Surge in settler violence against Palestinians
Published on Fri, 2011-06-17 09:43
The human rights organisation Al-Haq expressed its grave concern about a surge of the violence against the Palestinian population of the West Bank. The arson of a mosque in the village of al-Mghayyer committed by local Jewish settlers last week is part of the ongoing trend, intensified by the impunity, warned this group based in Ramallah and member of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO, focal point of Social Watch in the occupied territories).
In a report issued in September 2010, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documented a total of 204 violent incidents committed by settlers between January and August 2010, resulting in injuries or property damages. This number doubles the incidents that happened during the same period of 2009.
But Al-Haq’s field researchers have recorded a notable escalation at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011. This violence is a response to some Israeli government’s measures intended to restrict settlement construction, according to this Palestinian group.
Al-Haq has special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, is the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists based in Geneva, and also a member of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, the World Organisation Against Torture and the International Federation for Human Rights.
At 3:40 am on June 7, the first resident of al-Mghayyer to arrive at the mosque noticed heavy smoke and put out the fire, cached with a tire and gas, with pitchers of water. There were writings in Hebrew on the walls referred to Alei Ayin, an outpost nearby Shilo settlement partially dismantled by Israeli forces last week. The residents of al-Mghayyer have suffered other recurrent attacks, which caused severe damage to their agricultural land.
This attack is the latest in a history of similar episodes. On 4 October 2010, settlers from the Gush Etzion settlement bloc burned a mosque and sprayed graffiti in the village of Beit Fajjar. On 27 January 2011, settlers from the Yitzhar settlement near Nablus burnt a car and sprayed graffiti on a private home reading “we will not forget Alei Ayin”.
In addition to facilitate the illegal transfer of Israeli civilians to the settlements, the Israeli authorities have failed to take the necessary measures to put an end to these criminal acts, to protect the population under its jurisdiction as occupying country and to ensure that public figures, as settlement officials and Israeli political leaders, do not incite the violence, said Al-Haq in a statement.
Israel has consciously granted impunity for settler violence at the expense of the health, safety and livelihood of the civilian population, especially those living nearby Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, added the Palestinian group.
A report by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organisation, found that 91 per cent of the cases related with acts of violence committed by settlers were closed without filing an indictment. Recently, the Israeli police closed the investigation into the killing of a Palestinian boy by a settler in May 2010 on the grounds of ‘unfound offender.’
The United Nations and United States have condemned the recent attacks, the latter stating that “all sides must do all they can to prevent attacks and incitement of this kind.” Similarly, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton has stated that settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories “are illegal under international law, undermine trust between the parties and constitute an obstacle to peace.”
Al-Haq called on the Israeli authorities to take proper measures to effectively protect the Palestinian population, to prevent attacks by settlers, and to hold perpetrators legally responsible for acts of violence and incitement in accordance with the provisions of international humanitarian and human rights law.
This Palestinian organisation recalled that the Israeli government must bring to an end all settlement construction and dismantle all existing settlements in occupied territories, in accordance with the international law.