Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Settlers attack Bedouin camp in Huwwara, Nablus district

By Fatima Masri - July 10, 2013
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Bedouin] [Nablus] [Settlers] [Settlers attacks] [price tag] [Israeli army]

Bedouin home in Hawwara village, Nablus district.  Brakha settlement visible in background.  Photo by Fatima Masri

It was three in the morning on Saturday, July 6th when a group of some 50 settlers stormed a Bedouin village on the outskirts of Huwwara, Nablus District.  Mahmoud Rahaide, father of eleven, was injured when he attempted to stop the settlers from damaging his car and tractor. 

The attack came in response to the alleged theft of some sheep from the nearby settlement of Brakha, which the Bedouins were blamed for. In response to the accusation Mahmoud told Palestine Monitor,  “my brother and I have more than 2000 sheep, why should we steal them?.” 

They assaulted the camp, firing bullets into the air and throwing stones at the inhabitants

This logic did nothing to inhibit the fury unleashed by the settlers on the Bedouins. They assaulted the camp, firing bullets into the air and throwing stones at the inhabitants, who rushed out of their tents to protect their few properties. To make up for the missing sheep, the settlers tried to steal the only horse the Rahaide family possesses, but were prevented from doing so. 

Mahmoud admits his helplessness in defending his property and his children. “What can I do, they have guns”, he said sorrowfully. The Distict Coordination Office (DCO) is the organism Bedouins turn to in case of attack, but this more often than not only exacerbates the situation. On Saturday, the DCO alerted the Israeli Defence Force of the aggression, yet when they arrived Mahmoud recounts, “The soldiers intervened to protect the settlers, not us. As if we were the ones harming them!” On Sunday a group of settlers invaded the village again, threatening the Bedouins that if the sheep were not returned, their tents would be set on fire.

Bedouin children from the Rahaide Family.  Photo by Fatima Masri

The Rahaide family owns the land they live on, yet Israelis refuse to recognise their right of property and instead claim that the land was promised to them by God as they are the descendants of Abraham. The surrounding settlements of Brakha, Itamar and  Yitzhar are known to be inhabited by extremist Jewish settlers, some of which are at the forefront of the “price tag” movement.  These radical right-wing settlers engage in revenge attacks to exact a price agaiinst Palestinians or Israeli soldiers for any action taken against the settlement enterprise.

Sunday’s episode is not an isolated one. Settler violence is part of a systematic approach, whereby settlement expansion is achieved through the use of physical intimidation, damage of property and threats to residents. Through these actions, settlers are succeeding in pushing the Bedouins out of the land they legally own. On Saturday, the Rahaide family had to move further away from the settlement of Brakha, relinquishing claims on another piece of their property. 

The Bedouins of Huwwara are still living according to their traditional nomadic lifestyle, moving to the Nablus area in summer and to Jerico in winter. Yet due to the increasing frequency of the attacks they fear that leaving the land will mean never being able to return. 

Due to the increasing frequency of the attacks they fear that leaving the land will mean never being able to return

According to the Israeli Human Rights Organization B’Tselem, Israel has failed to comply to its obligations towards Palestinians who live in the Occupied Territories, adopting a double standard when enforcing the law. If the offense is carried out by a Palestinian, the severity of the measures enforced to arrest and prosecute him often breaches human rights law. Maximum sentences are imposed on Palestinians by military courts, whereas Jewish settlers or Israeli citizens are judged by indulgent civil courts. In case of settler attack, the Israeli police often refuse to investigate the incidents reported. 

The dismissive attitude adopted towards such acts of violence is one of the reasons behind the 315% increase in settler violence between 2007 and 2012. Due to the lack of proper housing, Bedouin communities find no shelter in case of aggression. The Israeli legal system fails to provide minimum assistance, further enhancing their isolation and vulnerability. 

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