Monday, May 21, 2018

Violent settler attacks increase but no change in recourse to justice


By Ruth Regan - April 18, 2018
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Section: [Main News]
Tags: [settler violence] [Settlers attacks] [Settlers] [settlements]

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reports settler violence to be 'on the rise’, with an average of six attacks a week so far in 2018, double the average of three a week in 2017. Incidents likewise increased by 88% from 2016 to 2017, having decreased over the three years prior.

Settlers living in the West Bank carrying out violence against Palestinians is no new phenomenon, Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem refer to it as having “long since become part of Palestinians’ daily life under occupation.” Yet a rise in aggressive incidents is still a cause for concern for Palestinians living in close proximity to illegal settlements. B’Tselem felt unable to offer any reasoning for the increased attacks.
 
Incidents of settler violence are coupled with hollow accountability and poor law enforcement by Israeli authorities, while Palestinian police are forbidden from responding.
 
As Haaretz reported, settler violence goes 'regularly unpunished’. The Israeli army have no jurisdiction over Israelis in the occupied territories. Therefore incidents are left to the responsibility of the Israeli police, who are ineffective and slow to arrive to incidents.
 
The Israeli Ministry of Justice claims that their investigation process is improving.
 
“In recent years, Israeli authorities made considerable efforts to enhance law enforcement in the West Bank, which have led to a significant decrease in ideologically-based offences and an increase in the number of investigations and the rate of prosecution,” read a report the Ministry released last year.
 
Yet Israeli NGO Yesh Din refutes this and released statistics telling another story. It found only 8.2% of investigations between 2013 and 2016 led to offenders being prosecuted. The remaining cases were simply closed, the majority on the grounds of 'offender unknown’.
 
Given the lack of state accountability, several NGOs and human rights organisations take on the onus of documenting violent incidents perpetrated by settlers on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
 
OCHA’s report outlined the most frequent attacks occur in the Nablus area. These accounted for 34% of incidents in the first half of 2017. In particular, they are inflicted against Palestinians in villages such as Huwwara and Urif, by settlers from nearby settlement Yitzhar and its surrounding outposts.
 
Just two weeks ago a 64 year old farmer from Huwarra had his neck and jaw fractured by settlers who beat him with clubs.
 
When settlers from Yitzhar viciously attacked a shepherd and his flock last year, the incident was caught on video yet still no assailants were found. An almost identical incident took place in February, when a mob of 15 settlers attacked a Palestinian farmer and slaughtered his sheep.
 
OCHA reported the most common attacks are throwing stones at Palestinian homes or vehicles; physical assault and vandalising property, especially agricultural property, by setting fires and uprooting trees.
 
Another regular occurrence of settler violence is hit and runs.
 
Last month, 16 year old Rushdi Yasser al-Khatib was knocked down on the road between Hizma and Anata. Khatib was left with a fractured skull while the settler fled the scene without consequence.
 
When eight year old Palestinian Aseel Abu Oun was killed in such an incident last year as she left a supermarket in the Nablus area, an Israeli police spokesperson negated it as merely a “regular road accident”.
 
Sabreen Dweik’s elderly father was knocked down by a driver last month. He was left with a fractured cheekbone. She then found out the driver was from Ma'ale Adumim, a settlement near her father’s Area C village. The Palestinian police are therefore not able to enter the area and the driver is unlikely to be found.
 
“When he arrived [at hospital] he was unconscious; covered with blood from his head to his toes,” she recalled to Palestine Monitor.
 
The family had to pay all hospital expenses.
 
She said although it was horrible for her family, the situation is “the same as lots of people have been through.” Dweik said the experience makes her “want to resist more and more to protect my land, and my dad.”
 
While there are also incidents of counter violence conducted by Palestinians against settlers, in such cases the state comes down hard. When a Palestinian ran down Israelis in East Jerusalem in response to a hit and run by a settler the previous day, he was instantly shot dead. Two weeks ago an Israeli Arab was charged with attempted murder for a hit and run of police officers in Haifa.
 

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