Speaking to a group of Israeli students on March 21, US
President Barack Obama addressed, among other things,
one aspect of Palestinian lives: ďIt is not just when
settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunishedÖ
or to displace Palestinian families from their home.
Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer.Ē
What is so frustrating is the fact that President Obama
is right but has done absolutely nothing with that
knowledge. Settler violence in the Palestinian
territories has reached unprecedented heights, most
likely because these illegal settlers are given a free
hand to wreak havoc on the Palestinians whenever they
please. This violence is not limited to able-bodied
Palestinian men either, who have half a chance of
defending themselves against the brutality of these
armed vigilantes. Settler violence does not
discriminate, as the events of this week have proven so
Yesterday, seven school children on a school trip north
of Nablus were injured when area-settlers pelted their
buses with stones, smashing the windshields. The
children were taken to hospital for treatment.
On Friday, settlers attacked a farmer working his field
in the village of Kufr Al Lubbad near Tulkarm. 80-year
old Hasan Barhoush was brutally attacked by settlers
from the Enav settlement, suffering fractured bones and
bruises and is still in hospital.
Also this week, 200 olive trees were uprooted by
Israeli settlers in Al Khader near Bethlehem. Uprooting
trees may not seem like a direct act of violence, but
for anyone who understands the significance of olive
trees to Palestinians would know this is the worst
kind. Olive trees not only symbolize the Palestiniansí
resolve to remain on their land, they constitute a main
source of livelihood for hundreds of thousands of
people. When settlers forcefully cut down these trees
their goal is twofold. First, this is an attempt to
mark this privately-owned Palestinian land as their own
Ė mostly to annex it to their nearby settlement.
Second, it is an attempt to break the Palestinian
spirit. Israelis understand the significance of the
Palestiniansí love for their olive trees and their land
and want to cut right at the heart. If the Palestinians
have no land or trees to fall back on, they may be
forced to leave, freeing the land for these predatory
One may ask how such hostile acts go unpunished. Easy.
Israelís government and law enforcement establishment
turns a blind eye to settler violence against the
Palestinians except in very rare cases. This means the
hundreds of attacks that take place each year are
accepted, even encouraged by the Israeli army, which
offers protection to the gun-toting, stick-wielding
settlers as they turn on Palestinians.
"When Israelis harm Palestinians, the authorities
implement an undeclared policy of forgiveness,
compromise, and leniency in punishment," the Israeli
human rights organization B'Tselem says. "Israeli
security forces have done little to prevent settler
violence or to arrest offenders."
In Jerusalem, settlers roam the streets of the Old
City, armed and with their fingers provocatively on the
trigger. Palestinians avoid contact with them as much
as possible, not out of fear as much as out of a
knowledge that should an altercation take place, they
will always be the one to blame. This ďavoidance
policyĒ does not always work though. Everyone recalls
the incident when a young Palestinian woman was
attacked by a mob of orthodox Jewish women at a light
rail stop in Jerusalem. The attack was unprovoked, as
was the brutal attack last year on a Palestinian youth,
Jamal Joulani, by a group of Jewish youths, landing him
in hospital with serious injuries.
The lopsidedness of the system is beyond ridiculous.
Informed leaders such as President Obama understand
this fact and realize how unjust it is. That is why he,
along with the rest of the ďfree worldĒ are to blame
for allowing such attacks to go unpunished and for
their failure to stand up for a people who do not have
the same political and legal means at their disposal.
Like the famous English philosopher Edmund Burke once
said: ďAll that is necessary for the triumph of evil is
for good men to do nothing.Ē