Sadly, it has been a deeply troubled weekend in Area C in the West Bank.
With all that in mind, Palestinians living in the tiny village of Yanoun in the north part of the West Bank, just southeast of Nablus, were attacked on Saturday by settlers from the Itamar settlement nearby with knives and machine guns.
Nader Hanna, EAPPI’s Advocacy Officer, gives this background on the village:
Yanoun is a small village in Area C of the West Bank, just southeast of Nablus. It has about 65 inhabitants who are dependent upon farming and animal husbandry as their main source of livelihood. The village is surrounded by the illegal Israeli settlement of Itamar and since 1996 the residents of Yanoun have consistently experienced settler harassment and violence, as well as property damage and confiscation.
In October of 2002 the settlers of Itimar forcibly evacuated Yanoun of its inhabitants. International humanitarian agencies and Israeli human rights organizations then came to Yanoun to provide a protective presence with the aim of facilitating the return of the community. These left Yanoun within weeks of the community’s return; however, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) has remained in Yanoun since October 2002. Based in Yanoun Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) provide a protective presence, monitor, and report on human rights violations in the community, as well as the entire Nablus Governorate and Jordan Valley.
During the attack on Saturday, three sheep were attacked and killed with knives, and people were knifed and shot. The Israeli military stood by and shot tear gas at the Palestinians while their wheat fields and an olive grove were burnt, preventing the Palestinians from putting out the fires. Not only that! They also participated in physically attacking the Palestinians, beating them with rifle butts and clubs and shooting them. Further, it has also been reported that the military refused to permit an ambulance present at the scene to care for a man with multiple stab wounds and gunshots to the face and foot, or transport him to hospital, for three hours. Six Palestinians were injured. Five of them are in hospital, and the village is in shock.
All this was eye-witnessed by our EAPPI team in Yanoun.
Meanwhile, in Susiya, hate graffiti sprayed on rocks in Susiya village by settlers has terrified the residents. In support of the villagers, some activists spray-painted over the graffiti and, in a ludicrous travesty of justice, were arrested by the Israeli military for damaging property. There is a video of this event.
As a reminder, according to international law, the West Bank is land that belongs to the Palestinian people. Further, according to international law, settlements in the West Bank are illegal. Further still, the West Bank is occupied, and the occupying power has a duty, under the Geneva Conventions, to protect the indigenous population. The International Court of Justice has ruled that these conventions apply to Israel’s actions in the West Bank.
If these actions appall you, as they do me, then I urge you to seek justice. I urge American citizens to inform your Senators and Representatives in Congress of these actions. Congress has provided unqualified support for Israel. Give the benefit of the doubt. Assume that the members are unaware of this ongoing collusion of the Israeli military in violent harassment of the occupied population, and inform them promptly. We must make certain that they know, and that they know how we feel about it.
Further, here is a sample letter, written by our advocacy officer, for you to use to send to the Israeli Embassy by fax or email, or to use in talking points.
“Dear Ambassador / Consul General / Minister / Judge Advocate General / Lieutenant-General,
I call upon you to condemn Israeli settler violence against Palestinian civilians and to call for all those who violate human rights in the oPt to be held legally accountable for their actions.
On Saturday, 7 July 2012 at approximately 3:00PM (GMT+2) Israeli settlers from the illegal settlement of Itamar approached three Palestinian farmers in Yanoun who were harvesting their wheat and grazing their sheep. The settlers were armed with knives and killed three of the farmers’ sheep.
A clash then ensued, in which the settlers and farmers began throwing stones at one-another. Israeli soldiers and police arrived to the scene only to support the settlers’ attack on a defenseless community.
In total six Palestinians were injured, and five were hospitalized:
- Jawdat Bani Jaber (Hospitalized): was beaten and stabbed multiple times by settlers, then shot in the face and foot by Israeli soldiers. He was then handcuffed by Israeli soldiers and attacked again by the settlers while the soldiers pursued other Palestinian farmers. After being attacked, the military did not allow a present ambulance take him to a hospital or care for him for approximately 3-hours.
- Ibrahim Bani Jaber (Hospitalized): was beaten by a soldier on his head with the butt-stock of an M16 rifle, causing damage to his eye, and was later beaten by settlers while handcuffed.
- Hakimun Bani Jaber (Hospitalized): was shot in the arm at close range by a soldier.
- Adwan Bani Jaber (Hospitalized): was beaten by settlers with clubs.
- Ashraf Bani Jaber: was beaten by a soldier with a club.
- Jawdat Ibrahim (Hospitalized): was handcuffed, beaten by Israeli soldiers and then released for the settlers to attack as they watched. He was then tied up by the settlers and left on his land; he was found the next morning (Sunday, 8 July 2012).
Though the settlers were the attackers in this clash, the Israeli Military and Police provided them with protection to carry out the attack. The soldiers and officers attacked Palestinians who defended themselves from the settlers, did not attempt to put out the fires that blazed through Palestinians’ fields – nor let anyone else do so, and delayed medical attention for the victims of the attack.
Like the many Israeli settler attacks that take place on an on-going basis across the occupied Palestinian territory, no Israeli settlers were arrested during this attack.
Many thanks for this and for spreading the concern. I think that some inaccuracies have crept into the above. We were at the incident as it unfolded, and have since interviewed the 3 people who were initially injured.
Okay – so just to put the record straight: Jawdat, Ibrahim and Adwan were the farmers who were initially injured by settlers from Itamar and by the Israeli army. None of these were shot or stabbed, but they were beaten with sticks / M16 rifles. It is true that Jawdat was handcuffed by the army and then beaten by settlers, also that he was held for up to 3 hours before the army would release him for treatment. It appears that he was being used as a sort of bargaining pawn (‘If the Palestinians retreat, we will release Jawdat for treatment’). We saw for ourselves the injury to Ibrahim’s eye. It was very red and swollen, and he had stitches under his eye. We also witnessed the bruising on Jawdat’s arms and torso.
Both Hakmun and Ashraf were injured by tear gas / rubber bullets as the army attacked the Palestinians who tried to get to the aid of the injured farmers. Again, we witnessed these injuries directly. Hakmun was shot in the arm with a rubber bullet. We visited him in his home in Akraba. Ashraf was shot in the back with a tear gas canister.
The inaccuracies are not your fault. I think some wrong information got posted on the internet. These things happen.
The attacks are no less shocking. What shocked us most was the way the ‘forces of law and order’ – i.e. the IDF and the Israeli police at best stood by and did nothing to apprehend the aggressors (the settlers). At worst they aided the settlers (e.g. handcuffing Jawdat and then allowing settlers to beat him), and then proceeded to fire tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd of Palestinians who were trying to reach their neighbours and help them. None of the villagers were armed.
Incidents in the Yanoun area are not always this dramatic, but they are persistent. We have filed 5 incident reports in the last 2 weeks, involving the following litany of destruction: 200 olive trees from 4 separate communities damaged, cut or burnt; 5 people injured; 2 houses attacked; and 1 person arrested without charge when he went to file a complaint to the Israeli police – now released.
Should we not be holding our governments to account and asking them what they are condoning in our name?
Thanks very much, Jane, for your comment. Of course I would like to be as accurate as possible. It’s impossible to know how such inaccuracies arise. My concern and report arose from an urgent advocacy appeal from our office in Jerusalem. I appreciate your eyewitness response. In the melee you described in your blog, it’s not surprising that some details got slightly mistaken.
You are certainly right that the big issue relates to the fact of the attacks themselves. It is a terrible truth that settler attacks in Area C leave Palestinians with no one to go to, since the IDF sides with the settlers and even helps them. Five incident reports in two weeks is 5 too many. In response to your question, “should we not be holding our governments to account,” yes we need to be advocates for justice here and to ask why we are supporting these kinds of actions. This is very much my concern.
Thank you so much for your work in a difficult setting on behalf of those who need you and carrying on the tradition of accompaniment. God bless you in your work!