Q&A: For Israel ‘Palestinian blood is very cheap’

Israeli occupation forces provide protection to settlers who attack Palestinians, says Palestinian rights activist.

A Palestinian is pushed an Israeli policemen amid clashes in Hebron,
Palestinians' popular reaction to settler violence is faced with lethal force [AP]

Palestinians have been killed and injured “at an alarming rate” throughout the occupied West Bank and in Israel, warned one Palestinian human rights group in a statement issued on Saturday.

Al-Haq, a rights group based in Ramallah, said that since October 1, the Israeli Occupation Forces have killed 20 and injured at least 1,000 Palestinians. Four Palestinian homes have been punitively demolished. “Israeli settlers, often with the presence of Israeli occupation forces, have increased their attacks against Palestinian civilians and their property,” said the statement.

Since October 3, the Red Crescent and the Palestinian health ministry say 22 Palestinians have been killed including a pregnant mother and her child in a raid on Gaza on Friday, more than 1,100 Palestinian injured, 52 of whom are in serious condition as Israeli forces have used live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets against Palestinian protesters.

Al Jazeera spoke to Tahseen Elayyan, al-Haq’s head of the monitoring and documentation department, about the latest round of Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians.

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Al Jazeera: What are the latest figures on settler violence against Palestinians?

Tahseen Elayyan: According to Al-Haq, between September 28 and October 4, at least 29 incidents of settler violence took place against Palestinian civilians and their properties in the West Bank. In many of the attacks, more than one Palestinian were affected. Examples of assaults include stone-throwing at Palestinian cars on roads between cities, shooting at and beating Palestinian civilians, vandalising homes, blocking streets to obstruct Palestinians’ movement and setting ablaze olive trees and crops.

These assaults are the result of Israel’s systematic failure to provide accountability for attacks against Palestinians.

Al JazeeraWould you say there is a surge in the violence?

If Israel’s reaction to the burning of the Dawabsheh family is to be compared with its reaction to the killing of the two settlers who were killed last week, one can come to a conclusion that Palestinians’ blood is very cheap in the eyes of Israeli authorities.

Elayyan: Settler violence has always been there, but it fluctuates from time to time. There are Palestinian areas that are more vulnerable to settler attacks. The Old City of Hebron is a case in point. Compared to the period between 21 and 27 September, it is noticed that there is a surge in settler violence.

Al Jazeera: Anti-Arab racism is nothing new, but what are the new elements at work this time round?

Elayyan: Throughout the years of Israeli military occupation, Palestinians have come to the conclusion that Israeli judiciary is not impartial if the perpetrator is a Jew and the victim is Palestinian. Examples of this are numerous.

Israeli occupation authorities declared that they know the settlers who burned the Dawabsheh family’s home in July 2015. Yet, they decided to hold them under administrative detention.

If Israel’s reaction to the burning of the Dawabsheh family is to be compared with its reaction to the killing of the two settlers last week, one can conclude that Palestinians’ blood is very cheap in the eyes of Israeli authorities.

Israeli occupation authorities acted swiftly to find suspects and arrest them. Five suspects have been arrested. They will definitely receive a very high sentence.

In the same vein, the Palestinians’ popular reaction to settler violence is faced with lethal force. Israeli occupation forces used live ammunition against Palestinian protesters after the Dawabsheh family crime.

However, settlers are protected by the Israeli army when they attack Palestinians. This is done contrary to Israel’s legal responsibility under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which obligates Israel to provide protection for Palestinian civilians.

Al JazeeraWhat is the Israeli government’s culpability in settler violence?

Elayyan: Under international humanitarian law, the occupying power may not transfer its civilians into the occupied territory. Doing so amounts to a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and entails individual criminal responsibility.

Israeli occupation forces provide protection to settlers who attack Palestinians. In many instances, attacks take place before the eyes of Israeli soldiers who keep watch and provide protection to settlers. If the attacked Palestinian tries to defend himself or herself against a settler attack, they get beaten or arrested by the soldiers.

Most, if not all, settlers who attack Palestinians and their property have not been brought to justice. This has encouraged settlers to go further into their violations and made them feel shielded against any accountability process. 

On top of this, the government encourages Israelis to live in settlements. Privileges are given to those who chose to move to the occupied territory. Protection that Israel provides to settlers in the field and the lack of accountability indicate some level of complicity in crimes perpetrated by settlers.

Al JazeeraWhere are things heading? And, in your experience, has this been the worst wave of violence? Is a third Intifada in the making or is this scenario far-fetched?

Elayyan: The events in the West Bank are, so far, taking the shape of a wave of anger against Israeli violations.

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Other similar waves have taken place previously but did not develop into a systematic Intifada. However, reasons and elements of the big eruption exist.

The so-called peace talks have reached a deadlock. Israeli violations, including killings, house demolitions, arrests, etc are still continuing. Settlement expansion is ongoing. The Al-Aqsa Mosque has been under direct attack during the past few months.

It might be divided. Besides, the international community has failed to bring Israeli officials accused of serious international crimes to justice.

Opportunities for a peaceful solution that leads to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state that controls all of its territory have diminished. Palestinians, in general, have lost faith in the whole international justice system.

Along with other factors, such as internal political split, high levels of unemployment and corruption – these are elements and factors that could lead to a third Intifada.

Source: Al Jazeera