MESS Report / For Palestinians, settler abuse is only the beginning of the ordeal
A Palestinian from the northern West Bank looking to file a complaint against settlers must appear in person at the Ariel police station - but Palestinians are prohibited from entering Israeli territory.
Almost every few weeks (or days, depending on the season), the following ceremony repeats itself in Palestinian villages around Nablus: A group of Israeli settlers from one of the outposts in the West Bank hills attacks Palestinian farmers while they are grazing sheep or working the fields, hoping to throw them off Palestinian land.
The village of Burin, south of Nablus, sits nestled in a dry river bed between the settlements of Yitzhar (and its outposts) and Bracha (and its outposts). More than a few farmers from Burin have had stones thrown at them or been beaten or had their property and animals harmed. Two years ago, settlers shot at six sheep belonging to a Burin resident; a year ago, a field was torched.
Very few complaints about settler violence against Palestinians that reach the Israeli district police office in the West Bank, however, lead to indictments. Personnel limitations, along with the relatively sophisticated manner in which the settlers operate, often make it difficult to lodge such complaints. Based on both a Haaretz investigation and the many reports that have reached the newspaper, it is clear that even when the police are in a position to help, they raise no small amount of obstacles for Palestinian complainants.
For example, a Palestinian from the northern West Bank looking to file a complaint against settlers must appear in person at the Ariel police station - but Palestinians are prohibited from entering Israeli territory. In such cases, the accepted police practice is for the Palestinians to call the station and inform them that they have arrived at the entrance to Ariel; the duty officer then sends a police car to bring them to the station in the center of the city.
In light of reports of police foot-dragging in dealing with Palestinians seeking to lodge complaints, Haaretz accompanied 35-year-old Burin resident Munir Kadus as he filed a complaint with the Israeli police in Ariel. Kadus had sought the aid of the human rights group Yesh Din.
'Where should I go?'
At 6 A.M. on September 5, a Sunday, one of the last days of the month of Ramadan, Kadus and his neighbor Abu Mursey went out to the fields near their homes to graze their sheep. They usually lead the few dozen animals to the open land on the eastern outskirts of Burin.
After a few hours, Kadus claims, they were approached by six settlers, at least two of whom were adults and the rest children. Abu Mursey says he at first saw only three of them. According to Kadus, the settlers came down from the outpost known as Bracha B, armed with a slingshot.
"'Go home,' they shouted in Hebrew," Kadus told Haaretz. "I asked them, 'Where should I go? This is my home.' 'Go away, you dog,' they shouted. We don't go there alone. It is a kilometer from their homes, but they often come down and attack us. They started throwing stones at us - they were standing about 10 meters away.
"'If you don't leave now we'll call friends,' they threatened and then one of them called someone [on a telephone]. Within 10 minutes another six people joined them; they were from the Bracha settlement itself. They came down in the direction of the village, near the houses.
"I called the citizens defense group we have in Burin, and they called the Palestinian coordination and communications office which then contacted [its] Israeli [counterpart]. Meanwhile, I also called my friends and family and seven people from the village arrived. [The Israelis] threw stones at us. Abu Mursey took the sheep back to the pen and then returned on a donkey. He is 58 years old and it isn't easy for him to climb. One of the stones hit him in the back.
"The incident lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. Then the army patrol arrived and immediately threw shock grenades at us to put an end to the clash. The settlers covered their faces so they couldn't be identified and sat in the shade. We asked that they be arrested, but of course this didn't happen. An officer in the IDF district coordination office named Ataf spoke with me from Bracha and waved to me with his hand. He said the incident was over and we should go home."
Before leaving, Kadus photographed his attackers.
One day's events
September 14, 11:35 A.M. - Kadus calls the Ariel police station. The recorded message in Hebrew tells him to press the number 8 to reach the duty officer. Kadus informs the officer that he is a Palestinian from Burin who wants to lodge a complaint about an attack by settlers. "No problem," the officer says. "Come to the Ariel gate and call from there."
12:02 P.M. - Kadus calls from the entrance to Ariel. "Hello, I called about filing a complaint. I am at the Abu Ali restaurant [at the entrance to Ariel]. I'd like to come to lodge a complaint." The duty officer: "You cannot enter alone. Don't you understand what I'm saying to you? Wait until I come to get you."
12:20 P.M. - The first police car passes without stopping for Kadus.
12:30 P.M. - A traffic police car stops on the other side of the road. Kadus approaches it, but the officers are there to confiscate drivers licenses from roadside peddlers.
12:50 P.M. - An unmarked traffic police patrol car stops nearby. Kadus explains to the two policemen in the car that he needs to go to the station to file a complaint. They explain that they are traffic police and cannot help. "The duty officer will help you," they tell him.
Meanwhile, Yesh Din researchers Azmi Badir and Judith Avidor take evidence from Abu Mursey. Edna Kaldor of Yesh Din told Haaretz that last year she arrived at the entrance to Ariel with two older Palestinians and waited four hours. Only after the group's lawyers threatened to file a complaint with the police district office, did a car arrive to pick up the complainants. They then had to wait another four hours at the station itself.
1:10 P.M. - Kadus calls the duty officer again and identifies himself. "Wait. Signal a passing patrol car. Signal it. Bye," the officer tells him.
1:19 P.M. - Another phone conversation. "Police, hello, Munir Kadus speaking. I have been waiting for an hour and a half. I want to make a complaint." The duty officer: "Wait until you are picked up." Kadus: "When are you coming?" The duty officer hangs up.
1:55 P.M. - Another patrol car passes us by on the way to Ariel. It does not stop.
2:00 P.M. - Kadus calls again. "Wait there. A car will come soon to pick you up."
2:05 P.M. - Edna Kaldor calls the duty officer and identifies herself. She tells him that Munir Kadus has been waiting for two hours and no patrol car has arrived. "You have to signal the patrol to stop," the duty officer explains. After she tells him she has done so, he answers, "We have other things going on. We'll come when we have time."
At that time, no unusual security incidents occured in the area.
2:30 P.M. - Judith Avidor calls the duty officer after he neglected to answer a call from Kaldor's mobile phone. The officer, Zeev, refuses to give her his last name. "I don't have to give you my whole name. He can wait there."
Finally we left. No complaint about the September 5 incident has been filed with the Ariel police. Let it be known to the West Bank district police: here are the photographs of the attackers, courtesy of Munir Kadus.