Settler attack under IDF supervision. Urif, West Bank, April 30 2013

An IDF officer was shocked by the scene of burnt cars at Deir Jarir, set on fire by settlers, and said he is ashamed. The IDF has plenty to be ashamed of.

One early morning in late April, A., a pensioner residing in the village of Deir Jarir, was awoken from his sleep by a loud noise. He ran to the window to see what had happened, and saw the two cars belonging to his family on fire. He woke the rest of the family, and they put out the fire, though the cars had already suffered tremendous damage.

A., like the rest of the villagers, had no doubt about who was responsible for the fire: The residents of the unusually rowdy outpost, Netzakh Binyamin, which was created some three months ago on the lands of Silwad, a nearby village. Since the outpost was built, the relatively quiet lives of the villagers turned into a nightmare. On the night A.’s family’s cars were set ablaze; eight more cars were burned in the village.

A patrol of our armed forces made it to Deir Jarir an hour after the attack. A. told Yesh Din investigators that one of the officers, when observing the damage, said that “whoever did this are animals, I am ashamed and apologize in the name of the State of Israel.”

It’s unclear whether a junior officer has the authority to apologize in the name of the State of Israel; it is perfectly clear, however, that the state itself didn’t do anything of the sort so far. Still, as an IDF officer, he certainly has much to be ashamed of.

Attacks by people described time and time again as coming from Netzakh Binyamin occur on almost a daily basis. The Palestinians say that until this outpost was built, they didn’t suffer from attacks; everything went downhill with its establishment. The IDF and the police do nothing to prevent these attacks. The outpost is illegal, but obviously automatically receives the protection of IDF soldiers. The Palestinian residents receive nothing resembling such defense, even though according to international law (and the HCJ) such protection is the duty of the IDF.

The attacks include harm to property, such as the cutting down of trees, spray painting walls with “price tags” slogans, and so forth – and also include grievous bodily harm. About a month ago, people described as settlers from Netzakh Binyamin attacked Ahmed Muhammad Mahmoud Iyad, a resident of Silwad, as he was working his plot of land in Deir Jarir. Iyad was warned by a friend that there were settlers around; he notified the army; and then, suddenly, found himself surrounded by three hooded men who attacked him, using severe violence. Iyad was severely wounded, and taken to a hospital; but before the villagers rushed to his aid, the settlers also looted the valuables he had on him.

The attack on Iyad was serious enough to merit attention in the Israeli media (Hebrew). It also enraged the villagers to the extent that something very unusual happened: they stormed the outpost and wiped it out. The settlers fled the scene as fast as they could, and the residents set the wooden hut on fire. Later the settlers returned – with IDF forces in tow, of course. The outpost is illegal, and one might have expected the IDF would not continue to protect it after it was abandoned. Such expectations were dashed.

On Friday, May 3rd, hundreds of residents of Deir Jarir and Silwad went to Iyad’s plot, to hold a protest prayer. It went peacefully, until some 15 hooded Israelis showed up and started stoning the Palestinians. The army and police forces at the scene did nothing at first, but soon gathered their wits and began firing tear gas canisters at the Palestinians. No, the last sentence is not erroneous; you read it correctly.

So, yes, the IDF certainly has much to be ashamed of. It is doubtful, however, whether its officers understand just how much – and if they are able to comprehend the required conclusions, namely that they should stop automatically defending every group of outlaws which grabs lands belonging to others, and instead start defending their victims.