Posts Tagged ‘settler violence’

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16-Year Old Arrested, Fined After Being Shot By Settler

July 10, 2010

16-year old Ibrahim Al-Biss with his younger sister Yara

On June 3, an Israeli settler shot Ibrahim Al-Biss and his friend Moataz outside Al-Aroub camp. Three weeks later and only one week after the 16-year-old left the hospital, Israeli police detained the boy at Kiryat Arabat. After his father paid 1500 shekels to release him, the police served Ibrahim with a military court order. Written and photographed by Kara Newhouse.

“I still don’t believe it’s real,” Ibrahim said of the arrest. In the hospital after being shot he had told me that he felt the violent experience was just a dream.

On June 6, after encouragement from Israeli police, Ibrahim’s father, Muhammad Al-Biss, filed a complaint about his son’s shooting. Israeli law requires the police to investigate the incident. The family claim without police advice they would have dropped the matter, but they followed it to their cost.

On June 21, Israeli police called Ibrahim and Muhammad into Gush Etzion station regarding the complaint Muhammad filed against the settler. When the father and son arrived, the Israeli authorities there sent them to Kiryat Araba, where police handcuffed Ibrahim and held him from 2 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on charges of throwing stones at settlers on Highway 60.

Ibrahim’s father remained with him the entire time. He said that the police told him the settler admitted to shooting the boys without provocation, but that someone from the camp had made the accusation of stone-throwing. Muhammad surmised that police obtained the testimony through intimidation or else made it up entirely. Ibrahim had affirmed before his arrest that he had not thrown stones at the settler’s vehicle. According to a representative of the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, the charges of stone throwing do not legally justify a self-defence argument for a settler’s shooting of the boys, however, a full investigation by Israeli police is unlikely.

Ibrahim suffered one bullet wound in the settler attack and underwent surgery on three internal organs. Now in his family home, his convalescence confines him to a couch except for when using the bathroom. At the police station, he was deprived of food, water and education. Muhammad insisted to the police that Ibrahim’s injury should have prohibited them from legally holding his son. A military doctor inspected the boy’s wound and confirmed that Ibrahim should be arrested in a hospital or have a full-time doctor with him. Instead, the police told his father to pay 1500 shekels in bail. When he did, they gave him a military court order telling Ibrahim to appear in trial on October 12.

The representative from B’Tselem said that even though Israeli military law allows for children above 16 to be tried in adult courts, Ibrahim is likely to have a juvenile trial. She reported that in 99% cases of stone throwing, the defendant takes a plea bargain and serves between three and five months in jail. Ibrahim’s family has not hired a lawyer for the case.

Mahmoud Jabari contributed to this report.

http://www.palestinemonitor.org/spip/spip.php?article1475

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Life in Area C…..

May 27, 2010

Oslo Accords and the Creation of “Area C”

After the 1993 Oslo Accords, the final status of the West Bank was deemed to be subject to “upcoming” agreements between Israeli and Palestinian leadership. In the meantime, the authority of the West Bank was divided between Israeli and Palestinian through the creation of three different types of “areas”—A, B, and C.

Area A, which makes up 17% of the land in the West Bank, and is home to 55% of West Bank Palestinians, was put under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Area B, 59% of the land and 41% of the Palestinians, was put under joint Israeli-Palestinian control—civil authority for the PA and security for the Israelis. Area C makes up 59% of the land and 4% of the Palestinians, is under full Israeli control. There are 150,000 Palestinians living in Area C and 400,000 Jewish settlers living in 120 official settlements and 100 illegal outposts.

Area C contains all of the Israeli settlements, settler roads, security buffer zones, strategic areas, and Israeli military bases and zones. The places in the West Bank that make up most of the Area C are the Jordan Valley, East Jerusalem, and the Judean desert.

While the majority of the Palestinian population lives in Area A and B, much of the land around these Palestinian built-up areas, villages, and cities is defined as Area C. Therefore, many Palestinian communities have lost farmland—vital to the economy of many villages, and the land that their communities would naturally expand into as the population increases. The Israeli military retains full control of the land, roads, water, airspace, security and borders for the land in Area C.

Ethnic Cleansing Via Bureaucracy

Life is made almost impossible for any Palestinians living in or near Area C because of the complex bureaucratic system the Israelis set up for that very reason. Palestinians in Area C need a permit from the Israelis in order to repair their own homes and infrastructure, to build new homes on their own land, to access water, and to access their own farmland. Needless to say, these permits are not given out in a timely manner, if at all.

The Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, especially the bedouin communities, have been facing the most intense Israeli policies aimed at cleansing the area of Palestinians so that Israel can take over full control of the resources there. Another Israeli aim in taking over the Jordan Valley (30%  of the West Bank territory) is to unilaterally establish an eastern border of the West Bank that would isolated it inside Israel–without any borders leading to other, more friendly countries.

Since 1967, Israel has been carrying out a “creeping” ethnic cleansing on the residents of the Jordan valley through its permit system and other policies–taking the Palestinian population down from 320,000 to only 56,000 today. 

One example of the irrationality of the permit system is in Jiftlik, a village in the Jordan Valley—which is almost entirely Area C. In Jiftlik, they have had to put electricity poles in concrete blocks which are placed above the ground instead of digging a hole for them because according to the Israelis, digging holes more than 40 cm in the ground is illegal.

Sometimes you will see corrugated tin roofs camouflaged with plastic covering because building a roof out of metal counts as “building a second storey” in the Israeli system. And of course, they would need an impossible-to-get permit for that.

“Breathing is the only thing we don’t need a permit for—yet!” Said Abed Kasab, one of the residents of the village.

Economic Damage in Area C

The economies of the villages and cities in or near Area C have been very negatively affected by the restrictions placed on them. It is the same for Palestinians living in communities near the Separation Wall—which has isolated them from other cities making economic trade and travel to access services such as health care almost impossible. By 2008, over 3,000 businesses were forced to close in the West Bank because of the Separation Wall’s construction through or near their communities.

Qalqilia and Tulkarem

In Qalqilia,  the Separation Wall has completely surrounded the city, leaving just one Israeli-controlled gate to allow any people and goods in or out. The isolation of Tulkarem due to settlement blocs and the Wall has also been significant. 37% of the West Bank agricultural land is found in the Jenin, Tulkarem, and Qalqilia governorates.

The damage done to the land in these areas by the Separation Wall is severe. At the beginning of its construction, 83,000 olive and other fruit trees, 615 dunams of irrigated land, 37 km of water networks, and 15 km of agricultural roads were destroyed systematically.

In addition, 238,350 dunams of land were isolated between the Green Line and the Separation wall, 57% of which was cultivated and is now almost inaccessible to the Palestinian farmers.  The worst effect of this land confiscation is poverty—by isolation and fragmentation.

 Nablus

Economically, Nablus has been under siege since the beginning of the Second Intifada. Huwwara checkpoint, just outside the city of Nablus, was the only way to get in or out of the city. This made trade and business almost impossible for years, strangling the economy.

To make matters worse, the Israeli military would arbitrarily close the checkpoint for different amounts of time—causing normal life to stop in Nablus. When Huwwara checkpoint is operating “normally” the line of cars waiting to leave or enter Nablus can be kilometers long, and the people must wait for hours.

Hebron

In Hebron, the Israeli settlers took over apartments right in the middle of the city. This area is now referred to as H2—and has caused extreme damage to the economy of Hebron because it is located in the central market of the city. Here, around 800 Jewish settlers live among 30,000 Palestinians.

The settlers’ presence has been slowly choking the economy of Hebron. The settlers are protected by the Israeli military—who have set up checkpoints throughout the marketplace to ensure the safety and freedom of movement for the settlers while denying both to the Palestinian residents.

More than half of the shops in the central marketplace have been forcibly shut down, or gone out of business due to the presence of settlers, military, and checkpoints in the market. Palestinian shop owners have to put chain link fencing above the alleyways outside their shops because the settlers, who have taken over the upstairs apartments, routinely throw garbage, glass bottles, and even sewage water down on the shops and people below.

Violent Effects of Settlements on Area C Palestinians

Hebron

The settlers in Hebron are the most violent in the West Bank, they systematically attack their Palestinian neighbors with complete impunity. Of course, they are allowed to carry automatic rifles and are protected by the IDF, so they can beat any Palestinian they want, or rip the veil off of any woman with no consequences.

South Hebron Hills

In the South Hebron hills, which are in the middle of Area C, the settlers constantly attack the Palestinian villagers. Sometimes they send dogs on the Palestinians, other times settlers wearing hoods or masks wait for the school children or shepherds to walk home where they stone them, beat them, or steal from them.

Recently, a 6 year old child who was grazing his sheep in an area isolated by the barrier near the settlement of Shani, was physically assaulted by a settler. Also, the settlers destroy olive and fruit trees as well as burning entire agricultural fields.

Nablus

Nablus is surrounded by settlements—which are built on the tops of the hills around the city. These settlers are constantly attacking the Palestinians in villages near settlements. Recently, West Bank settlers have been following a “Price Tag” policy in response to international pressure on Israel to freeze settlement construction and dismantle illegal outposts.

This policy requires that for every outpost or building in a settlement demolished, the settlers will organize an attack on neighboring Palestinian communities. This policy has been very obvious in the Nablus area.

Recently, Israeli settlers from the Yitzhar settlement entered Huwwara village near Nablus and vandalized the municipal park—damaging the park lights, sound amplifiers, children’s toys, and olive trees near the park. They also threw stones at a nearby house, breaking several windows.

In addition, on May 4th, settlers set fire to a mosque in Lubban Al Sharqiyya—one day after the Israeli civil administration demolished 5 structures under construction in the settlement of Shave Shomron; a clear Price Tag policy attack. This was the 3rd act of vandalism targeting mosques reported in the northern West Bank since December 2009.

Salfeet

In Salfeet, a city which is surrounded by 17 settlements (built on land confiscated from the city and villages around it), the settlers prefer to send wild boars down on the Palestinians below. These wild boars are huge and very dangerous—in addition to destroying farmland and agriculture, they could also seriously injure or kill anyone who gets in their path.

Environmental Damage Caused by Settlements

What’s more, the surrounding settlements are causing a great deal of environmental damage in the West Bank. Israeli factories that are not within the standards of environmental and health protection of Israel move to the West Bank to bypass these regulations.

Near Salfeet, settlements and factories are causing major environmental damage. They dump chemical waste from factories onto Palestinian fields—which contaminates the produce. The settlers also drain their sewage water into nearby villages and land—causing severe health effects on the people.

Water War

Water availability is another complex issue in Area C. The wells in Area A & B are not completely under Palestinian control, and the ones located in Area C are not available at all to Palestinians. Israeli use of West Bank water is 7 times what the Palestinians use. Area C contains 280 out of 597 wells, and of these only 51 are owned by Israel.

Yet, somehow, Israel’s annual yield of water equates to over 66% of the total water yields in Area C. This is why the Israeli settlements have green grass in every yard, swimming pools, etc…while in Palestinians cities and villages, people can go weeks without water in their homes–especially now, during the summer.

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Ramallah Is Not Palestine

May 26, 2010

By Sandy Toalan, Le Monde Diplomatique

– 31 March 2010 http://mondediplo.com/2010/04/04ramallah

Despite condemnation over Jerusalem and Gaza, Israel has boasted of improved conditions in parts of the West Bank. Yet Ramallah, with its coffee bars and restaurants, is far away from Area C, with its refugee camps, roadblocks, military patrols and harassment, where nothing much has changed In Ramallah, on a sliver of land inside the occupied West Bank, it’s possible to imagine what Palestinian freedom might feel like.

Major Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints are down or unmanned, allowing drivers who used to be stalled, fuming, to travel nearly unimpeded from Jericho, up the ancient hills to Ramallah, and on to Nablus in northern Palestine. Inside this fragment of a fragment of land, the economy is picking up, as shipments of soap, olive oil, vegetables, soft drinks and even local beer move smoothly to their West Bank destinations.

Bloomberg has noticed that the area shows an annual growth rate of 7%. Here, in the political and commercial centre of the West Bank, a relative sense of ease and prosperity has emerged as new shops and bars serve well-educated and discerning customers. “World-class vibrant beats in the evenings and fine-dining at all times,” reads the Facebook page for Orjuwan, a popular Ramallah lounge. “Preserving essential ingredients of traditional Mediterranean cuisine from Palestine and Italy, our classic dishes are reinvented to gourmet standard in a fine dining experience…”

Welcome to Liberty Enclave, where residents experience a taste of prosperity and rising quality of life in this small but significant part of Palestinian West Bank society. Unencumbered by scores of roadblocks, or by delays caused by the arbitrary decisions of teenaged soldiers, these Palestinians can now enjoy a modicum of freedom to move about and do business. The partial lifting of the West Bank occupation, helped partly by the US training and professionalisation of Palestinian security forces, allows the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to cite measurable improvements in the lives of some of his people – and gives Israel a rare chance to appear magnanimous despite the condemnation over the Gaza war and the Jerusalem settlements.

Yet the improved conditions in this part of the West Bank – known as Area A, a creation of the Oslo process in which Palestinians have been given civil autonomy – deepen the resentment of other Palestinians who remain locked down in Area C – where Israel retains full control. (Area C accounts for 60% of the West Bank.) There is also anger at the Palestinian leadership. This is not new. Nor is class-based intra-Palestinian fury. In 1994, Gazans who had sacrificed in the first intifada were furious when their “liberators” arrived from Tunis to govern from their villas and the back seats of their black sedans (1).

Now the resentment is worsened by the disconnection between the enclaves of Israeli-controlled liberation and isolation, and few Palestinians bridge the gap. Schizophrenia “I feel like I have schizophrenia,” said Naela Khalil, a journalist who lives at weekends with her family in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, but works in the Ramallah office of the daily Al Ayyam. Khalil, who recently documented PA human rights abuses against Hamas activists in Palestinian jails, was sipping a latte at Café de la Paix, another addition to Ramallah’s comfortable café culture.

“The biggest problems among my friends in Ramallah is how to lose weight,” she said. “Biggest problem at Balata camp is how to stay alive.”

 Khalil marvels at all the glass buildings in Ramallah, built with a naïve confidence that they will remain unshattered. “People in the camps don’t even build a second storey on their homes. Because they know what it’s like to lose their house in one black night.” Anger boiled over during the early days of Israel’s war on Gaza at the end of 2008.

“At New Year here in Ramallah, people were partying in restaurants and drinking, but in Gaza they were celebrating under Israeli bombing,” Khalil remembered. “Only 50 or 60 came to the demonstration. There were two security officers per demonstrator. So you feel very important! VIP! This kind of sarcasm is the last step before the anger comes.”

More demonstrations were organised at Ramallah’s Manara Square, and Khalil covered them. “Every time people went to the Manara for a demonstration, security forces prevented them. They beat them and threw tear gas. Prevented people from going to the checkpoints. We are normal people and they came to beat us. These things slowly add up.”

A shrugging indifference In the farther reaches of Area C, the reaction is less anger at the PA, more indifference. In the South Hebron Hills, 30 miles away, yet light years from the “world-class vibrant beat” of Ramallah, reality is an urgent, inch-by-inch struggle with Israeli settlers and soldiers over land, and access to the hilly paths that connect villagers to their homes and schools.

“The settlers used to come with dogs – they would send the dogs out to attack us,” said Manar, a schoolgirl from the South Hebron Hills, which is firmly embedded in Area C. She is 13, but looks 10. Like many Palestinians in the area, Manar lives in a village of tents and cave dwellings in the South Hebron Hills. From there she walks two hours to her school.

A report by Christian Peacemakers Teams, based in al-Tuwani village, documents many incidents in which settlers, often wearing hoods or masks, have stoned children, beaten them, and stolen their backpacks. (Stoning attacks have also been documented by videos taken by villagers in the area.) Besides the dogs, settlers have fired eggs at Manar with slingshots. Because of the attacks, the Israeli army is required to escort the Palestinian children, but “sometimes they don’t come on time” and Manar misses school for fear of the settlers.

“Sometimes they have black hoods covering their faces. So it’s really scary.” As in much of Area C, daily life for villagers is full of travel restrictions, housing demolitions and confiscations of land. Some now live full-time in their sheep camps, since they fear that abandoning them will result in permanent loss of their lands.

“If they lose any of their land, they suffer – they need every bit of land to graze their flocks,” said Joshua Hough, an American activist walking toward the school. He lives part-time in al-Tuwani as part of Christian Peacemaker Teams. “The land is continuously being taken in little chunks. The amount of land Palestinians have available to them is becoming less and less every year.”

 The school was three steel frames built on cement slabs, draped with canvas. Local leaders spoke through a megaphone, arguing for freedom of movement and access to education. After the speeches, schoolteachers began handing out free pencils. Manar and her fellow students quickly crowded around, reaching out their hands.

“Members of the Palestinian Authority hardly ever come here,” said Na’im al-Adarah, driving us back in a battered pickup which has served as a makeshift school bus. Once, he said, a man from the Palestinian ministry of local affairs came from Ramallah but refused to come in a PA vehicle. “So we took him from Ramallah in our cars, at our own expense.”

The official was appalled at the conditions he witnessed. “He said this is the first time he knew that this land [within the West Bank] is ours. A minister like him is surprised that we have these areas? I asked him ‘how can a minister like you not know this? You’re the minister of local government!’ It was like he didn’t know what was happening in his own country.” Al-Adarah squinted at the broken road through a cracked windshield. “We’re forgotten, unfortunately.”

For these Palestinians, the semi-liberated enclave centred in Ramallah is part of another country. “Ramallah is not Palestine,” said Muhammad Abdullah Ahmad Wahdan. “It’s 5%. But 95% of Palestine suffers.” We sat in the living room of his concrete block home in Qalandia refugee camp north of Jerusalem. Just a few minutes away lay Ramallah, another country.

Outside, Israel’s separation barrier loomed above the camp like a prison wall. There is talk that Israel will reroute the wall through the middle of the camp, and Wahdan says, given that this is Area C, the Palestinian Authority (PA) would be powerless to stop it. “This leadership has given us nothing,” he said. “No work, no homeland, no stability, no security.”

Benefits for the bourgeoisie Wahdan long ago dismissed the dream that the PA could help him recover the lands of citrus and olives that his family were driven from during the creation of Israel six decades ago. Now, after losing a son to the struggle – the young man was 19, and his wife was pregnant; when a baby girl was born, the family called her Palestine – he is wary of any more sacrifice for the Palestinian leadership. As she served us refreshments, Wahdan’s wife said that these are the people who “put our kids under the cannon fire”.

Wahdan said: “This particular class of the bourgeoisie exploited the people who fought the struggle. We did this for their benefit. They were the ones who got something out of it.” Wahdan’s 15-year-old grandson, Anas, sitting under a large portrait of his martyred uncle, added: “They wanted us, with no weapons, to [make the] sacrifice. Their kids have cars and villas, they own phone companies. There’s no equality between someone like that and someone like me, who lives in a house that’s falling apart, and whose father may or may not have enough money to bring bread or have clothes.”

And if he and his friends should voice their displeasure? “We’ll be told, ‘Well, you’re just refugee camp kids’,” said Anas’s friend Munir. He wants to become an eye doctor. “There’s nothing to do here, maybe play games on the internet. There’s a military base next to me here, and the checkpoint crossing there, and the Israeli army comes in at night. And maybe if you go and play games at the internet place, you’re happy that you did something for the day.”

Refugee-camp teenagers like these once fuelled the resistance to occupation. Not now, said Munir: “All that anger has been absorbed by depression.” Perhaps some day, that anger will again rises. But for now, said Anas: “People say ‘I’m exhausted, and rocks will not liberate me’.”

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Mosque Burned Down by Extremist Settlers in the West Bank

May 5, 2010

A mosque was burned down by extremist Israeli settlers  in Libban Al Sharqiya, near Nablus, on Tuesday. Of course, the Israeli authorities who were investigating the fire have so far found “no proof” that the settlers were the cause of the fire, the fact that settlers in the West Bank have attempted to burn down mosques in the past points to their involvement.

Because attacks on religious sites are more of an incitement  for the majority of Palestinians than the occasional murders of Palestinians by the Israeli military in the West Bank—emotions are running high. Also adding to the tension is the fact that “proximity talks” are about to begin this week between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Villagers say “there is no doubt that those who committed this act are settlers” because before the mosque was burnt, the arsonists arranged the mosque’s Qurans neatly in the middle of the fire—and in Islam, a Quran can never be destroyed (instead they are buried, or hidden in the space between walls, etc…).

They also pointed out past attacks by the nearby settlers including burning an olive press and cars in the area. Other places in the West Bank, settlers have set fire to whole Palestinian fields, destroying the crops, cutting down olive trees, and even releasing wild boars on nearby Palestinian villages.

Some of the more radical settlers living in the West Bank have a policy called “price tag”—where any attempt by the Israeli military to dismantle illegal property in settlements or outposts is followed by aggressive acts against the nearby Palestinian communities. On Monday, several structures in the settlement Shavei Shomron were destroyed because they were being built in violation of Israel’s partial settlement freeze.