ISM, 26 July 2010
The recent escalation of settler violence in Al-Khalil (Hebron) was matched by unwarranted military violence and the arbitrary arrest of peaceful protestors at the latest protest against the closure of Shuhada Street and illegal presence of Israeli settlers on Saturday 24 July 2010.
Cynical military violence
Israeli soldiers were brutal with an overwhelmingly peaceful group of demonstrators and made six arrests, apparently at random. Soldiers used great violence to arrest three French men, an Israeli activist, a Swedish man – and later that day a Palestinian. Protestors were kicked, punched, stamped on, dragged by the hair and one even reported being bitten by a soldier whilst they held on to a fellow activist to prevent their arrest.
A peaceful tone for the protest was set by the local popular committee who had arranged for a visiting dance troupe from Syria to perform a traditional ‘dabka’ dance. Spirited chanting ensued and protestors linked arms to walk towards the market. However soldiers with M-16 rifles blocked their path and physically shoved them back.
At one point a single protestor used a plastic flag pole to poke a soldier, after extreme and unnecessary force had already been employd by soldiers. Following this the army set upon the demonstrators, and started to beat any and all of those present. Arrests were made in an extremely vicious way, with young men being grabbed by their necks and put in headlocks. Several people were successfully de-arrested by fellow activists but the large military contingent made five arrests, handcuffing innocent people on the spot and dragging them away.
The protest calmed down somewhat when demonstrators sat on the floor to continue chanting peacefully. However the soldiers refused to allow even this. They drove people away from the closed off entrance to Shuhada Street and as they slowly backed off one soldier hurled a sound grenade into the retreating crowd – a rare occurrence in Hebron and a sign of the harsh manner in which the protest was repressed this week.
Arrests and legal intimidation
At least 25 people went to Kiryat Arba police station in Hebron, to demand the release of those arrested. They chanted and sang songs for three hours demanding they be freed. Later that evening the Swedish man – photos show the bruises on his body from being violently arrested – and the Israeli man were released without even being questioned, suggesting that police were well aware they had committed no crime.
However, the three French people, who had also done nothing wrong and are understood to have been observing the demonstration and not even participating, have been banned from Hebron, Ni’lin and Bil’in – three of the most important sites of nonviolent Palestinian resistance. This may have been because they admitted to being part of a group, called Generation Palestine.
Last week a Swedish man, Marcus Regnander, was banned from the entire West Bank for six months after a similar arbitrary arrest and with again no evidence presented against him. His lawyer plans to appeal the case.
A Palestinian man arrested later that day at a checkpoint was released 24 hours later. It was feared he would be imprisoned for much longer but his release may have been because police knew that their was a lot of video evidence of soldiers attacking him – rather than the other way round – so their claim that he attacked soldiers would easily have been exposed as a lie.
Daily settler violence
In the past two weeks, Hebron – where human rights violations occur every day – has been even more troubled than usual.
On July 17, Mohammed, a shopkeeper, was attacked by twelve Israeli settlers near his shop by the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Without provocation, two of the settlers grabbed Mohammed and a third punched him in the face. When the ambulance arrived to take Mohammed to the hospital, the military refused to let it through, though he eventually saw a doctor who warned him he might require surgery on his left eye.
On July 18th an eleven year old Palestinian boy was run over by a settler on a motorbike. A witness, who said the man was driving at 80kph and continued after hitting the boy, said it was clearly no accident and similar incidents have occurred in the past.
On July 20th there were problems at the shops near the Tomb of the Patriarchs. A group of settlers had parked their cars in front of the shops preventing people from getting access to them, even preventing one of the shops from opening, since a car had parked just in front of the entrance to the shop. Internationals were able to help resolve the situation peacefully and the cars were moved.
In Boere village activists met with local women who told them that during the last two weeks the settlers have been setting fire to crops near the family house, destroyed the water system in one of the plantations, cut a large number of tomato plants, smashed windows and slashed the tyres of two cars in the village. Locals also suspect that settlers might plan to steal more land in the village, since they also have cleared trees from an area on a hillside opposite the village, owned by a Palestinian family.
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