Human Rights in the Occupied Territories 2011

Human Rights in the Occupied Territories 2011
06. Turning a Blind Eye
  • .1

    Video: A settlers setting fire to a field near Burin

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  • .2

    Breach of duty: Settler violence often goes unchecked

    Malicious graffiti on a mosque in Qusra, south of Nablus, after the army demolished buildings in the Aley Ayin and Migron outposts. Photo: Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 5 September 2011

    One of the principal functions of any government is to enforce the law and protect the life, limb, and property of people under its jurisdiction. Israel, being the occupier in the West Bank, is responsible for the area’s Palestinian residents, whom international law classifies as protected persons.

    Acts of violence carried out by settlers against Palestinians and Palestinian property are an ongoing and widespread phenomenon. In recent years, some of these acts have been referred to as “price tag attacks” – a response to actions of the Israeli authorities that are perceived to harm the settlement enterprise. For example, some of the attacks occurred after the Military's Civil Administration distributed demolition orders for settlement structures that were built unlawfully, or after such structures were demolished. In other cases, the violence took place after Palestinians harmed settlers.

    Security forces do not always deploy in advance to protect Palestinians from settler violence, even when such violence could be anticipated. On the “day of rage” declared by settlers on 3 March 2011, a large contingent of security forces was deployed to prevent acts of violence. However, in other cases, such as following the demolition of structures in the Migron outpost, on 5 September 2011, security forces did not prevent violence as was required of them. A week after the demolition, B'Tselem documented ten incidents in which settlers had damaged Palestinian property, among them the torching of a mosque in the village Qusra and the spraying of offensive graffiti on the walls of two other mosques.

    In some cases, rather than restricting violent settlers, Israeli security forces imposed restrictions on the Palestinians. In April 2011, for example, settlers threw stones at Palestinian vehicles on Route 60 after Palestinian policeman killed Ben Yosef Livnat at Joseph’s Tomb, in Nablus. In response, the military closed the road to Palestinian travel in the section between the Huwara intersection and Jit.

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  • .3

    History of leniency

    ‘Ayesha Abu ‘Ali, 80, resident of Mikhmas, who was assaulted by settlers while she was picking olives on her land, near which the Migron outpost was built. Photo: Iyad Haddad, B’Tselem, 31 October 2011

    Since the settlements began in the Occupied Territories, the authorities have adopted an undeclared policy of leniency toward Israelis who harm Palestinians and damage Palestinian property. Various state commissions and committees have noted this tendency, among them the committee headed by Deputy Attorney General Yehudit Karp in 1981, and the Shamgar Commission, appointed following the massacre by Baruch Goldstein in the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in Hebron, on 25 February 1994. By acting in this way, Israel violates its obligation as the occupying power in the West Bank to maintain law and order. This responsibility includes ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Palestinians against violence by Israelis. To accomplish this, the state must deploy its forces properly and bring offenders to justice.

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    Where are the forces in the field?

    Settlers in the fields of ‘Asira al-Qibliya. Photo: Omar Qusini, Reuters, 3 July 2011

    B'Tselem has documented some cases where security forces were present during incidents of settler violence yet did not intervene; in a few cases, they even took part in the violence. From September 2000 to the end of 2011, B’Tselem submitted 57 complaints of incidents in which it was suspected that security forces stood idly by during acts of violence.

    The responses received from the Military Advocate General Corps indicated that a criminal investigation been opened in only four cases (and in two of these, the file was closed without taking any measures against the soldiers involved). In 30 cases, it was decided not to open an investigation, in 12 cases B'Tselem was informed that its inquiry was still being handled, and in five cases, B'Tselem received no reply. Another four cases were referred to other military bodies for handling, one case was dealt with in a disciplinary hearing, and one file could not be located.

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  • .5

    Lenient police treatment of Israelis who harm Palestinians

    Trucks set afire in Duma, with nearby graffiti proclaiming “Mizpe Yitzhar—mutually guaranteed.” Photo: Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 14 December 2011

    The Israel Police, which is charged with investigating settler violence against Palestinians, does not properly investigate the claims of violence and does not carry out its law-enforcement obligations. From September 2000 to the end of 2011, B'Tselem submitted 352 complaints to the Israel Police, demanding to know if investigations had been opened in cases in which Israelis harmed Palestinians or damaged their property, and if so, the status of the investigations. The complaints dealt with such actions as gunfire, assault, destruction of property, forcing people off their land, threats, theft of crops, and torching of fields.

    In 250 cases, an investigation had been opened, but only 29 had resulted in an indictment. Of the remaining cases, 137 files were closed with no measures being taken against anyone involved in the incident. In 67 cases, the investigation was still ongoing, and in 15 cases, the investigation file had been referred to a state attorney. In another two cases, B'Tselem filed appeals, which are pending.

    Of the remaining 102 cases, B'Tselem was informed that in 80 cases, the police did not open an investigation, primarily because the person injured did not file a formal complaint, though the police are required by law to investigate every time they hear of a suspected crime. In 16 cases, B'Tselem received no response to its complaint. One case was still being processed and in five cases, the file could not be located.

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  • .6

    Video: Soldiers stand by as settlers attack 'Asira al-Qibliya

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    Settlers attack Palestinians in front of soldiers

    Settlers attack the village ‘Asira al-Qibliya, with soldiers present, 3 July 2011. Photo from video footage of the incident taken by a volunteer in B’Tselem’s camera project

    On the afternoon of 3 July 2011, settlers attacked the village of 'Asira al-Qibliya, claiming villagers had started a fire near the Yizhar settlement. The attack was filmed by a volunteer in B'Tselem’s camera project. The attackers were armed with sticks and metal pipes, some had covered their faces, and two carried weapons. They threw stones at houses at the edge of the village, beat and injured one Palestinian, and broke branches on about 20 olive trees. Villagers came and threw stones at the attackers.

    Eyewitnesses reported to B'Tselem that approximately ten minutes after the attack began, Israeli security forces arrived in a jeep, and that later, more jeeps, with Border Police and soldiers, arrived. The video footage shows that the security forces did not prevent the settlers from attacking Palestinians and their property. Rather, they fired tear gas to move the villagers away.

    B'Tselem sent all the footage to the police and the military, demanding that the attackers be located and an investigation opened into why the soldiers did not stop the attack. B'Tselem was informed that the police opened an investigation into the settler violence. B'Tselem has not been informed if the Military Police Investigation Unit had opened an investigation into the soldiers’ conduct, and, if an investigation had been ordered, its results.

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    Settlers assault Palestinian, investigation closed

    Ibrahim a-Nawaj’ah. Photo: Nasser a-Nawaj’ah, B’Tselem

    Ibrahim a-Nawaj’ah, 49, lives in Khirbet Susiya, in the southern Hebron hills, near where the Susiya settlement was built. On the morning of 13 December 2010, he was repairing his tent. Testimonies he and members of his family gave to B'Tselem indicate that a few settlers came and attacked him without provocation. The assailants held his hands behind his back and beat him with a stone and a pick. When members of his family came to his assistance, the settlers stoned them, injuring one of them. The settlers fled in the direction of Har Sinai Farm, which is next to the Susiya settlement. A-Nawaj’ah was taken to the hospital, where he was kept overnight.
    According to the testimonies, during the attack a member of the family called the Hebron police, asking that police be dispatched to the area. The person answering the phone told the caller he was lying. The police did not dispatch assistance until an Israeli who was there called again. By the time the police arrived, the assailants were already gone.

    On 20 December 2010, a-Nawaj’ah filed a complaint and gave testimony to the police. A week later, a police officer called and told him to come to the station. A-Nawaj’ah thought it had to do with his complaint, but when he arrived, he was questioned about stealing sheep from the Susiya settlement the night before the attack. When he asked the policeman if the assault on him was being investigated, the interrogator replied, according to a-Nawaj’ah, that “if the sheep had not been stolen, there wouldn’t have been a problem with the settlers.”

    Less than a month later, the police decided to close the file on the assault of a-Nawaj’ah, on grounds of “offender unknown”. Perusal of the investigation file indicates that the police did not carry out basic investigative actions: it did not question any of the inhabitants of the adjacent Har Sinai Farm, in which direction the assailants fled, nor did it question soldiers who were posted next to where the incident occurred. On 11 October 2011, B'Tselem appealed the closing of the file.

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  • .9

    A series of serious attacks south of Nablus

    Resident of Qusra looking at the olive orchard that was destroyed by settlers. Photo: Salma a-Deb’i , B’Tselem 6 October 2011

    In September and October 2011, B'Tselem documented eight incidents in which settlers assaulted Palestinians and damaged their property in the villages Qusra, Jalud, and Duma, south of Nablus. Some of the incidents began when settlers who had come from the direction of the Esh Kodesh outpost had gone onto the land of the Palestinian communities and destroyed olive trees. In the incidents, violent clashes broke out between Palestinians and settlers, and between Palestinians and security forces who had arrived at the scene. In September, the military put up a tent on the hill overlooking the area between Qusra and the adjacent Esh Kodesh settlement. But the harm to residents of Qusra continued.

    In one of the incidents, a soldier shot to death ‘Issam Badran, 37, a resident of Qusra, who was throwing stones at soldiers who had come to the village after settlers had entered village land. In another incident, a settler fired a shot and a resident of the village was injured from bullet fragments. In another case, settlers violently attacked olive pickers from Jalud and Israelis and internationals who were with them. Qusra’s mosque was torched and offensive graffiti written on it, and hundreds of trees were destroyed on land of Qusra and Duma. These incidents joined seven other incidents that B'Tselem had documented since October 2010, in which settlers attacked shepherds and injured their flock, attacked persons riding in a truck, torched vehicles inside Qusra, and damaged trees on village land.

    This area is classified Area C, meaning it is under complete Israeli control. Israel is responsible for the safety of the residents of Qusra and of the nearby villages Jalud and Duma. Therefore, Israeli authorities have the obligation to prevent attacks carried out by Israelis against Palestinians. Not only have the security forces failed time and again to protect Palestinian communities from settlers, in a few of these cases the forces themselves harmed Palestinians. In addition to protecting Palestinians, Israel must also dismantle the settler outposts.

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