|By: Daniel Breslau |
Week 1,986 of occupation
Security or collective punishment?
While worsening conditions in the occupied West Bank are completely buried beneath media reports of the confrontations between the army and extremist settlers in Gush Katif, the routine of numerous and arbitrary checkpoints continues unchanged. Following the attack on Friday, which killed two young settlers from Beit Haggai, near Hebron, the IDF set up checkpoints at the entrance to the al-Fawar refugee camp nearby. A large area to the south and west of Hebron was declared a closed military zone, and roads leading in and out of the area were closed. Hundreds of residents of the Hebron area were prevented from reaching the Ibrahimi Mosque for their Friday prayers.
On Sunday, the IDF closed the entrances to the city of Bethlehem, and prevented travel on the main road between Bethlehem and Hebron. The Al Khadr checkpoint, West of Bethlehem, was closed and residents were prevented from travelling to the village of Al Khadr.
The IDF justifies these measures in the name of security, yet it is not called upon to show that the checkpoints, with their severe limitations on Palestinians` freedom of movement in their own land, are militarily necessary. The attackers, from a cell identifying itself with the Fatah Al-Aksa Martyrs` Brigade, were said by the IDF to have taken advantage of a recent easing of checkpoints. But IDF officers have also said on numerous occasions that these measures are meant to put pressure on the civilian population.
But given the illegality of the settlements to begin with, Israel has one clear and legitimate way to fulfill its responsibility for the settlers` safety: evacuation.
A verdict in the Hurndall case
On Monday, 27 June, a military court convicted Israeli Sergeant Wahid Taysir of manslaughter in the killing of British peace activist and photographer Tom Hurndall. On April 11, 2003, Hurndall, then 22, was shot in the head and suffered irreversible brain damage, dying from his wound nine months later. Wahid was convicted of a total of six charges, including obstructing justice and providing false testimony as well as conduct unbecoming a soldier. This is the first time an Israeli soldier has been convicted of killing a foreign citizen since the beginning of the second intifada. A sentencing hearing is to be held on July 5.
The court found that Taysir had concocted a story to cover up his actions, and involved another sergeant, who later admitted the story was false.
Hurndall`s family expressed muted satisfaction with the verdict, and disappointment that the investigation did not go further up the chain of command. Taysir insisted that he had been scapegoated, and that he was an easier target, since he is a Bedouin.
The IDF praised the decision and said that it is very careful to protect the lives of civilians, claiming that Hurndall`s murder was an isolated event by a rogue soldier operating totally outside of the army`s rules of engagement.
The Israeli Human Rights Organization, B`tselem, described the conviction as an exception to the norm, in which the IDF automatically believes soldiers` accounts and does not investigate further. Only two Israeli soldiers have been convicted of killing civilians since the outbreak of the current intifada, over a period in which up to 1722 Palestinian civilains have been killed.
On Thursday, June 29, a group of settler activists, mostly teenagers, attacked 16-year-old Hilal el Majaideh during a struggle between soldiers, extremist settlers, and Palestinian residents of Al Muwasi. Settlers attacked Majaideh with stones from a distance of one meter, while he was on the ground and in IDF custody. A physician from among the settlers was pressured into denying medical treatment for Majaideh. The event was videotaped and broadcast on Israeli television, provoking an outpouring of public disgust and indignation.
Settler attacks on Palestinians have taken place on an almost daily basis in many parts of the occupied territories. With their reaction to the June 29 `lynch` in Gush Katif, the Israeli political and media establishment has shown its ability to express moral outrage over such acts when it is politically expedient. When the attackers were instruments of Israeli policy such reactions were voiced only by critics of the occupation.
Hirbet Imneizil broadens the anti-wall struggle
The village of Hirbet Imneizil has already seen 400 dunams of its land destroyed and hundreds of olive and almond trees uprooted, in preparation for construction of the annexation wall through the village`s lands. On Monday, June 27, the village residents succesfully blocked the path of bulldozers and stopped their work, until they were forced back by IDF soldiers.
In the weekly Friday protests against the wall in Bil`in, on June 24, protesters managed to dismantle a section of the wall`s foundation.
Sources: Ha`aretz, Palestine News Network, ISM, B`tselem, Palestine Centre for Human Rights