Telling Israelis about settler violence is like telling Republicans about global warming. There’s no ban on publicizing the troubling facts, but there’s also no obligation to seek them out or to reach the obvious conclusions. The one major difference is that at least among young Republicans, cracks have recently emerged in the wall of refusal to understand the danger.
From the start of this year through May 20, there were 89 recorded incidents of settler violence that ended in damage caused to various types of property (trees, produce, cars, etc.) and 45 that ended in casualties. The data comes from the latest biweekly summary by OCHA, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
In all of last year, those two figures were 207 and 73, respectively. Are we going to surpass 2018, in which settler violence against Palestinians rose again (following three years of decline from 2012-2014, which were marked by an especially high number of violent incidents by settlers)?
Settler assaults bring soldiers in their wake – not to prevent harm to the Palestinians, but to protect the Jews. This immediately leads to “official” violence against the Palestinians – “authorized” physical assaults and arrests.
Here, for instance, is what happened this past weekend in Al-Himma in the northern Jordan Valley. A resident of an illegal, flourishing settlement outpost invaded a recently harvested wheat field with his flock.
The Ayoub family, which sowed and reaped the wheat, have lived there for decades in tents and other temporary structures. After the harvest, the wheat stubble serves as fodder for their sheep for the next three weeks.
Access to the pasture lands that this Palestinian family and its sheep have been using for many years has already been violently blocked by this same outpost, which is the subject of numerous demolition orders (the outpost is actually a subsidiary of another illegal yet laundered outpost, Givat Salit), and from its armed residents, who are protected by soldiers. But insistent phone calls to the police and army by activists from the Ta’ayush organization worked, and the invader and his sheep were removed from the field.
Saturday morning some of the Ayoub family’s younger members once again took their sheep out to the field. The same Israeli settler approached them and fired three shots in the air. The shepherds fled.
Soldiers arrived at the scene and – what else? – arrested the shepherd’s brother, who was grazing his flock on the other side of the road. The soldiers handcuffed and blindfolded him, put him into their jeep and brought him to the nearest army post. This was at 9:30 A.M.
Ta’ayush immediately called to learn what happened and why. At 2:30 P.M. they were told the shepherd had been released. Six hours is the longest the army can hold a Palestinian without bringing him to the police.
One of the activists, a man in his sixties, waited for the shepherd outside the army post. When he refused to leave, a female officer arrested him, to the laughter of the soldiers and their relatives who had come to visit them.
A policeman who arrived about two and a half hours later released the activist, realizing that the female officer had no authority to make the arrest. The female officer suffered no consequences. Even worse is that the shepherd was released from his unwarranted arrest only at 4:30 P.M.
Throughout the West Bank, settlers’ violence and their tactics of intimidation are no accident. They are aimed at a clear goal – expelling Palestinians and expanding Jewish lebensraum. Ta’ayush and a few other activists try to put a spoke in the wheel, sometimes successfully, but usually not.
The lack of public interest is also part of this violence. It shatters for a few seconds only when a photograph is published of a man in a kippa with long curly sidelocks torching a field or running with his face masked. Another facet of this violence is that reports aren’t considered credible documentation unless accompanied by an attention-grabbing photograph like that.
The fear of violence is growing, the settlers are becoming bolder, the army and police are abetting them with their intentional neglect. And the increase in warming portends disaster.
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