PPS further stated that 23 of the detainees were from the Jenin district, in the northern West Bank, 21 from Ramallah, 20 from Jerusalem, 12 from Bethlehem, eight from Tulkarem, six from Nablus, three from Qalqiliya, and six from the Tubas/Salfit district.
Israeli forces abducted 10 Palestinians overnight, on Saturday, seven of whom were taken from Hebron, with one from Bethlehem, and two from Beit Sira village, western Ramallah district.
More than 7,000 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons, including some 2,000 detained during the massive arrest campaigns which have taken place over the last three months.
See also — 08/31/14 PPS: 597 Palestinians Arrested During August
Once the surveillance cameras of Palestinian shopkeepers in East Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood revealed the images of the Israeli abductors of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, the fabricated Israeli propaganda that the 16-year-old Palestinian boy had been gay and the victim of an honor killing perpetrated by his own people became completely unsustainable. Soon after, hoping to contain the resulting clashes that erupted in Shuafat and extended to many nearby neighborhoods, Israeli police announced that they had captured six suspects involved in the crime.
Just days later, however, it was announced that three of them already had been freed. The others were described as two minors and a mentally unstable adult with a dominating personality who is on psychiatric medication, according to Yediot Ahronot.
That has a familiar ring to it! In 1969 Dennis Michael Rohan, an evangelical Protestant from Australia, set fire to the al-Aqsa mosque in order to hasten the second coming of the Messiah and create an opportunity to rebuild the Jewish Temple. Rohan was later declared mentally ill and exonerated for his actions.
In 2007 Julian Soufir confessed to having murdered Palestinian taxi driver Taysir Karaki, saying he did not feel guilty because he considered Arabs the equivalent of cattle and he was simply slaughtering one. Soufir had entered the victim’s taxi in Jerusalem and asked to be driven to Tel Aviv. He then persuaded Karaki to come to his brother’s apartment with an offer of coffee and the use of the bathroom, and attacked the Palestinian with a knife he had obtained ahead of time. At his 2008 trial, the court accepted the testimonies of two defense witnesses who claimed that Soufir was not fully “conscious” at the time of the murder—despite the fact that he had explained his motive for murdering Karaki—and Soufir was acquitted.
A few years ago, I testified as an expert witness at the Jerusalem district court regarding the case of one of my psychiatric patients who, while suffering an acute psychotic episode, stabbed an Israeli soldier. My patient was 30 years old; after sustaining severe injuries during his arrest, which required 12 surgeries and left him handicapped, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison! The insanity defense certainly did not do my patient much good.
It is one of many pretexts used to avoid the prosecution, imprisonment or punishment of Jewish Israelis who murder Palestinians—but not the other way around. When a Palestinian minor attacks an Israeli, the youngster appears in court with bruises and fractures. Nor are charges dropped because he is a minor. We shall see what happens to the minors who tortured Abu Khdeir and burned him alive.
For many years—in Hebron, especially—radical Jewish settlers have been attacking Palestinians under the very noses of Israeli soldiers, who only intervene to defend the settlers from Palestinians responding to their attacks. In 1994 American-born Dr. Baruch Goldstein massacred 30 Palestinians praying at Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque, which he entered under the eyes of Israeli soldiers who—instead of acting to stop the massacre—fired live ammunition into the fleeing crowd, killing even more Palestinians!
In 2008 Ze’ev Braude, a settler from nearby Kiryat Arba, was caught on camera as he shot at close range two Palestinians from the Matariya family during the evacuation of a Palestinian house in Hebron. The film was provided to Israeli police as evidence, but the indictment against Braude was dropped. In his ruling, Judge Elyakim Rubinstein held that “in this instance, the right of the accused to a fair trial outweighed the harm to national security!”
These and similar actions are the consequences of ideologies held by Gush Emunim and other radical movements that encourage the building of settlements in the belief that the coming of the Messiah can be hastened through Jewish settlement of occupied Palestinian land that God promised the Jews. Rather than working to eradicate these beliefs, the Israeli government instead has endorsed them through such vehicles as the Sebastia agreement, which encourages Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Israeli intelligence, so effective in hunting down every Palestinian boy who so much as throws a stone, remains inept at imposing limits on the actions of Jewish Israelis—from the fanning of anti-Arab sentiment and racist slogans by the Beitar football team, to attacks on Arab employees of Israeli restaurants, to settler “Price Tag” vandalism and assaults, with graffiti boasting “Price tag blood vengeance.” The official Israeli response to these and other outrages is one of indulgence, and actions to counteract them are minimal. But these groups are inspired by the undercurrent of hatred and dehumanization of Palestinians—a sentiment expressed by Israeli politicians, rabbis and the arbiters of public opinion. Israel’s consistent unwillingness to bring settlers to justice for their violent actions against Palestinians only encourages and incites further settler violence.
Impunity for Israeli Soldiers
In 1984, during what became known as the Bus 300 affair, Shin Bet officers first allowed Israeli Jews to beat up two Palestinians who had hijacked a bus, then executed the two men on the spot—after the hostages had been freed and the hijackers captured and handcuffed. The Shin Bet initially claimed that the hijackers had died when the hostages were being rescued. But these lies were exposed when photos were released showing the hijackers alive after their capture. Nevertheless, Shin Bet head Avraham Shalom and all the officers involved received a presidential pardon for unspecified crimes—before any charges were even brought against them.
In 2004, Iman al-Hams, a 13-year-old Gaza student, lay injured on the ground after having been shot by Israeli soldiers when she entered a “closed military zone” on her way to school. Captain “R,” a Givati Brigade soldier, approached her and shot her at point-blank range. (See Jan./Feb. 2005 Washington Report, p. 9.) According to transcripts of radio exchanges between the soldiers during the incident, Captain “R” said he did this “to confirm the kill.” In court he later claimed that he believed the young girl posed a serious threat and that he had opened fire, not directly aiming at Iman, as a deterrent. Haaretz later reported that Israel would award Captain “R” 80,000 NIS in compensation, after he was acquitted of a charge related to the shooting.
In 2005, Israeli soldier Eden Natan-Zada opened fire on Palestinian citizens of Israel at the border of Shafa Amre, killing 4 and wounding 21. When he paused to reload his rifle, those who survived the massacre overpowered and killed him. The state of Israel, however, chose to indict 12 of the town’s residents! Many were charged with attempted murder for “taking the law into their own hands.”
Last year, Arafat Jaradat, a young student from Hebron, died five days after being detained for allegedly throwing stones at Israeli forces during a protest. An autopsy revealed three broken ribs, severe contusions on his legs and forehead, and blood in his mouth and nose. A Turkish forensic specialist found the injuries consistent with torture. The Israeli medical examiner described the same wounds on Jaradat’s body but was unable to determine a cause of death. The Israeli Foreign Ministry released a statement claiming that Jaradat died of a heart ailment—even though none of the medical specialists, including the Israeli medical examiner, had noted any evidence of a heart condition!
Just a few months ago, on March 10, Israeli troops at Allenby Bridge killed unarmed Palestinian-Jordanian Judge Raed Zeiter, 38, who was on his way to the West Bank to collect rent money to pay for the treatment of his ill son. The Israelis alleged that he tried to snatch a weapon from a soldier, but eyewitnesses told a different story: When the judge lit a cigarette while waiting to be searched; a soldier pushed him, yelling that he couldn’t smoke; Judge Zeiter pushed back, shouting, “Don’t insult me!” The soldier then shot the judge, who was left bleeding for half an hour at the feet of a crowd of Palestinians who waited in line, paralyzed by fear. Judge Zeiter finally died of his wounds. Israeli officials claim surveillance cameras were not functioning on that particular day, and the investigation is now closed, leaving the Israeli officials’ version unchallenged.
Palestinians who kill or even attempt to kill Israelis invariably receive heavy sentences. By contrast, Israelis who kill Palestinians get away with their crimes or receive very minimal sentences, suspended sentences, or fines—if they are not given medals and awards! We have seen soldiers who film themselves while they abuse Palestinians. Many of my own patients who have been tortured under interrogation describe appalling events that took place within four closed walls. Who pays for that? Who is held accountable? Israel makes it impossible to document or track these cases, destroying the evidence and hiding the truth.
The Israeli army, Israeli institutions and individual Israelis violate Palestinians’ human rights with complete impunity. International laws have been created to provide an effective remedy to victims of human rights abuses, but Israeli laws are carefully designed and amended to make Jewish Israelis immune from them. For example, Law 5712 of 1952 was amended to make it impossible for a Palestinian who has sustained damages at the hands of a state agent in any area of the West Bank or Gaza Strip to claim compensation. While “national security” is invoked to drop all charges against Israeli Jews, “secret evidence” is used to prosecute and detain Palestinians through administrative detention without disclosing the charges against them, thus depriving them of the right to due process.
Julian Soufir did not consider himself a murderer because he believed Arabs were like cattle and he was just slaughtering one; Captain “R” felt threatened by an injured 13-year-old schoolgirl and shot her at point-blank range. Not only does the Israeli government and public opinion share these delusions, but the international community supports Israel’s paranoia by endorsing its “right to defend itself.”
After “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008-09 and “Operation Pillar of Defense” in 2012, in July Israel launched “Operation Protective Edge.” We have witnessed three wars in less than six years, all on the pretext of weakening resistance groups. The failure of the international community to set limits and hold Israel accountable for its actions and the inertia of the official Palestinian leadership in going to the International Court of Justice will only invite young people like the friends of Muhammed Abu Khdeir to overcome their fear and act on behalf of the victims of Israel’s insane policies. ❑
Samah Jabr is a Jerusalemite psychiatrist and psychotherapist who cares about the wellbeing of her community—beyond issues of mental health.
Occupied Palestine – Yesterday at approximately 5:30 PM in the old city in al-Khalil (Hebron) settlers from the illegal settlement of Beit Hadassah threw rocks and water at Palestinians living on Shalala Street. This is a regular occurrence for Palestinian families living close to illegal settlements in al-Khalil. The majority of the time the Israeli military watches from a distance and does not do anything to intervene in the violence and property damage.
One Palestinian, a 35-year old man, documented the stone throwing only to be detained and then arrested by the Israeli military. The man was taken through a yellow gate to an area from which Palestinians are restricted, where the soldiers pushed him around.
The soldiers threw several stun grenades at Palestinians and internationals standing behind the yellow gate who were trying to document what was happening through holes of the gate.
Two internationals walked through the checkpoint at the Ibrahimi mosque and down Shuhada street in attempt to find the Palestinian. A group of ten soldiers and an army jeep stood with two Palestinian men, the man who had been arrested was in handcuffs. A nearby soldier told the internationals that neither of the men was arrested but they were only bringing the handcuffed man in for questioning, to gather evidence about the settlers who threw stones. After approximately five minutes the solders blindfolded the Palestinian and started walking with him to a nearby army base, Beit Romano. When internationals asked why the man was being blindfolded an Israeli soldier stated, “Because I want to.”
The man was released earlier this morning.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – In al-Khalil (Hebron) on Sunday August 3rd, a 10-year-old Palestinian boy was walking to his home near the illegal settlement of Kiryat Arba when the Israeli military shot him in the chest with live ammunition.
The following day, ISM volunteers went to visit the young boy in al-Mezan hospital. The young boy was in critical condition, and although doctors were able to save his life, the bullet remains in his left lung, as it is too dangerous to remove it.
His father told the ISM volunteers that a relative of the boy witnessed the shooting and that it had been a man in a soldiers’ uniform that shot him, without any visible motive. His father also pointed out that even if there had been a motive, such as if the boy would have been throwing stones, nothing could have justified this shot, which was clearly aimed at the heart of this 10-year-old child.
A funeral for a soldier that died in Gaza was held in the Tel Rumeida area of al-Khalil between 1 AM and 3 AM last Sunday evening. The area was under heavy military presence, shop owners were forced to close down their shops early and Palestinians living in the area received orders stay in their homes and turn the lights off. Doctors at al-Mezan hospital have reported that in recent weeks there has been an increase in the number of bullet wounds resulting from live ammunition. Many of these wounds have been in the chest and abdomen, seemingly aimed to kill.