An occupying power has obligations. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupier must see to the safety of the population living under occupation. That includes protecting its rights, including property rights and the right to earn a living.
What has been happening in recent months in the central West Bank Palestinian village of Al-Mughayyir — which climaxed yesterday when one Palestinian was shot and killed and another 15 were injured in clashes with settlers and Israel Defense Forces troops next to the settlement of Adi Ad — again proves the extent to which Israel, its police and its army are showing disregard for the law.
The popular protest in Al-Mughayyir, which takes the form of weekly marches through the village lands, began two months ago after residents gave up on the promised evacuation of the settlement outpost of Mevo Shiloh, which was established without authorization on a half-abandoned army base built on village land. Even before Saturday’s events, some 100 residents had been arrested since the protests began. Over 30 villages are currently in detention and several dozen have been injured by .22 caliber bullets, rubber-tipped bullets and tear gas at the demonstrations.
The villagers are protesting the attacks on them and their fields by settlers from nearby outposts: chiefly Mevo Shiloh, whose residents prevent them from accessing their land, destroy their crops and graze their flocks in their fields. In a few “price-tag” incidents, villagers’ cars have been damaged and defaced with offensive graffiti.
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On Friday, January 18, vandals chopped down 25 of the 35-year-old olive trees in the grove of Abed al Hai Na’asan. They left behind derogatory graffiti and the tracks of their all-terrain vehicles, which led toward Mevo Shiloh. Na’asan filed a police complaint, and detectives came to the scene. But past experience shows that nothing will come of the complaint.
No one will be arrested, questioned or punished. The investigation could have been short and quick: Mevo Shiloh is a tiny outpost and the ATV tracks leave little room for doubt. The police could have reached the individuals who uprooted the mature trees immediately.
The people of Al-Mughayyir, like most Palestinians living under the occupation, rightly feel there is no one to defend them and no one to protect their property. All they are demanding is the removal of the violent and illegal outpost on top of the hill, so that they can continue to work their land in peace. This demand, expressed in popular protests, has so far been met only by the arrest of dozens of residents from Al-Mughayyir itself and the injury of dozens more.
Instead of addressing the problem, Mevo Shiloh, and detaining the settlers abusing Al-Mughayyir’s residents, Israel is fighting a legitimate protest by Al-Mughayyir residents who deserve minimal security, something Israel must give them.
The authorities are investigating whether the Palestinian killed yesterday was shot by a settler from Adi Ad’s local patrol. This is further evidence of the extent to which Al-Mughayyir needs protection.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.