Ta’ayush leaders, David Shulman (also a Hebrew University professor ) and Joseph Dana, report that peace activists who attempted to accompany the West Bank villagers of al-Safa yesterday to harvest their fields were met with brutal force by the Israeli Border Police. One Palestinian suffered a broken leg. An Israeli teenager suffered a severely sprained arm that they thought was broken.
David’s report came via eyewitness Amiel Vardi, whose daughter’s arm was nearly broken:
Amiel says that not only were the 30 activists arrested as soon as they arrived at as-Safa to accompany the farmers to their fields, but they were also savagely beaten at the time of the arrests and then beaten again, severely, with clubs, while being transported to the police station. We are talking about people who had their heads rammed against the sides of the army jeeps, and severe beatings with clubs in full view of the senior commanders who were present there– two Mahatim, that is, brigade commanders. No policemen were involved– these were Border Police (two units), and the sense is that they had explicit orders to do this. Sahar, Amiel’s daughter, had her arm badly twisted but fortunately not broken. One of the Palestinians had his leg broken.
All of us have been arrested before, most of us many times, but we’ve never seen this– although we know it’s common practice used against Palestinian arrestees. It was a very frightening experience, not much different in kind from what the Iranian regime has been doing to protesters in the streets of Iran (in case anyone thinks Israel is more enlightened than Iran).
…We need to get this information out into the international media as soon as possible.
Bernard Avishai has published David’s much longer and more comprehensive account at his blog.
Joseph Dana of Ibn Ezra was an eyewitness to the police riot:
Over the last several months, Israeli and international activists have made the small village of Safa an important part of the struggle for the rule of law in the Occupied Territories. The village is situated next to the settlement of Bat Ayin, which was the scene of a horrific murder of a twelve-year-old boy by a mentally disturbed resident of Safa in April 2009. Since that incident, and along with growing US pressure on Israel regarding settlements, [Bay Ayin] has become increasingly violent towards its neighbors in Safa. This violence has been characterized by the burning and cutting down of Palestinian groves, severe beatings of Safa residents and Israeli activists and, just last week, hurling rocks on the farmers and activists that attempt to work the land…
Today, 27 June 2009, the IDF and Israel Border Police created a blockade at the entrance of the farmlands. As soon as we arrived, the IDF began using violent force against the forty to fifty Israelis, Palestinians and international activists on the ground. As we walked into the area, pleading with the army to allow us entry, we were beaten, thrown to the ground, attacked and insulted. We demanded to see legal authority for such actions. That only came later after we had been ‘removed’ from the area. Many of us suffered bruises and injuries, including an 18-year-old Israeli female whose arm was sprained and a Palestinian man who reportedly had his leg broken.
The IDF arrested 30 Israelis for violating a “closed military zone” order that, according to the 2006 Supreme Court ruling, cannot be used simply to prevent farming in Safa. The activists were detained for three hours and then released without being charged with any offense.
The events today in Safa are a major escalation in the IDF policy to intimidate and attack Israeli and international peace activists who wish to help Palestinian farmers maintain their livelihood, even as the IDF does nothing to restrain the settlers. No matter how much the state may sympathize with the settlers and feel the need to protect them, it must not allow this vigilante behavior to continue, as it only propagates the cycle of violence.”
Let anyone who sides with Bibi Netanyahu regarding the settlement freeze consider what effect encouraging such settler thugs and their state-sanctioned enablers has on the political situation. As Pres. Obama and George Mitchell seem to be saying: we need more, rather than less pressure. Easing the pressure allows law-breaking Jews to feel vindicated by their behavior. We need to let Bibi know that every such riot by agents of the state makes our job easier. So he has two choices–he can clamp down on this madness and try to make Israel’s Occupation policies look slightly more palatable to the world; or he can do nothing and let our side make hay.
David Shulman presents the argument in Avishai’s blog eloquently as usual:
Let no one claim that such things happen only in places like Iran but never in Israel. Let no one claim that Israel is an enlightened, free country, the very opposite of places like Iran. Let no one claim that the Israeli army is incapable of inhuman cruelty inflicted on innocent victims, whether they are Palestinian civilians or Israelis demonstrating peacefully against the occupation. Already now, as I write, the system Israel has put in place in the occupied territories is barbaric, in every sense of the word. Unless there is massive international pressure and effective protest, that system is not about to go away. Indeed, in the meantime, things are getting worse, on the ground, day by day.
What is astonishing about this incident is that the Bat Ayin settlers didn’t even have to weigh in with their usual brutish thuggery. The IDF and Border Police acted on their behalf. Let no Israeli or Diaspora Israel supporter ever say that the settlers do not represent Israel, that they are somehow aberrant extremists. Indeed they do fully reflect and represent Israel. If this were not the case then there would be security and order in the Territories for settlers and Palestinians alike.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.