Palestinian Friend describes settler violence in his village
Posted by rabbibrian on June 24, 2009
Yesterday a Palestinian colleague who works for Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel called me. “How are you doing, Zakkaria?” I ask. He responds that his village, Jeet, just outside Qalqilya, has been attacked several times by settlers in the neighboring settlement of Havat Gilad. Today he sent me some pictures of the fires that they set to their trees and agricultural land and of a villager who had to have two operations on his head and spent a few weeks in the intensive care unit as a result of the injuries he suffered when settlers attacked him on his way to work in Israel.
Zakkaria is a sweet and generous man, dedicated to protecting the human rights of his people and all people. In this phone conversation the issue of the settlements that I have written about several times on this blog came to life in a very urgent way. The experience of the people in the village of Jeet is not unique. Zakkaria’s shocking description of the lawlessness and aggression of some of the settlers affects many villages and thousands of Palestinians. I try to imagine myself in his shoes. Who do I turn to for help? The IDF? The police? He tells me they called both and the soldiers arrived 45 minutes later and did nothing to hold the settlers accountable for their violent hate crimes. Right now they turn to Rabbis for Human Rights, internationals and others for help but they can’t stop the settlers.
Zakkaria’s call put all the sophisticated arguments that we are engaged in about President Obama’s call for a freeze in settlements -so far ignored by Israel- in perspective. This is the daily reality of Palestinian residents of the West Bank. I cannot even imagine the sense of hopelessness they must feel. Who can they turn to for basic protection against racist vandals? Only the one or two courageous Israelis like Rabbi Arik Ascherman and a few others.
I guess the question we need to ask ourselves is, can they turn to us? Will we as Americans respond and how will we respond? That is the question.