Do What You Will
Yesterday in Susiya, a village near at-Tuwani and one which has been razed by the Israeli army three times, Israeli settlers burned a Palestinian home to the ground. This incident was one of a long series of attacks Israeli settlers are calling a "price tag" campaign. According to the International Herald Tribune, settlers "say they're creating havoc to try to deter the Israeli security forces from future attempts to remove any of the dozens of squatter camps, or outposts, dotting West Bank hills." It seems as though the Israeli army is unwilling to take decisive action against the lawless elements of it's own society. Perhaps this "price tag" campaign has being proved successful.
According the International Solidarity Movement, during the last week alone, "settlers are attacking Palestinian residents and property around the West Bank in a coordinated outbreak of aggression following the eviction of settlers from the occupied Rajabi house in Hebron. Attacks against Palestinians have been reported from Turmas’ayya, Burin, Huwarra, Beit Iba, Azzoun, al-Funduq, Assira-al-Qabliya and Susiya, as well as the mass settler riots in Hebron."
In At-Tuwani, the same pattern has unfolded. Since the beginning of 2008, it's seemed as though the settlers of Ma'on and Havot Ma'on have been "on the move." By the middle of the year, settlers were attacking Palestinians with greater frequecy, even inside the boundaries of Palestinian villages. During almost every incident, the Israeli army stood by and watched while settlers did what they please. During one attack, an Israeli solider told a Palestinian resident of At-Tuwani that they would not step in to restrain settlers until settlers entered Palestinian homes. Now, as 2008 has drawn to a close, Palestinians, and to a much lesser extent international human rights workers like myself, undertake all of their daily activities under ever increasing threat.
According to a report prepared by an IDF consultant, much of the recent settler violence was fostered when extermist members of the settler movement saw an "opportunity" and were not met by an determined response by the Israeli army. In the South Hebron Hills, settler violence is generally met with no army response whatsoever. Even after settlers have repeted attacked Palestinian schoolchildren, ages 6 to 12, no settlers have been arrested. Perhaps even worse, the Israeli army refuses to insure the safety of these children, despite it's orders from the Israeli Knesset to do so. The message from the army to the settlers is clear - do whatever you will; no one will stop you.