Lieberman Indictment Imminent

Palestine Monitor
Palestine Monitor, 11 April 2011
Police officials believe Avigdor Lieberman received more than NIS 10 million in bribes from Israeli businessmen, laundered allegedly overseas through fake bank accounts and dummy corporations.

Haaretz reports the the breach of trust charge comes from allegations Lieberman illegally sought and received secret documents relating to the investigation.

Under Israeli law, bribery convictions can lead to 10 years in jail.

Palestine Monitor’s biography of Avigdor Lieberman

 

Awarta Under Seige

Awarta

Awarta

Awarta

Settler violence escalates as the military occupies and raids villages

Palestine Monitor, 14 March 2011
International Solidarity Movement activists in Awarta describe a horrific “collective punishment” of the Palestinian village: children taken from school, homes raided, imposition of a 24-hour curfew, constant drone surveillance, and massive imprisonments of the male population.

“The soldiers have locked us with the children and young men and are guarding me now,” said an International Solidarity Movement (ISM) member who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We can’t leave the house and right now we can’t even leave this room.”

Awarta has become a ghost town, with all the villagers confined to their homes, running out of gas, scared and crying quietly under the buzz of drones and detonations of sound bombs.

“The soldiers take people in every house. I don’t know how many hundreds of people they’ve taken now. The children are scared, of course. The women are crying. They take their sons and fathers away. All the village is very quiet, people can’t really talk, the children have to be quiet,” the member said. After gathering some of them from school, Awarta’s boys and men were taken by soldiers to the jail near Huwara. “Here they are collectively punished.”

ISM reports that the military has beaten people, cut off electricity and polluted water lines, and broken computers and phones.

Huwara to Hebron

From north to south in the West Bank (or Judea to Samara), settlers have lashed out this week at Palestinian civilians and their property. They have stoned cars on roads around Hebron, Kiryat Arba, Shiloh, Huwarra and Nablus, and two nights ago destroyed a nursery, a building, and smashed windows in Huwara.

Yesterday, settlers torched four cars near the junction towards Yitzhar. Down the road at Adam’s Burger King restaurant and confectionery, the owner was locking up a dusk yesterday.

“Last night we did not sleep,” the owner said. He described a dark, fearful night of listening to the synchronized mosques’ speakers blaring warnings down the valley. A caravan of settlers from the funeral of the killed Itamar family was returning soon, and the village feared a restless night of waiting to be attacked.

“We’d rather be open till midnight or one, but we’re closing,” he said as his businesses’ iron shutters squeaked shut. A rock flew out from a passing car with yellow license plates, quickening his work. “Be careful, move your car. They are crazy. Things are bad, very bad.”

Across the street lays a ruined construction project. The night before, settlers had come and ravaged the site, tearing down walls, breaking material and causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.

“They are terrorists,” Ismael said, holding broken marble slabs, standing on a pile of ruined construction material estimated to be worth $3,000.

“Every year it is worse in the West Bank,” said Mohammad Hassan, a Huwara resident whose house, the closest to the Yitzhar outposts, is guarded by a small Israeli squad. “If the situation stays like this, it will be ten time as crazy.”

“This is forever, believe me,” said Hassan. “I wish we could live in peace together but if they don’t take the settlers out of the West Bank we will never come to peace with Israel or the settlers.”

Across the valley, Maan News Agency reported that soldiers roamed Awarta yesterday with loudspeakers blaring a call for all 15-40 year-olds to gather at the local school, where the Palestinian New Network reported 12 were arrested.

More than a dozen settlers in white masks entered Jinsafout last night, incinerated a car to its chassis, and attempted to burn a tractor. Two more cars were reported burnt just north of Ramallah.

So far, Awarta has not witnessed any settler violence, perhaps because of the leadership of their neighbors from Itamar. While announcing plans to build a new residential area in the settlement named after slain patriarch and rabbi Udi Fogel, [the settlers expressed to Haaretz a complete denial of reprisal attacks against Palestinians-http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/residents-of-itamar-settlement-price-tag-isn-t-even-part-of-our-lexicon-1.349096].

“People who know us ask us why we’ve come to study with all the crazies, but that’s rubbish. There is an extremist group in the area, they are reactionary, and their photographs are always printed in the papers,” Brooker adds. “But understand: ’price tag,’ demonstrations, it’s not even a part of our lexicon. Never has been, never will be.”

But the ISM member trapped in Awarta drew a different conclusion.

“The military does such a good job – the settlers doesn’t need to be here.”

More and more settlements

After the funeral for the killed Fogel family, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu approved expansions in Gush Etzion, Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, and Kiryat Sefer with 500 new buildings.

“It’s not because of a particular terrorist attack that we will build a few more houses in [Gush Etzion] or in Maaleh Adumim,” said Elyakim Levanon, a rabbi from Elon Moreh. “Rather, we have to convene at our own initiative and decide where and how we want to build; this is our land and our country.”

“We have to stop once and for all with this nonsense about ‘illegal outposts’,” Levanon said on the temporary postponement yesterday of his new position as Samaria’s first Chief Rabbi. “This is our home and our inheritance, and we must continue building, and Itamar must become a city and a new center in the [northern West Bank].”

 

For more reports, please visit the Palestine Monitor

 

 

 

Goldstone’s Forced Redaction Does Not Clear Israeli War Crimes

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti

Mustafa Barghouthiwww.mustafabarghouthi.org , 4 April 2011

Judge Richard Goldstone’s op-ed in The Washington Post is a direct result of tremendous and fierce pressure practiced by the Israeli and the Zionist lobby against him, his family and his friends in a frenzied campaign to force him to retreat from his report, an objective yet strong international condemnation against war crimes committed by Israel during its aggression against the Gaza Strip two years ago.

Goldstone’s personal revision –  done under duress – does not change anything related to the report. While carrying his name, it was not developed or written solely by him, but by a Commission he headed. The report remains a document adopted by the Human Rights Council and UN bodies.

Goldstone cannot undo or change a single fact of the report, which has become the most important document for the international condemnation of Israel and the war crimes committed in the Gaza Strip.

Israel is trying to exaggerate Goldstone’s statements, although it refused to allow him access to the West Bank and has refused to cooperate with the committee. What we are witnessing is the result of a campaign against Goldstone to force him to say things he is not convinced of. It is a model for the ferocity of the Zionist lobby when it decides to target a person or institution.

This campaign against Goldstone is aimed at clearing the face of Israel to justify a new aggression on Gaza. What is required from the Palestinian Liberation Organization is to take the Goldstone report and the decision of the Hague Tribunal on the apartheid wall and settlements, which has been neglected for a period of six years, to the General Assembly of the United Nations. There they should explicitly demand sanctions on Israel and state that any laxity in the use of these important documents would encourage Israel to launch a counter attack to cancel their influence.

While Benajmin Netanyahu said the Goldstone report should go to the dustbin of history, it is the system of apartheid that should be relegated to history’s dustbin. Israel’s apartheid and the policy of the coalition government of the settlers represented by Netanyahu. As the people of South Africa were liberated, the Palestinian people will be liberated and one day Israel will be condemned their war crimes in Gaza and be convicted of all their previous crimes.

 

 

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti

Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi is the Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, the president of The Palestinian Medical Relief Society, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and a non-violence democracy leader based in Ramallah.  This article originally appeared on Dr. Barghouti’s website http://www.mustafabarghouthi.org/

Rachel Corrie Trials Resume In Haifa

Rachel Corrie
Palestine Monitor, 4 April 2011
Yesterday, 3 April, hearings for the Rachel Corrie trial resumed in Haifa’s District Court after a five-month recess since the last hearing in early November.

The Corrie family brought a civil lawsuit, charging Israel with criminal negligence and the intentional killing of their daughter. In addition, the suit charges Israel with the failure of due regard to the presence of nonviolent civilians by the operators and commanders of the military vehicle. Hearings for the trial began in March 2010.

Rachel Corrie, who travelled to the Gaza Strip in 2003 with the International Solidarity Movement, was crushed to death by a D9 bulldozer on 16 March 2003 while she was nonviolently prevent the bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian home in Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

Prosecuting counsel, Hussein Abu Hussein first examined an expert engineer responsible for training operators and commanders of bulldozers. Two soldiers usually run bulldozers: the operator who steers the machine and the commander who gives directions.

While the witness was not responsible for the direct training of the soldiers operating the bulldozers on the day of Rachel’s murder, Abu Hussein questioned him on how soldiers are trained in the instance of civilians being present.

According to their training manual, no machine should be operated within 20 meters of a person. According to this rule, the machines should have been turned off when ISM activists were present.

While there has been discrepancy as to what the operators and commanders saw from vantage point of the bulldozer, the witness defended the soldiers for not exiting the bulldozers to clarify who was in their way, stating that no one should, “ever leave the vehicle in a conflict zone.”

During the hearings last fall, an Israeli military training unit leader defended the army’s actions on 16 March 2003 by stating, “During war there are no civilians.”

During yesterday’s hearings, witnesses attempted to uphold that narrative.

The second witness Abu Hussein called to testify was a captain of the Gaza unit in 2003 and was responsible for the two bulldozers that operating at scene of Rachel’s death. The witness, who was unidentified, is a Druze Bedouin as were many of the soldiers working in Gaza at the time.

During his testimony, the witness affirmed what other Israeli army officials have stated in earlier hearings, that Rachel was in a war zone. However, this witness introduced new, previously unmentioned information: that there had been grenades thrown from the area in which Rachel was.

No testimonies given directly after Rachel’s death noted any grenades.

Abu Hussein pointed out the unreliability of the witness’ testimony as in court he claimed to not have seen the event itself, but in earlier interviews and testimonies described what happened as if he had witnesses Rachel’s murder.

The witness said that he understood the foreigners’ intentions to be good, but that they did not understand that the homes were used for terrorists.

In a statement on the Rachel Corrie Foundation’s website, Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother said: “While our family continues to seek accountability from the Israeli Government for their response to Rachel’s nonviolent action, we insist that all governments and militaries respect the right of people to peaceably assemble and protest, that they respond nonviolently to such protests, and that they be accountable for their actions,” she added.

After the trial on Sunday, Cindy expressed her concern that the trial proceedings have thus far accepted as valid the Israeli argument that bulldozing homes in Gaza were intended to target terrorist and bombs. Cindy hopes that the trial can challenge that assumption as, according to her, it mischaracterizes what Israel was doing in Gaza and why her daughter, Rachel, was there.

On Wednesday, 6 April, the hearings will continue in Haifa. To find out more information, visit www.rachelcorriefoundation.org

Read Pal Mon’s reports on previous hearings here and here

 

American settler tycoon persecutes East Jerusalem family

A sttler looking out on Silwan. Photo: Jillian Kestler-D’Amours
A settler looking out on Silwan. Photo: Jillian Kestler-D’Amours

A settler looking out on Silwan. Photo: Jillian Kestler-D’Amours

Palestine Monitor, 30 March 2011
The judge’s ruling, while seeming equivocal, will most likely lead to the ultimate evacuation of the Hamdallah family.

The struggle of American millionaire and settler patron, Irving Moskowitz, to expel the Hamdallah family from their house, has culminated with the probable expulsion of the family from a bedroom and the front yard to make way for a right-wing, religious Jewish family.

Moskowitz’s decade-long legal attack on the Hamdallahs in Ras al-Amud, East Jerusalem, is emblematic of the unswerving fortitude exhibited by ideologically motivated Jews bent on settling the ‘historic basin’ of the Old City.

The Hamdallah household, comprising three families, is positioned on the verge of Ma’ale Zeitim, the biggest settlement in a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. The presence of the house is preventing the expansion of the settlement on its western border. This fact has fuelled Mr. Moskowitz for the past sixteen years in pursuing four claims simultaneously in separate courts, in an attempt to evict the family from this space, which, according to Mr. Moskowitz, is his to dispose with.

In 1990, Mr. Moskowitz bought the tract of land upon which the Hamdallah house is built from religious seminaries that had been able to register the land in their name after the annexation of East Jerusalem. Israeli law permits Jews to claim ownership of land owned before 1948, a privilege not extended to non-Jews. Consequently, Moskowitz was able to finance the Ma’ale Zeitim settlement there.

In 2005, a judge decided that the Hamdallahs could keep everything built before 1989 and were to be evicted from all buildings constructed subsequent to that date. Two years later, Moskowitz filed a new suit against the family, which claimed the front yard and one bedroom should be included in the sections to be evacuated. Though the extension was built in the mid 80s, the suit succeeded in attaining a ruling to this effect in early March 2011. Upon the ruling, Moskowitz stated his intention to install a Jewish family in the bedroom, along with armed guards, by March 14.

Shlomo Lecker, who has been defending the family for the past ten years, believes this decision is ‘clearly biased in favour of Mr. Moskowitz, as a result of the political situation.’ Mr. Lecker succeeded in attaining an order to delay the move for one month. He believes that, should the settlers be allowed to move into the appointed bedroom, ‘they will harass the family until they want to leave completely, part of the drive to expand Ma’ale Zeitim.’ The Hamdallahs have been in Ras al-Amud since 1952, after being displaced from their home in Ramle in 1948.

The room to be evacuated is home to Ahmad and Amani Hamdallah and their one year old baby, situated in a three-room extension, comprising a bedroom, a bathroom and a small sitting room. Khaled Hamdallah, Ahmad’s uncle, lives in the main building with his family and sister-in-law. Ahmad was born here, as was his father.

‘We have nowhere to go if the settlers move in’, she explains, ‘there is no space in my mother-in-law’s house.’ The couple do not know what will happen next; ‘we are waiting for a decision.’

The Hamdallahs have no contact with the residents of Ma’ale Zeitim, though sometimes the settlers’ children try to taunt them by waving or pulling faces from inside the compound, Amani notes. She has emptied her bedroom of furniture for fear of the settlers entering her home at any moment and throwing it out. ‘They will come suddenly; it could be at midnight, we do not know.’

‘If they come in to one bedroom, they will keep trying to take more and more,’ Amani predicts. ‘In my mind and my heart, I feel hopeless. If your house is taken, what do you do?’ she asks, revealing the psychological stress that dogs the family in their daily lives. ‘My husband does not sleep, always thinking about our situation’, she continues. ‘We cannot move forward, stuck in a limbo of waiting and not knowing.’

On top of this, the Hamdallahs are financially crippled by the extensive legal fees. For example, for two weeks legal work, they paid 15,000 shekels; ‘most of our money goes to the lawyer,’ Amani tells us.

Most observers view the settling of East Jerusalem as part of a drive to chip away at Palestinian culture and identity in the city. Daniel Luria, spokesperson for Ateret Cohenim, a religious Zionist organisation involved in buying Palestinian property in East Jerusalem and moving Jews in instead, thinks otherwise. ‘Jewish life in Jerusalem is something automatic and natural,’ he commented. ‘I’m not sure why the world involves itself when Jews move to areas in Jerusalem but it smacks of racism and anti-Semitism. This is the Jewish homeland and there is nothing the world can do about it. They are the indigenous people and the rightful heirs of Jerusalem and the whole of Israel’.

A recent report by Ir Amim on the development of the court case notes how the pertinacious single-mindedness of settlers in East Jerusalem usually gets them what they want. For instance, according to the report, ‘there is at least one extreme, ideological settlement in each of the Palestinian neighbourhoods in the Old City and the historic basin surrounding it.’

While these projects are funded by private donors, they have the tacit recognition and approval of the state. Mr. Lecker is fighting what seems like an impossible battle against a legal system, which as an arm of the state, is permeated with the Zionist doctrine and consequently privileges an exclusively Jewish agenda.

 

Settlers taking over Palestinians’ homes in East Jerusalem is nothing new. Read about past incidences

The Nakba Law deepens apartheid in Israel

Palestine Monitor
Palestine Monitor, 26 March 2011
The ‘Nakba law’ is yet another piece of racist and discriminatory legislation which will directly target the Palestinian minority in Israel. In essence, the law stifles freedom of expression and will punish this sector of society for commemorating the most traumatic event in their recent collective history, the Nakba.

On March 22nd, the Knesset voted 37-25 in favour of the so-called ‘Nakba-Law’, or Amendment 39, a bill which has been in the works since 2009. Initiated by MK Alex Miller of the far-right political party, Yisrael Beiteinu, the law calls for—amongst other things—the reduction of state funding to groups that participate in activities that contradict the character of the state as ‘Jewish and democratic’ or that grieve Israel’s Independence day.

According to experts, the law is undeniably vague in its wording, thus leaving it open to abuse. Sawsan Zaher of Adalah, the legal centre for Arab minority rights in Israel, believes the bill threatens a broad swath of government-funded institutions. Organizations at risk include research institutions that are found to be challenging the definition of the Israeli state as Jewish and democratic; educational institutions, such as bilingual schools, which hold events acknowledging the shared history of Jews and Arabs; and state-funded community organizations, such as theatres showing plays about the Nakba.

One cannot escape the fact that the law clearly targets freedom of expression, a basic human right and an essential requirement for a meaningful democracy. ‘You are sanctioned because of your political thoughts,’ Zaher says. ‘You can have your money so long as your political attitude aligns with the ideology of the right-wing government.’

With this in consideration, one is led to understand the intention of the bill to curb dissident voices within Israeli society.

The decision to sanction those who are involved in acknowledging the Nakba because it undermines Israel’s Independence Day is a clear indicator of the extent to which Palestinians living within Israel are afforded second class citizenship. For Zaher, this unequal treatment of Israel’s citizens can be seen in plain sight, ‘It would be seen as completely unacceptable to deny Jews the right to acknowledge the trauma of the holocaust, now they are trying to deny the trauma of the Palestinian people.’

The law states that it is the Minister for Finance who will be authorized to decrease the budget for those who are found to be involved in activities that are seen as a violation of its terms. For many like Zaher, this bill further affirms Israel’s undemocratic character. Zaher highlights the fact that ‘it is a legal matter and so should be the responsibility of the judicial authorities. This is a breach of constitutional rights and an infringement on the separation of powers.’

In Zaher’s view, this law is but one element of an ongoing policy of discrimination aimed at the Palestinian minority being carried out by the Israeli government. ‘It is an undemocratic law which is part of a chain of racist legislation that serves to target the Palestinian minority and decrease their rights she asserts. ‘The Palestinian citizens of Israel are viewed by the state as the enemy, no democratic state views its own citizens this way,’ she continues. This is given weight if one looks at the stream of racist and discriminatory legislation which has been set forth by Netanyahu’s government since its coming to power.

For the right-wing coalition currently in power, the Palestinian minority and its contesting narrative serves as a substantial thorn in the side of their political agenda, the aim of which is to bolster the Jewish character of the Israeli state. The ‘Nakba law’ is therefore another crude attempt to further this objective. Zaher contends that this stifling of freedom of expression for only one sector of society is not the action of a democratic government. ‘Discriminatory policies are one thing but when you have discriminatory laws, this is apartheid.’

Banning the Commemoration of Nakba

Palestinians who remained in Israel after the wars found themselves subject to discrimination and military law. The demonstrator's banner reads, " No to Racism, Yes to Equality" ~Dave Clark
Palestinians who remained in Israel after the wars found themselves subject to discrimination and military law. The demonstrator's banner reads, " No to Racism, Yes to Equality" ~Dave Clark

Palestinians who remained in Israel after the wars found themselves subject to discrimination and military law. The demonstrator's banner reads, " No to Racism, Yes to Equality" ~Dave Clark


Palestine Monitor
, 24 March 2011
On Tuesday night, the Knesset approved two bills that extend the institutionalization of racial discrimination and reduction in civil rights in Israel.

One bill, known as the Nakba Law effectively illegalizes any public institution—including local municipalities and publically supported organizations—from commemorating Nakba Day—or in the bill’s own words any “commemoration of Independence Day as a day of mourning.”

This law strikes at the very core of freedom of expression: now, the State will be able to fine any local institution that presents or expresses any rendering of Israeli Independence Day as anything that deviates from a story of victory and triumph.

 

ACRI has denounced the bill, arguing that not only does it chip away at Israel’s most basic rights of freedom of artistic and political expression, but it will undoubtedly target Israel’s Palestinian citizens. Palestinians living in Israel will be unable to represent their own history and narrative of the creation of Israel.

The bill imparted enforcement duties to the Ministry of Finance, who will be able to withhold funds to public organizations. Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), has written about the shocking direction this bill takes Israel. In an article originally published in Hebrew on NRG, El-Ad writes, “This is perhaps the first time in democracy for freedom of expression to receive such a price tag.”

El-Ad has interpreted the bill as a privatization of free speech, writing that now, “Certain forms of speech will have a particularly high price.”

Citing the use and payment of police officers to protect a demonstration, El-Ad observes that before the Nakba Law, society paid for the protection of their rights to free speech.

With the passing of the Nakba Bill, also known as Amendment 39, the state has transfers these costs to those public organizations that exercise their freedom of expression and speech.

El-Ad warns that future bills, namely the “Prohibition on participation in a boycott” bill will further privatize rights by burdening individuals with the cost of their political expressions.

Settler violence is nothing new

Settler violence (Sophie O’Brien)
Settler violence (Sophie O’Brien)

Settler violence (Sophie O’Brien)

Palestine Monitor, 17 March 2011

Nablus and the surrounding villages is one the worst effected areas for settler violence. Both government sponsored settlements and so-called ‘illegal outposts’ dot the hills and serve as a constant reminder to the local Palestinian population that they are surrounded by hostility. The recent murder in the Itamar settlement has temporarily brought media attention to the area but the local Palestinian population has long had to deal with the devastating effects of living in close proximity to many in the settlements who want to forcefully exert their perceived right to the land.

Written and photographed by Sophie O’Brien

Ziyad Othman, official spokesperson for the governorate of Nablus explains that there is a variety of factors which make Nablus and the surrounding areas a hub for settler violence. ‘There are a high percentage of religious, violent settlers in the area’ he claims. Significantly, ‘Five members of the Knesset live in the surrounding settlements belonging to a coalition of right-wing parties’ he asserts, thus demonstrating the infiltration of the settler ideology into the highest echelons of government. The Itamar settlement is also home to one of the most ideologically fervent Rabbis who has been known to ‘issue decrees for the killing of Palestinians.’ As a final factor compounding the propensity for violence against Palestinians, Ziyad reminds of the fact that many of the settlers are ultra-orthodox and so do not have jobs whilst receiving compensation from the government. In this sense, many of the settlers simply have too much time on their hands. All these factors, he asserts, ‘encourage the settlers to act violently.’

The most recent case of brutal settler violence in the Nablus region occurred in Qusra on the 7th of March where local Palestinians where attacked on their own land by settlers from a surrounding outpost using live ammunition. Two people still remain in a critical condition. This case gained only cursory attention from Israeli media sources yet is but one example of settler violence which has had devastating effects on the local Palestinian population.

A local woman who was working on her field with her son at the time of the attack detailed the sequence of events. ‘My son saw the settlers approaching and alerted the municipality of Qusra,’ she asserts. Their intention for violence was clear from the outset as she explained that they were visibly wielding ‘knives and stones.’

The violence quickly escalated as the local woman noted that a settler was using live ammunition and ‘shooting indiscriminately.’ More ominously, according to Maria Delgado, a worker with the EAPPI who was in Qusra at the time, soldiers used both rubber bullets and live ammunition. The presence of the IDF, who arrived soon after merely acted as an additional force which the local villagers had to contend with. Their official purpose of halting the violence and dispersing the crowd was subordinate to their true intentions: ‘its not for the sake of the Palestinians it’s for the sake of the settlers…of course they are there to protect the settlers,’ Maria asserted.

The recent murder of five family members in the Itamar settlement is undoubtedly tragic but it highlights a more disturbing trait within Israeli media which appears to prioritise Israeli suffering over Palestinian suffering. A recent article from a national Israeli newspaper which suggested Palestinian responsibility for the attack stated that the murder had occurred during a ‘period of relative calm.’ This renders the recent attacks on the livelihood of local Palestinians through the uprooting of 500 olive trees and the incident in Qusra not to mention other settler antagonism in the Nablus region as irrelevant. Maria affirms the marginalisation of settler violence within Israeli media, ‘the Israeli public knows little about the settler violence,’ she asserted.

Furthermore, the blatant manipulation of the murder by the Israeli government for its own political interests, evidenced by the speedy announcement of plans to build 500 new homes in West Bank settlements angers Ziyad, ‘The Israeli government was waiting for a case like this to bring it out of isolation, to continue building settlements and to maintain its unilateral programme of establishing new facts on the ground…they don’t even know the details’ Ziyad asserts. The double standards of the Israeli government can also be seen in plain sight, ‘they accuse the PA of not condemning the murder but they never condemned the killing of children in Gaza’ he continues. For Ziyad, the solution to the ongoing settler violence is obvious ‘the simple fact is that any settler that commits a crime should be held to account…settlers are never tried for their crimes, for all the killing’ he asserts.

In the same way that the Itamar killing brought so much media attention so too should attention be brought to the ongoing settler violence in the Nablus region and throughout the West Bank. The silencing of settler violence in the Israeli media, the failure of the Israeli government to take any effective action against those committing the crimes and the complicity of the Israeli army creates a vacuum in which settlers can persist in terrorising the local population. Moreover, this trend continues to deny Palestinians the possibility to live peacefully on their own land.

Collective Punishment on Awarta

Awarta

Awarta

Awarta

Palestine Monitor, 16 March 2011

After four days under siege by the Israeli army, villagers of Awarta announced today that Israeli troops evacuated the village this morning at 9:00 am. According to Awarta resident, Imad Qawariq, for the past four days troops have terrorized the village after five members of the Fogel family were murdered in the neighboring settlement, Itamar.

Investigators have yet to reveal any evidence indicating that a Palestinian from Awarta committed the crime. Nevertheless, the army has inflicted a harsh collective punishment on the village, cutting them off from medical services, food and daily work. Since the murder, residents of Awarta have been barred from leaving the village.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, stated that Israel’s treatment of Awarta is a gross violation of international and humanitarian law which prohibits collective punishment on an occupied population.

Qawariq reported that most houses were searched: their belongings broken and members of the family were beaten. Qawariq described how the army forced one family to leave their house and proceeded to violently beat the father in front of the family.

Many shops and stores have been ransacked by the army, and by the fourth night of closure the village was reportedly running out of groceries and bread.

Children, ages three to four, have been particularly frightened by the army’s use of search dogs. Maan News reported that one child was attacked by a sniffer dog, but medical attention was delayed due to the closure of the city.

For now, Qawariq said it is unclear whether or not the army will return.

Awarta Under Seige

Palestine Monitor

Settler violence escalates as the military occupies and raids villages

Palestine Monitor, 14 March 2011
International Solidarity Movement activists in Awarta describe a horrific “collective punishment” of the Palestinian village: children taken from school, homes raided, imposition of a 24-hour curfew, constant drone surveillance, and massive imprisonments of the male population.

“The soldiers have locked us with the children and young men and are guarding me now,” said an International Solidarity Movement (ISM) member who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We can’t leave the house and right now we can’t even leave this room.”

Awarta has become a ghost town, with all the villagers confined to their homes, running out of gas, scared and crying quietly under the buzz of drones and detonations of sound bombs.

“The soldiers take people in every house. I don’t know how many hundreds of people they’ve taken now. The children are scared, of course. The women are crying. They take their sons and fathers away. All the village is very quiet, people can’t really talk, the children have to be quiet,” the member said. After gathering some of them from school, Awarta’s boys and men were taken by soldiers to the jail near Huwara. “Here they are collectively punished.”

ISM reports that the military has beaten people, cut off electricity and polluted water lines, and broken computers and phones.

Huwara to Hebron

From north to south in the West Bank (or Judea to Samara), settlers have lashed out this week at Palestinian civilians and their property. They have stoned cars on roads around Hebron, Kiryat Arba, Shiloh, Huwarra and Nablus, and two nights ago destroyed a nursery, a building, and smashed windows in Huwara.

Yesterday, settlers torched four cars near the junction towards Yitzhar. Down the road at Adam’s Burger King restaurant and confectionery, the owner was locking up a dusk yesterday.

“Last night we did not sleep,” the owner said. He described a dark, fearful night of listening to the synchronized mosques’ speakers blaring warnings down the valley. A caravan of settlers from the funeral of the killed Itamar family was returning soon, and the village feared a restless night of waiting to be attacked.

“We’d rather be open till midnight or one, but we’re closing,” he said as his businesses’ iron shutters squeaked shut. A rock flew out from a passing car with yellow license plates, quickening his work. “Be careful, move your car. They are crazy. Things are bad, very bad.”

Across the street lays a ruined construction project. The night before, settlers had come and ravaged the site, tearing down walls, breaking material and causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.

“They are terrorists,” Ismael said, holding broken marble slabs, standing on a pile of ruined construction material estimated to be worth $3,000.

“Every year it is worse in the West Bank,” said Mohammad Hassan, a Huwara resident whose house, the closest to the Yitzhar outposts, is guarded by a small Israeli squad. “If the situation stays like this, it will be ten time as crazy.”

“This is forever, believe me,” said Hassan. “I wish we could live in peace together but if they don’t take the settlers out of the West Bank we will never come to peace with Israel or the settlers.”

Across the valley, Maan News Agency reported that soldiers roamed Awarta yesterday with loudspeakers blaring a call for all 15-40 year-olds to gather at the local school, where the Palestinian New Network reported 12 were arrested.

More than a dozen settlers in white masks entered Jinsafout last night, incinerated a car to its chassis, and attempted to burn a tractor. Two more cars were reported burnt just north of Ramallah.

So far, Awarta has not witnessed any settler violence, perhaps because of the leadership of their neighbors from Itamar. While announcing plans to build a new residential area in the settlement named after slain patriarch and rabbi Udi Fogel, [the settlers expressed to Haaretz a complete denial of reprisal attacks against Palestinians-http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/residents-of-itamar-settlement-price-tag-isn-t-even-part-of-our-lexicon-1.349096].

“People who know us ask us why we’ve come to study with all the crazies, but that’s rubbish. There is an extremist group in the area, they are reactionary, and their photographs are always printed in the papers,” Brooker adds. “But understand: ’price tag,’ demonstrations, it’s not even a part of our lexicon. Never has been, never will be.”

But the ISM member trapped in Awarta drew a different conclusion.

“The military does such a good job – the settlers doesn’t need to be here.”

More and more settlements

After the funeral for the killed Fogel family, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu approved expansions in Gush Etzion, Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, and Kiryat Sefer with 500 new buildings.

“It’s not because of a particular terrorist attack that we will build a few more houses in [Gush Etzion] or in Maaleh Adumim,” said Elyakim Levanon, a rabbi from Elon Moreh. “Rather, we have to convene at our own initiative and decide where and how we want to build; this is our land and our country.”

“We have to stop once and for all with this nonsense about ‘illegal outposts’,” Levanon said on the temporary postponement yesterday of his new position as Samaria’s first Chief Rabbi. “This is our home and our inheritance, and we must continue building, and Itamar must become a city and a new center in the [northern West Bank].”