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From the field

Settlers, including head of Kiryat Arba-Hebron local council, harass Palestinian family in Hebron, vandalize crops as soldiers and police officers stand by

'Ata and Rodayna Jaber live with their four children on a hill in an area called al-Baq'ah, about 300 meters south of the entrance to the settlement of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron. They eke out a living from selling vegetables that they grow on the land around their house.

In July 2013, their 19-year-old daughter Amaneh, a volunteer in B'Tselem's camera distribution project, filmed two incidents in which settlers uprooted the family's crops and planted their own instead. The video footage of both cases shows Israeli police officers and soldiers standing nearby, yet doing nothing to stop the vandalism.

Friday, 12 July 2013:

At midday, the Jabers were at home. Shortly after 1:00 P.M., they noticed a police car approaching. The father, 'Ata Jaber, described what followed in his testimony to B'Tselem field researcher Manal al-Jaabri:

'Ata Jaber. Photo: Yoav Gross, B'TselemI saw two policemen get out of the car. A few minutes later, Moshe Levinger's son [Malachi Levinger, head of the Kiryat Arba-Hebron local council] came by the house, with a few other settlers. One of them was holding a cardboard box with seedlings. When I saw the settlers, I asked the policemen to stop them from coming any closer, but they ignored me.

The settler put the box down on the ground about ten meters away from my house. He picked up a hoe that we had lying by the entrance to the house and started digging up the sprouts of the beans, black-eyed peas, peppers and potatoes that I'd planted about two months ago for the purpose of sale. Instead of our plants, which hadn't yet developed and ripened, he planted the seedlings that he'd brought with him.

The policemen saw what he was doing, but didn't intervene or keep him from uprooting our plants. My wife asked the policemen to keep the settlers from harming the rest of our plants, but they ignored her. One of them answered her in Hebrew, saying, "I don’t speak Arabic".

At some point, a jeep with some Border Police officers drove up. They didn't try to stop the settlers, either. I called the Civil Administration and, about an hour later, a vehicle of their arrived on the scene. I saw the Civil Administration officer talking with Levinger's son, and then the settlers stopped planting their seedlings.

The next day, I went to the Palestinian Police and filed a complaint. They promised me that they’d communicate my complaint to the Israelis.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013:

At midday on Tuesday, four days after the above incident, Malachi Levinger, head of the Kiryat Arba-Hebron local council, returned to the Jabers’ home with a group of settlers. 19-year-old Amaneh Jaber described the incident to B'Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash:

Amaneh Jaber. Photo: Yoav Gross, B'TselemA group of adults and kids came over to our house. They went over to the plot near the house and started uprooting our plants, replacing them with seedlings that they had brought with them. I was at home with my two sisters, my brother and my mother. My father wasn't home. I got the video camera and started filming through a window. Some of the settlers saw me and started throwing stones at the window in order to scare me and make me stop filming. The stones didn't hit me and I kept on filming.

While some of the settlers were busy with the planting, the others came up to the house. They tried to cover the windows with cloths and bits of wood so that I wouldn't be able to film them.

About an hour later, two military vehicles drove up to the house. The soldiers talked to the settlers for a few minutes and left. They came back about half an hour later with an officer from the Civil Administration. In the meantime, the settlers continued uprooting our plants and planting their own instead. A short while later, a police car drove up, too. The settlers stayed near the house for a little longer, and then left.

My father got home just as they left. We had phoned him earlier to tell him what was going on, and he'd hurried back. He was very upset – he was running and collapsed in front of the house. We were very worried about him. The soldiers took care of him and brought him into the house. About half an hour later, a Palestinian ambulance arrived. The paramedics treated my father at home and left, after they made sure that he was all right.

The documented presence of law enforcement authorities – Israeli police, military and the Civil Administration – while settlers vandalized the Jabers’ property, along with their refusal to take steps to stop the vandalism and arrest the perpetrators, are yet another serious example of how Israeli security forces shirk their duty to protect Palestinians in the West Bank from settler violence.

Since Israeli police officers were present while the vandalism took place, the family saw no point in filing a complaint with the Israeli police. On 13 July, the day after the first incident occurred, the family filed a complaint with the Palestinian Police, which was supposed to communicate the complaint to the Israeli police. Accordingly, B'Tselem inquired with the Israeli police in Hebron whether it had begun investigating the incident. The police replied to B’Tselem by phone on 17 July 2013, saying that they had not yet received the complaint from the Palestinian police, and that the forwarding of such complaints usually takes a long time. B'Tselem will continue to monitor the police handling of the matter.

In addition, B'Tselem wrote to the military regarding the soldiers' lack of action in both incidents. Since the beginning of 2013, B'Tselem has written to the Central Command and to the Military Advocate for Operational Matters regarding six incidents in which soldiers stood by while settlers acted violently towards Palestinians. Investigations were launched in two of the incidents; no decision has yet been reached as to whether to investigate the remaining four.