This week the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar near Nablus was again shown to be a powder keg that threatens to ignite the occupied territories. A video clip released Monday by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem shows a group of settlers, a few of them masked, shooting live ammunition and throwing stones at residents from the adjoining Palestinian village, Asira al-Qibliya, who responded with their own volley of rocks.
A group of Israeli soldiers looked on at what was happening , but did not intervene to stop the ammunition fire, which injured a Palestinian villager, who was hospitalized. A spokesman for the Yitzhar settlement complained that it was the Palestinians who started throwing stones. He also said the soldiers arrived late.
The Israel Defense Force spokesman contended that the video does not present the entire sequence of events and promised that the incident would be investigated. Ongoing monitoring conducted by Israeli human rights organizations as well as testimony gathered by international organizations shows, however, that the video documents the regular routine experienced by large numbers of people.
Dozens of settlements and outposts have become incubators for armed young people who do not conceal their desire to embitter the lives of their Palestinian neighbors and take over their land.
Responsibility for the safety of the Palestinians is in the hands of the IDF and the police. The policy of handling violent settlers with kid gloves, as reflected in the incident near Yitzhar, comes in addition to inadequate enforcement policies on the part of the police.
According to information from the Yesh Din human rights organization, 280 of the 781 incidents that the group has reviewed since 2005, including 38 cases involving weapons fire, involved violence by Israeli citizens directed at Palestinians. More than 84 percent of the investigation files on these incidents were closed by the authorities under circumstances that reflect a failure to investigate properly.
It's a pity that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet colleagues and fellow Knesset members do not demonstrate at least a bit of the same empathy and determination when it comes to the victims of settler violence that they show toward the squatters at the settlement outposts of Migron and the Ulpana neighborhood.
Those who demand that the Palestinian Authority take decisive action against Palestinian terrorist groups must demonstrate the same degree of decisiveness against groups of Jewish terrorists.
As the entity in possession of the occupied territories, Israel has the legal and moral obligation to ensure the safety of all of those under its control, without distinction to nationality, race or religion. If that is not provided, the Yitzhar video clip will serve as a promo for the disaster to come.
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