Graffiti in Hebrew reading "death to Arabs" and "revenge" were found Wednesday night painted on a water tank in the eastern part of the Palestinian village of Susya in the southern Hebron Hills, not far from the settlement of Susya.
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Similar slogans had been painted 10 days earlier on crumbling limestone along the road.
On Saturday, activists from the anti-occupation group Ta'ayush protesting the demolition order the Civil Administration had issued against 52 tents and makeshift structures, as well as the authorities' inaction over the graffiti, came to the site to protest.
A number of activists painted their own slogans, among them "no to violence" and "free Susya." One activist daubed over one of the anti-Arab slogans with black paint. A large contingent of police and soldiers that was on site when the protesters arrived arrested four of them and held them for more than 24 hours.
The spokesman for the Judea and Samaria police district, Chief Inspector Dudi Asraf, said the police were unaware of any graffiti until the July 2 incident, and that it deals with "all criminal offenses it knows of and for which proper complaints are filed."
But Ta'ayush said that even when complaints filed are backed up by photographs, the police do not pursue the investigation. Ta'ayush said that last week, the Judea and Samaria police announced that for lack of evidence, it was closing a complaint filed a year ago by Ta'ayush activists against two settlers for trespassing and damaging a car belonging to a Susya resident. The incident was recorded on video and the names of the alleged attackers are known.
Susya is not the only place in the southern Hebron Hills where harassment of Palestinians is being documented.
Activists from Ta'ayush and Rabbis for Human Rights documented 45 cases of harassment of Palestinians by settlers from the beginning of 2012, just in the area of the Maon Farm outpost. The incidents documented included the uprooting of trees, stone-throwing, attacks on activists, destruction of water pipes and wells, and racist graffiti.
Skinny-dipping in drinking water
On June 27, for example, settlers from Maon Farm, accompanied by soldiers, came to private land owned by the Rabe'i family and entered a water reservoir naked that is used for drinking and watering flocks.
In a letter sent last Monday to GOC Central Command Nitzan Alon, to the commander of the Judea and Samaria police district Maj. Gen. Amos Yaakov, and to the military legal adviser in the West Bank, Col. Eli Bar-On, the attorney for Rabbis for Human Rights, Maya Keren, detailed six cases of harassment out of about 10 documented just in the past month. She warned against escalation that she said was made possible by "fundamental and serious flaws in law enforcement in the territories and inaction toward the criminal activity of settlers."
Olive trees destroyed
On Tuesday, about 10 mature olive trees were destroyed during the previous night and graffiti was painted. These and other incidents were all reported to the police.
However, according to statements made by the police representative Amitai Amos at the hearing discussing the terms of release of the four protesters arrested on Saturday, the police believe the protesters' actions are as dangerous as the Haredi anti-Zionist graffiti daubed at Yad Vashem last week.
This comparison emerged when Amos, requesting that the court order the four activists banned from the Hebron area for six months, told Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Judge Oded Shaham: "The area is very tense. The leftist activists that come there only stir things up. These are not very serious offenses, but I show you the indictment regarding the defamatory graffiti at Yad Vashem. The circumstances and the situation reveals danger."
However, Shaham countered: "There is no complaint that any of the respondents acted violently. Even given the explosive situation in the area of the events, it is difficult to find justification for the respondents' arrest."
The judge accepted the police charge of property damage against the four; however, noting that the offense was not serious, he ordered the four banned from the area for 30 days.