Ayman Choppan was assaulted by Israeli civilians four times in the last decade. He refuses to be afraid, but knows in his heart that no help will come from the Israeli authorities.
When Ayman Atallah Abd Al Rahman Choppan was assaulted by Israeli civilians some three weeks ago, he received medical attention and reported the incident to us. Yet he was unwilling to waste his time by lodging a complaint with the Israeli police. Experience shows him to be absolutely right.
The assault on Choppan took place while he was at pasture with his son and a colleague around noon on March 22. As they sat down to rest, Choppan noticed a group of people with hoods coming from the direction of the nearby settlement, Yizhar. He estimated there were eight men, aged 20 to 30. They were armed with slingshots and sticks; the three Palestinians did the only thing they could: they fled.
The Israelis began throwing stones at the three as they tried to push their flock back to the village of Burin. It appears the attackers were not too concerned with the statements of Israeli politicians, such as Justice Minister Shaked, who said that “a stone-thrower is a terrorist, and only a fitting punishment can serve as a deterring, punishing and just element.” The attackers knew that nothing would happen to them. Choppan was hit by a stone to the back and stumbled to the ground. He said he thought he was shot. The attackers charged at him, but he somehow managed to rise to his feet and escape. One of the Israeli civilians hit him again, this time on the back of the head. He fell down again; when he was near his house, he collapsed and lost consciousness.
This is when IDF forces arrived on the scene and provided Choppan with initial medical treatment. From there he was evacuated to hospital. As far as we know, none of his attackers were detained, nor are they likely to be – since Choppan won’t lodge a complaint and the Samaria and Judea Police Division (SJPD) is not in the habit of opening an investigation in cases of ideological violence against Palestinians following a formal complaint by the victim — despite the fact that it is certainly authorized to do so.
Why won’t Choppan go to the police? Because he has seen this movie before. He even watched the sequel. And the third movie in the series. In 2005, before Yesh Din was established, Choppan was attacked by Israeli civilians while he took his herd to pasture, just like the incident in March. He lodged a complaint; nothing came out of it.
A year later, Choppan reported three more incidents to Yesh Din.
On June 14 2006, Choppan noticed a group of hooded men trying to set fire to the heaps of wheat he had gathered following the harvest. He went toward them with a friend, and the assailants fled in the direction of Yizhar. Two days later, unknown assailants managed to set fire to the wheat while Choppan was asleep.
Two days passed and Choppan was awakened by a phone call from his neighbor in the middle of the night: your car is burning, he was told. When Choppan and his family went to put out the fire, they noticed a car speeding away in the direction of Yizhar. They lodged complaints with the police, but nothing came of them. The police closed them under its favorite clause, “unknown perpetrator” — meaning that even though the crime reported took place, the police do not have a clue as to who may have perpetrated it.
When it comes to complaints by Palestinians, hardly anything ever happens. 85 percent of investigations of ideological crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians are closed due to investigative failure. Over the ten years that Yesh Din has covered the issue, there has been no major change in the data. When the crime committed is against trees belonging to Palestinians, the police failure rate goes up to an astounding 95.6 percent.
Why did Ayman Choppan become a serial victim of settler violence? Because of his place residence. He lives in the village of Burin, which is close not only to Yizhar but also to Har Bracha. Violence against the residents of Burin is common. At best, Israeli forces are negligent even when they have a suspected criminal in custody; and at worst, it actively joins in on attacks by Israeli civilians.
So what’s going on? Nothing new. This type of violence is intended to dispossess Palestinians of their land by convincing them that even if they insist on living there under such conditions, they will not manage to make a living. Why do they insist on working it? Despair of this land and abandon it. We’ll take good care of it.
You think the IDF and police commanders don’t know that this is the reality? They do. Are they doing anything about it? Do they send forces there? Heaven forbid.
Time after time, the government has told the High Court of Justice that it is forced to curtail Palestinian access to their land because it cannot protect them (a policy sharply criticized by the court in the Murad decision); but – and despite a recommendation by the Defense Ministry’s comptroller back in 2006 – it did not deploy troops to protect Palestinian farmers, except during the yearly olive harvest. So what is the point? Choppan understood it quite well, actually: “I am not interested in lodging a complaint with the Israeli police,” he told us, “I don’t believe anything will come of it. The police, the army, the judges – they’re all on the side of the settlers”.