Footage from a video camera handed out by an Israeli human rights group appears to show Jewish settlers beating up Palestinians in the West Bank.
An elderly shepherd, his wife and a nephew said they were attacked by four masked men for allowing their animals to graze near the settlement of Susia.
The rights group, B’Tselem, said the cameras were provided to enable Palestinians to get proof of attacks.
A spokesman for the Israeli police said that an investigation was under way.
So far, no-one has been arrested.
For the past year, B’Tselem has handed out video cameras to Palestinians as part of its “Shooting Back” project.
The Palestinians said they were attacked after refusing to move
The BBC has been given exclusive access to the footage of this particular attack, which happened earlier this week. The date and time on the camera footage shows that it is Sunday afternoon.
Over the brow of the hill walk four masked men holding baseball bats. To the right of the screen, in the foreground, stands a 58-year-old Palestinian woman.
Thamam al-Nawaja has been herding her goats close to the Jewish settlement of Susia, near Hebron in the southern West Bank.
Within a few seconds, she, along with her 70-year-old husband and one of her nephews, will be beaten up.
As the first blows land, the woman filming – the daughter-in-law of the elderly couple – drops the camera and runs for help.
Mrs Nawaja spent three days in hospital after the attack.
Returning to the small Palestinian encampment close to the red-roofed houses of Susia, she stepped slowly and unsteadily out of the minibus.
They don’t want us to stay on our land, but we won’t leave – we’ll die here
A dark stain showed through the white gauze covering her broken right arm. Her veil was lifted gingerly away from her lined face. A bloodshot eye and intersection of scars revealed a fractured left cheek.
“The settlers gave us a 10-minute warning to clear off from the land,” she told me, her voice a tired, cracked whisper.
She and her husband had stood their ground. It is at this point that her voice grows louder.
“They don’t want us to stay on our land. But we won’t leave. We’ll die here. It’s ours,” she added.
Indeed, the rest of the world regards Jewish settlements in the West Bank such as Susia, as illegal, built on occupied territory.
Those settlements have been a large part of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis for the last 41 years. The daily confrontation is not often caught on camera. That, now, is beginning to change.
The attack near Susia was filmed with one of 100 video cameras that B’Tselem has handed out to Palestinians in the region.
When they have the camera, they have proof that something happened – they now have something they can work with, to use as a weapon
The thinking behind the project is that when trouble flares, rather than just giving a statement to the Israeli police or army, video carries much more weight.
“The difference is amazing,” says Oren Yakobovich, who leads the Shooting Back project.
“When they have the camera, they have proof that something happened. They now have something they can work with, to use as a weapon.”
We asked a spokesman from the Susia settlement for a comment on Sunday’s incident. He declined.
Inside one of the tents belonging to the Palestinians living near Susia, we watched the footage of the aftermath of the attack – the victims slumped by the roadside, bloodied, waiting for an ambulance.
The bright, wide eyes of the children shone with the light of the small television screen.
Violence against Jews as well as Palestinians has long scarred this place. Video may now may be giving us a new and raw view.
[the difference being, Palestinians were living on the land, were kicked off by the state of Israel, were transferred multiple times, are not allowed to build homes on their own land, let alone live in peace in their ramshackle tents, and are continually aggressed by the Israeli army and resident colonists/settlers. This is the second time in as many years that the above older man, a shepherd, has been attacked by settlers from the colony on the hill above his tent.]
But for most people here, the only answer – a political deal – remains out of sight.
June 11th, 2008 |
On Monday 9 June six masked Jewish settlers from the nearby outpost of Havat Ya’ir, armed with automatic weapons and cudgels, attacked a small group of Palestinians, mainly women, in their tent village in the Susiya location of the South Hebron Hills.
Susiya, which lies within sight of the West Bank’s southern border with Israel, is now a series of inhabited tents and caves. Approximately 300 people still live there, on land to which they have legal title. Since 1985, when the Israeli armed forces destroyed the old town, the local farmers have rebuilt their dwellings three times, only to have them bulldozed in an effort to force them to leave their lands. Their wells have been filled in and the people, living in isolated and vulnerable family groups are under constant threat of attack and harassment by armed gangs from the surrounded Israeli settlements.
In Monday’s unprovoked and cowardly attack, the six masked intruders severely beat Haj Halil, 70 years old, around the head. When another elderly man and a young woman attempted to intervene they were beaten with cudgels and rifle butts. A 27 year old woman was repeatedly kicked to the head and body as she lay senseless on the ground. Eyewitness accounts testify to the savagery of the attack.
Three of the injured were taken for treatment to Beersheba. One remains hospitalised with reported fractures to the head and face.
Monday was a public holiday throughout Israel. Such public holidays are feared by Palestinians living within proximity of Jewish settlements as settlers frequently celebrate their country’s achievements by harassing and attacking their defenceless neighbours.
Settlers have cut down dozens of mature olive trees and, in another incident, a settler drove his car, at speed, into a flock of sheep which were being shepherded along a road, killing some and maiming others.
He is a charismatic older man, and for some reason we’ve taken to each other. I to him for the power of his dignity and perseverance, his un-extinguishable spirit which illuminates his face, his offer of grapes and tea…But mostly it is his grin-smile that charms me.
80 years old now, he lives with his wife in the tent, grandchildren visiting from Yatta town when not in school. He and his wife are frequently harassed by Israeli soldiers and settlers from the nearby Susiya settlement. Last year he was badly beaten by seven settlers. They came in the afternoon, at 4, and left his leg badly injured. His is not the only case of settler violence. B’Tselem has documented it well, and Israeli Ta’ayush activists have been there to witness many acts of settler violence, and to aid the victims in getting to medical care or to the nearest police station, Kiryat Arba in Hebron, to file a complaint. Because of the distance of the police station, the difficulty in getting there for most of the impoverished Susiya Palestinians, and the overall ineffectiveness of even managing to file a complaint, many do not pursue legal recourse. So the Occupation and expansion system prevails: settlers run amuck, doing the deeds of Israel through their expansionist activities and through menacing the Palestinian Susiyans to such a degree that many have eventually given in and left the area.
Maybe that is another aspect of my fascination of and admiration for Hajj: his smiling resilience.
His tent, like the others of this area, is surprisingly functional during summer days: heat stays mostly out, and breezes drift in.
I worry about the winter rain and wind. Being on a slope won’t help, water running towards the tent. But surely he has planned for this; the people here are resourceful, finding ways to exist with odds and ends, against all odds, then praising with “Allah Karim”—God provides.
Were it not for the settler and soldier problems, God would have provided all the Susiya Palestinians need. Sustenance farmers, the “Cave dwellers” of Susiya thrived on the products their goats and sheep provided, as well as grew grains and basic vegetables, and of course olive trees. Their diet still includes grapes and surprisingly tasty cactus fruit, though laborious to clean. These grapes, herds of sheep and goats, olive orchards, grains, and water resources have all suffered from settler aggressions: stealing, poisoning, and uprooting, also well-documented by B’Tselem, as well as other Palestinian activist groups.
His tent sits next to the gaping cave hole which once cleverly served as shelter, as did other cave dwellings in the area, but which now lies dormant, filled-in with rocks and rubble from earlier army and settler attacks, its carved shelves and mud-brick-fashioned seats buried beneath dust and Israeli bureaucracy. Deemed house-like structures, for which the Palestinians needed unattainable building permits (for caves!), the usage of these surprisingly functional cave dwellings has been rendered obsolete by Israel, who controls these and other West Bank areas. [Many soldiers I’ve spoken with are quick to state that the area in question, just south of Hebron, is in fact Israel, not Occupied West Bank.] Preserved replicas of cave homes like this attract settlers and tourists from around, come to view what they are told is their history. Suleiman’s mother across the hills would beg to differ: her family lived in this now-archeological park before the evictions of the 80s, before even these caves were taken from them.
In May 1999, Barak’s government, in coordination with settler leaders, carried out the first organized expulsion, in which 750 local residents were driven out of their homes on the pretence invading state land. Despite a Supreme Court injunction permitting the Palestinian residents to return to their land, the cave dwellers continued to be exposed to pressure from the Israeli military and Jewish settlers; pressure that included the destruction of houses, tents and caves, ruining water holes, uprooting olive trees, and preventing the residents from reaching their land for purposes of cultivation and grazing.Simultaneously, the government continued to expropriate more land, setting up illegal Jewish outposts and issuing writs limiting the stay of Palestinian residents in the area. The principle was to establish facts on the ground. It was Shakespeare who wrote somewhere that “there is method behind the madness.” And indeed, all these actions were carried out by the military –whether the Defense Minister was Arens, Barak or Ben-Eliezer — with the aim of exhausting the residents and forcing them out. It seems that the Defense Ministers acted according to a premeditated plan whose practical purpose is to annex the whole area to Israel “clean” of Arabs in order to create a corridor from Be’er Sheva to the Jewish settlement Kiryat Arba.
This claim is not a figment of our imagination, since it appears on the maps the Israeli delegation presented the Palestinians during the Camp David talks. –Dr. Neve Gordon, Department of Politics, Ben-Gurion University [June 2002]
With the Olive Harvest approaching but international visitors numbers soon to dwindle, the Palestinian families in Susiya run the very real risk of having their tent-homes demolished, yet again, as well as of being assaulted by settlers who are quite adept now at waiting for opportune moments: those moments are when international witnesses with video and still cameras are not present, and when the olives are about to be harvested. Without their harvest, already impoverished Susiya Palestinians lose a critical source of revenue and a key dietary component.
[photo credit: these 3 photos from Laia from Barcelona]
Further Info: Stealing of Palestinian Land:
Under an old law from the Ottoman era, Israel claims as state property, land that has been “abandoned” and left uncultivated for a period of four years and this land is then usually allocated to Israeli settlers.
–[OXFAM, “Forgotten Villages: Struggling to survive under closure in the West Bank,” September 2002, p. 21.]
Israel turns a blind eye to any methods used by settlers and soldiers alike to terrorize the farmers away from their farms and crops, even if that means razing their land.
Farmers are constantly under threat of being beaten and shot at, having their water supplies contaminated (already scarce because 85 percent of renewable water resources go to the settlers and Israel), their olive groves torched and their olive trees uprooted.
–[UN Report of the Special Committee to investigate Israeli Practices affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, No. 40, September 2005.]
source: Heritage uprooted, Sonja Karkar, The Electronic Intifada, Sep 3, 2007