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Israeli Settlers Attack Palestinians With Impunity
By Stephen Lendman
Palestinians are doubly cursed. Israel's military attacks them regularly. During the past week alone, Israeli air strikes killed four Gazans, wounding another 14.
Al-Nabi Saleh village residents participating in a peaceful demonstration were assaulted. Two injuries were reported, including a child. Israel's navy arrested three Palestinian fishermen, confiscating their boats.
Their security forces conducted 91 incursions (13 a day on average) into Palestinian communities, arresting 14 civilians. One injury was reported.
Israeli security forces raided homes of recently released Palestinian prisoners. They were ordered to appear for questioning to harass and perhaps re-incarcerate them.
In addition, Palestinian property was attacked, bulldozed, otherwise destroyed or damaged.
All the above incidents and similar daily ones violate international and Israeli law.
Lawless Israeli settlers also assault Palestinians with impunity. Investigations when held are whitewashed. Rarely is anyone prosecuted even for offenses too serious to ignore.
On November 11, B'Tselem reported on "Settler violence against Palestinian farmers and their property, Beitillu, Ramallah District," saying:
On October 24, 25 and 26, four attacks occurred. Three involved settlers damaging or uprooting olive trees on privately owned Palestinian land near Nahli'el and Talmon settlements. A Palestinian farmer was also assaulted on his land.
On October 24, Faiz Abu Ziyada, a Beitillu resident, saw signs posted on olive trees on his land. It's several hundred meters from the illegal Nahli'el settlement.
Abu Ziyada complained to police. The same day, Hassan Tabal, another Beitillu resident, found 30 of his olive trees burned. Twenty were totally destroyed. He also notified police.
On October 25, Abu Ziyada family members waited for Israeli soldiers to accompany them to their land to pick olives. Settlers assaulted them. Two soldiers present did nothing. Instead, they told Palestinians to leave.
Given no choice, they watched helplessly from a distance while settlers smashed windows in their car. Instead of stopping them, soldiers summoned police. They arrived to investigate. Palestinians know settlers commit violence with impunity. Inquiries of any sort go nowhere.
While family members were being questioned, Aa'il Abu Ziyada saw damage done to his olive trees. Branches were maliciously broken off. The previous day they were unharmed.
On October 26, Bazar family members saw branches torn off 10 of their olive trees. Later an Al Jazeera jeep arriving to document the damage was stoned. A B'Tselem volunteer with them was injured when a stone struck him in the neck.
Last year, B'Tselem documented six settler vandalism incidents. They happen regularly. Many aren't reported. Affected Palestinians may fear for their lives. Other times complaints lodged fall on deaf ears.
In 2010, B'Tselem discussed several incidents near Talmon, Dolev and Hanli'el settlements. They included assaults, threats, damage to trees, and crop theft. Farmers complained to police.
Four cases were closed, three on grounds of "offender unknown." It's polite language for whitewash. Another ended for reasons unknown, and a fifth one remains unresolved.
In 2006, Israel's High Court ruled that "protection of the safety and property of the local residents is one of the most fundamental obligations imposed on the military commander in the field."
The Court ordered four principles maintained:
assuring Palestinian farmers are safe during olive harvest;
that they have free access to their land;
that security forces protect their property; and
thoroughly investigate complaints filed.
Israeli government and military officials routinely ignore Supreme Court rulings, doing what they wish extralegally.
Instead of protecting Palestinians, Israeli soldiers prevent them from accessing their land, and require they coordinate harvesting olives to suit military commander demands.
They claim coordination is needed to prevent or minimize settler attacks. Of course, they'd be few or none if guilty parties were arrested and prosecuted, including being forced to make restitution for damaged property.
The above cases show how disdainfully authorities treat Palestinians. At the same time, settlers get free reign to assault farmers on their land and vandalize their property.
B'Tselem wanted answers from Israel's Binyamin brigade. Instead it got meaningless responses, signifying nothing would be done regarding the above incidents or to prevent future ones.
Soldiers present when Abu Ziyada family members were assaulted violated military orders to detain offenders until police arrived. It rarely happens. Settlers know they can do what they please with impunity.
OCHA Documents 2011 Settler Violence
A November Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for the Occupied Palestinian Territory discussed this year's settler violence to date. These facts were covered:
on average, weekly settler attacks causing Palestinian injuries and property damage increased 40% compared to 2010, 165% to 2009;
settlers killed three Palestinians, injuring another 167;
another Palestinian was killed and 101 injured by soldiers intervening in settler-farmer clashes; Palestinians were harmed instead of protected;
eight settlers were killed, another 30 injured, compared to five deaths and 43 injuries in 2010;
settlers damaged or destroyed nearly 10,000 Palestinian trees, mainly olive ones; the livelihoods of hundreds of families were significantly undermined;
in July 2011, repeated attacks entirely displaced a Palestinian community of 127;
Israeli police summarily dismissed over 90% of Palestinian complaints; and
OCHA identified over 80 Palestinian communities with a combined population of nearly 250,000 vulnerable to settler violence, including 76,000 at high risk.
OCHA concluded that:
(1) Settler violence undermines the security and livelihoods of West Bank Palestinians.
(2) Many attacks were committed by settlers living in unauthorized Israeli "outposts," many built on privately-owned Palestinian land.
(3) Settler violence stems from Israel's longstanding policy of stealing Palestinian land, displacing Arabs with Jews, and turning a blind eye to their lawlessness.
(4) International and Israeli laws are ignored. Most investigations are whitewashed. Settlers commit vandalism and assaults with impunity. As a result, they continue unchallenged.
(5) Settler violence increases the risk of Palestinian displacement. Stealing more land is facilitated.
(6) Israel is legally obligated to prevent settler attacks, protect Palestinian property, and prosecute settler offenders. It rarely happens.
A Final Comment
Across America, cops attack protesters with mace, pepper spray, tear gas, beatings, and other crowd dispersal methods.
In some parts of the world, demonstrators risk their lives protesting, in countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain.
On November 19, an email arrived saying the following:
"We are very sad about the death of a child supporting the Occupy Wall St. movement. He was also one of the members of the Occupy Bahrain movement.
The 16 year old child was killed by (monarchal) Al Khalifa mercenaries. His name is Ali Yousif Badah. He is from Sitra City.
Yes it is in Bahrain - it happend after midnight on Friday night, i.e. early Saturday morning. After Ali was run over by a police car, mercenaries cleaned up blood and remains from the crime scene, and an ambulance later picked up his body.
His father said that it is difficult to look at Ali's body, as it has been run over in a terribly brutal way. May God help his family!"
Since February, dozens of other protesting Bahrainis were murdered in cold blood. So far, it hasn't gone this far in America.
Given Washington's appetite for violence, belligerence in all forms can't be ruled out if authorities decide on much harsher ways to crack down.
Some critics are silenced other ways. On November 18, Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abuninah said Washington's National Press Club suspended journalist Sam Husseini for asking former Saudi intelligence head Prince Turki al-Faisal this question:
"There's been a lot of talk about the legitimacy of the Syrian regime. I want to know what legitimacy your regime has, sir."
"You come before us, representative of one of the most autocratic, misogynistic regimes on the face of the earth."
"Human Rights Watch and others report of torture and detention of activists. You squelched the democratic uprising in Bahrain. You tried to overturn the democratic uprising in Egypt, and indeed you continue to oppress your own people."
"What legitimacy does your regime have - other than with billions of dollars and weapons" supporting you?
In response, National Press Club executive director William McCarren suspended Husseini for "boisterous and unseemly conduct and language."
America's major media, especially television, also suppress critics of state and corporate power, as well as Israel and foreign despots allied with Washington.
Recognition and acceptance depend on saying nothing offensive about entrenched power interests. Criticize and risk exclusion, banishment or worse.
Increasingly, America's First Amendment isn't worth the parchment it's reproduced on. Cross a forbidden line and get punished. Cross it on America's streets against Wall Street and corporate greed and get brutalized by rogue cops.
Cross it repeatedly and risk life and limb if your views resonate globally. America won't tolerate democratic values at home or abroad.
In contrast, despotic rogue allies and their supporters are welcome. Husseini and courageous journalists are punished for doing what mainstream ones won't dare - their job.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
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