The murder of the Dawabsheh family, for all its atrociousness, is an exception. It is exceptional for the means of the murder. It is exceptional because soldiers and not settlers are mostly responsible for Palestinians’ violent death.
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Official Israel permitted itself to renounce the murder. Indeed, it was liable to mess things up by drawing attention to the not-so-unusual violence of settlers, who take over Palestinian lands. That is, it could set off some spark of understanding in the mind of the average, disinterested Israeli.
There was no spark. The murder of the Dawabsheh family did not mess anything up because the state fully backs Israeli Jews stealing Palestinian lands, which only complements the violence the state displays in expelling Palestinians from their lands. Who, after all, doesn’t want virgin olive oil, a rich boutique wine, rabbis whose learned quotes are balms for worn-out souls and a mobile home that will be upgraded to a villa?
The court will rule on the question whether Amiram Ben-Uliel burned the Dawabsheh family to death. We’ll only know whether the murderer had any accomplices who covered well his footsteps only after the statute of limitations expires. Meanwhile, the indictment tells us that Ben-Uliel observed the village of Duma from the Yishuv HaDa’at outpost, and that he stayed before the murder in a local cave. Whether he is the murderer or not, we can assume Ben-Uliel did not invent the existence of the cave under the duress of torture.
Ben-Uliel was just seven years old when Israeli Jews expelled the owners of the land and the cave upon which Yishuv HaDa’at, one of the satellites around the authorized illegal settlement Shilo, is located. The cave and an adjacent small, concrete house are on a 110-dunam plot that the Musa family of the village of Qaryut bought before 1967. The family planted grapes and later almond and fig trees. They also grew lentils, fava beans and wheat. Sheep and goats lived in the cave. When Israel conquered the area, it forbade them from adding rooms to the concrete home, but the extended family got by and made a living off its land.
Outposts, illegal and unauthorized, began to spring up in the area in the late 1990s. They continue to expand. Meanwhile, the violence of Israeli civilians in the Shilo region against Palestinian farmers and their fields increased. The Israel Defense Forces stood aloof.
This trend strengthened with the breakout of the second intifada. In 2001, over the course of three months the Musa family suffered non-stop attacks – shooting at the house, stone throwing, sealing their well, barricades that prevented a water truck from arriving. The goats started dying of thirst. The children were terrified. The IDF stood aloof. In June, the family was forced to leave.
Ben-Uliel grew up, the outpost added mobile homes and families, and the Musa family did not return. With support from the IDF, Israelis took control of its olive grove to the southwest of Qaryut.
The authorities acknowledge the Musa family’s ownership of the land around the cave and the house, as was made clear in a reply to a petition by Rabbis for Human Rights. But at the same time, it was written there, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon is checking the option of declaring the remainder of the land that was stolen from the Musa family as state land.
The Musa family is not alone. In the same, patently normal manner, hundreds of families from the villages of Jalud, Qaryut, Turmus Ayya and Mughayer stopped working their lands. The state of forced neglect will now enable the Civil Administration to declare thousands of dunams as state lands, which will turn into Jewish land.
And what about the robbed, impoverished Musa family? At the height of summer they go out to work in the olive groves of Jews in the Tiberias region. They receive 180 shekels for each harvest day.