Bearing Witness

Don’t believe the hype – Hebron and Gaza

I have just returned from a day in Hebron and was horrified to discover that the Al-Rajabi family home is not back in the hands of  it’s rightful owners, the Al-Rajabi family – as was widely report. Yes the settlers have been evicted, but the home is now being used as Israeli Occupation Force [IOF] watch tower. Leaving the Al-Rajabi family still homeless, 13 months after their home was first occupied. Did the Palestinians of Hebron and the West Bank suffer the desecration of their Mosques and graveyards, stoning, beatings and shootings for another IOF watch tower in Hebron ? Did the Al-Rajabi family spent a year in the Israeli court system to get the settlers evicted, so their home could be turned in a  IOF watch tower to protect the very settlers who occupied their house ?

While in Hebron I also was shown by my guide Tom, from the International Solidarity Movement [ISM], a Palestinian home that had been fire bombed during the settler violence that followed their eviction from the Al-Rajabi family home. The house was next door to IOF watch tower, but when questioned by ISM volunteers the IOF soldiers stated they “heard and saw nothing”. I found this strange as they noticed me taking photo’s straight away – I have never heard a Molotov cocktail being thrown but some thing tells me it’s louder than my camera.

I was also told how scores of children where arrested for throwing stones at the settler in vain attempt to protect their homes, Mosques and graveyards. While the only settler arrested was the man accused of shooting two Palestinians, and he was only arrested after B’tselem release video footage of the shooting to the media.

These incidents show just a few of the double standards that exist in the occupied territories, of which there are many more. They clearly show that there is one policy for Palestinians and another for Jews, fitting the definition of apartheid – the development of practices and policies of separation along racial lines. While also showing that the IOF, who under international law is responsible for for protecting Palestinians in the occupied territories, rarely fulfill these obligations. 

While where on the don’t believe hype theme lets talk about Gaza, I am sure that every time Israel lets the smallest shipment of food into Gaza, it’s widely reported in the western media as noble humanitarian gesture, but again don’t believe the hype. These shipments are like a small amount of rain in a drought, it’s welcome but it’s not drought breaking. The blockade of Gaza has now forced UNRWA to closed its doors as of Thursday 18th of December, saying it would be unable to provide emergency food aid to Gazans, since Israel continued to refuse to allow aid shipments into the Gaza Strip, UNRWA is responsible for feeding 750 000 Gazans. This another violation of international law, as it is a form of collective punishment. 

Again I ask, why is the world less offended by the oppression of the Palestinians people than it was by oppression of Black South Africans ? where are the boycotts and international condemnation ?

The Al-Rajabi family home, now being used as an IOF watch tower

The Al-Rajabi family home, now being used as an IOF watch tower

An IOF watch tower, next to a Palestinian home that was fire bombed by settlers after their eviction for the Al-Rajabi family home.

An IOF watch tower, next to a Palestinian home that was fire bombed by settlers after their eviction for the Al-Rajabi family home.

The results of the fire bomb

The results of the fire bomb

My guide Tom admiring the rubbish disposal methods of settlers

My guide Tom admiring the rubbish disposal methods of settlers

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December 20, 2008 Posted by | My Thoughts | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hebron

 Barak in talks with Hebron settlers, seeking to end crisis.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak will hold last minute talks on Wednesday with right-wing settlers occupying a Palestinian house in the West Bank city of Hebron in hopes of ending two weeks of violence in the city.

Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said he hopes the settlers will leave voluntarily, but said Israel would use force if necessary to remove the settlers.

Also on Wednesday Israeli settlers reportedly set fire to a Palestinian house in Hebron, and Israeli forces broke up a pro-Palestinian demonstration in the city.

On Monday night and Tuesday, hundreds of Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron, throwing stones and beating residents with clubs while Israeli soldiers and police looked on.

Palestinians and their property were attacked in the Ar-Ras, Wadi Al-Hussain and Al-Ja’bari neighborhoods. Settlers also released dogs to attack the Palestinians. Israeli soldiers also fired tear gas and sonic bombs towards Palestinian houses.

Dozens of Palestinian citizens were injured. Witnesses reported that the settler mob numbered in the hundreds.

Settlers groups have descended upon Hebron over the last two weeks since Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered 13 settler families to leave the Palestinian-owned Ar-Rajabi house, which the Israelis have occupied since 2007. Rumors spread on Monday that the Israeli military was preparing to implement the order.

“It is not about Ar-Rajabi building. Settlers want to occupy Al-Ja’bari and As-Salayma neighborhoods as well as Wadi Al-Hussain, Ar-Ras and the Christian neighborhoods in order to connect Kiryat Arba’ and Kiryat Kharsina settlements with other outposts,” said Munawwar Ja’bary, an elderly woman from Ja’bari neighborhood.

She added, “Men, women and children have been attacked and injured. Our houses have been damaged. We have been prevented from leaving our homes. Our cemeteries and mosques have been desecrated in order to force us to leave, yet we will steadfast whatever they do.”

Several houses and shops were also attacked, especially water reservoirs on tops of the houses. Settlers also attempted to force shops’ doors open using crowbars and hammers. Two houses were partially torched. The windows of four cars were shattered and fire was set to two others.

The violence continued all of Monday night. On Tuesday morning settlers resumed their attacks, pelting Palestinians with stones from the roof of the Ar-Rajabi building.

Witnesses said Israeli police and soldiers stationed in the city did nothing to prevent the attacks, and in some cases facilitated them.

* Article taken from Maan News Agency @ www.maannews.net
 

Would the Israeli Government be holding talks with Palestinians, if they had occupied a settlers house and terrorised the rest of the settlement ?

December 3, 2008 Posted by | Media | , , , , | Leave a comment

Settler Violence

Since the start of the second Intifada in September 2000, the incidence of settler attacks perpetrated against Palestinians has been steadily on the rise. In 2007, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documented 76 cases of settler violence resulting in death or injury to Palestinians, a 17 per cent increase over 2006. Over the first four months (January-April) of 2008 alone, OCHA has documented 42 cases of Palestinians killed or injured as a result of settler violence. Included among these cases are one child fatality and five injuries. Sadly, Palestinian children are often the victims of violence at the hands of Israeli settlers. Reports from the 1612 Working Group1 indicate that from May 2007 to March 2008, two children were killed and 31 injured as a result of settler attacks. Of these attacks, one child was killed and five injured in hit-and-run incidents; one child killed and one injured in shooting incidents; and 24 were injured in physical assaults.

According to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, the Israeli army and police have an undeclared policy of leniency and compromise toward settlers who perpetrate acts of violence against Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory. The army makes little attempt to prevent settler violence, often providing cover and protection for the very settlers who commit these crimes. Israeli authorities often fail to investigate acts of settler violence or bring perpetrators to justice. When cases actually are investigated, they often do not result in indictment or strong penalties. B’Tselem reports that an examination of the human rights organisation Yesh Din reveals that some 90 per cent of investigations opened by the police in 2005 regarding settlers who injured Palestinians or damaged Palestinian property were closed without an indictment being filed.

In cases where settlers are actually prosecuted for crimes committed in the occupied territory, Israel’s Emergency Regulations Law 5727 of 1967 guarantees they are tried before the civil courts and in accordance with Israeli laws. Despite the fact that settlers are living in the occupied Palestinian territory, they are not subject to the same military laws and the military court system as the Palestinians living under occupation. By being subject to the Israeli judicial system, settlers enjoy legal protections and guarantees that are routinely denied to Palestinians in the occupied territory.

* The information in this post was taken from www.palestinemonitor.org 

November 19, 2008 Posted by | Media | , , , | Leave a comment

The Story of Yanoun

I have just returned from Yanoun village, where I have spent the last two days, and I would like to tell their horrific story.

Yanoun is one of the smallest villages in the Palestinian occupied territories, but it is remarkable that it is still a village at all. For over ten years, extremist settlers based at illegal outposts supported by the Israeli settlement of Itamar have been persistently harassing the villagers. Using means including violence and the destruction of infrastructure. The aim of the settlers is transfer by stealth, settlers gaining control of the villagers land by scaring the farmers away.

Tonight Yanoun farmer’s and their families will go to sleep, again, under bright spotlights directed at them from the outposts set on the hilltops above – barely 400 meters from their homes. Since 1996 residents have been beaten up; their sheep mutilated; their crops destroyed; their wells poisoned; their land seized and their lives threatened. While one settler has even shoot a farmer while he plowed his field, killing him.

The situation became so bad that in October 2002 the last six families in the village left in fear of their lives. The week before settlers had come down to the village heavily armed and with dogs and beat up men in front of their children and stated that they did not want to see anyone here next week. One villager who had lived in Yanoun for seven generations stated that “death would be easier than leaving, but the welfare of the children was at stake. One of my sons would cry and hold me in fear and I had to get up at night and take his hand just to go to the bathroom. No can except living like this” – Khamal sobin

However the following week Israeli Peace group Ta’ ayush came to  the villagers aid establishing a constant presence in the village in order to enable the villagers to return home. Which they did little by little, some taking up to two years before they felt safe enough to return. Upon their return many villagers found their homes ransacked, windows smashed and everything inside either stolen or broken.

since then life has improved slightly in the village, mainly due to the international presence which is now supplied by the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel [EAPPI]. I was there as part of my work with Project Hope who provide a presence during the hand over period between one group of EAPPI volunteers and the next. While I still heard stories of settlers destroying 200 year old olive trees, urinating in the village wells and beating up villagers who stray to far from the village. At least they no longer live in fear of their lives. It’s just a shame that their security has to be insured by an international presence, not the Israeli Defence Force – who under international law are charged with their protection, but rarely live up to these obligations.

* The information in this post was gathered from residents of Yanoun and a book on Yanoun called “Living with Settlers” by Thomas Mandal.

One of the several outpost on the hilltops above Yanoun.

One of the several outpost on the hilltops above Yanoun.

 

Upper Yanoun

Upper Yanoun

 

The view from Yanoun - down the Jordan Valley

The view from Yanoun - down the Jordan Valley

November 18, 2008 Posted by | My Thoughts, My Travels | , , , , | Leave a comment