Friday, April 12, 2013

Settler Violence

“We’ll make a pastrami sandwich of them.  We’ll insert a strip of Jewish settlement in between the Palestinians and another strip of Jewish settlement right across the West Bank so that in 25 years’ time neither the UN nor the US, nobody will be able to tear it apart.”  

These words, in a 1973 speech by Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Israeli National Press Club) have proven prophetic as today, 40 years later, peace “experts” no less prominent than Jimmy Carter now believe that the “two-state solution,” if not dead, is certainly on life support!

The settlements, as you can see on this map, are built on confiscated Palestinian land, and break the land into small, non-contiguous segments.  (Keep in mind this map was published in 2000; there are far more settlements today!)

But another problem with settlements – one that does not receive quite as much media attention – is “settler violence.”  And here, in the northern West Bank, it is this violence, as much as the expansion of the settlements themselves that is driving Palestinians from their land – helping to fulfill Sharon’s arrogant prediction!
An 80-year-old shepherd was beaten by settlers

Recently, an 80-year-old man in the nearby village of Kafr al Labad was beaten and left for dead in the field where he’d been tending his sheep.  The beating was believed to have occurred midday; he was found about 9 pm after a search by family members who were concerned when his sheep came home without him.

Driven to a local hospital, he was treated for a broken shoulder, two broken arms (one with three breaks) and numerous contusions about his head and body, including a severely beaten back and “brass knuckle” marks on his legs.  A few days later, the Israeli authorities transferred him to an Israeli hospital, where only one of his sons has permission to visit him.  Whether the transfer was for “humanitarian” reasons or to stem the “bad press” that arose from this incident is not known. 

What is known is that this is far from the first such incident – and it certainly will not be the last!  Two weeks earlier, in the same village, a farmer and his nephew were also beaten by settlers.  The younger man was strong enough to fight back, but chose not to because he feared the subsequent repercussions.

Beatings are only one aspect of settler violence that West Bank farmers must endure.  Settlers also destroy crops, burning olive trees and uprooting plants.  Unfortunately, it is difficult for the farmers to protect their crops, because their fields lie on the outskirts of their villages, and often can only be accessed by agricultural gates with limited opening times. 
A burned olive tree is a loss for the farmer
Settlers also kill and steal livestock – taking sheep and donkeys for their own use, or slaughtering them to hurt the farmers.  They pollute the land  by dumping their sewage.

They steal crops.  Last October, when farmers finally gained access to their land to harvest their olives, many discovered that their trees had been stripped of the crops they had worked hard to nurture all year.

The “whys” of settler violence are as myriad as the settlers themselves.  Some are described as “ideological” settlers, who truly believe that God gave the land to THEM and they must do anything they can to drive away the interlopers.

Others are more practical, believing that if they make life difficult enough for the farmers, the farmers will move – leaving the land to the settlers for expansions of their settlements.

Whatever the reason, the effect is the same.  Settler violence wreaks physical, emotional, and financial damage on the Palestinian people, who just want to farm their land and live in peace! 

Wadi Fukin is one of many villages that is trying to survive in the face of settler violence.  Watch this short video to learn more.

(photo of beating victim by Roland Hortlund)

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