Israeli settlers observed their own “Day of Rage” on March 17, launching reprisal attacks on Palestinians for the recent murder of a settler family in an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.
It was also in response to Israeli authorities’ demolition of a settlement structure.
Israeli settlers in the Palestinian West Bank have long carried out the much-publicised “price tag” policy of intimidation and violence against Palestinians and their property every time Israeli officials have demolished a settler outpost.
The outposts, mostly comprising a few caravans, are deemed illegal by the Israeli authorities — unlike the larger settlements that Israeli authorities support.
All Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian West Bank is illegal according to international law, specifically various UN resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
A settler family comprising a mother, father and three children, including a three-month-old baby, were stabbed to death in Itamar, a settlement near the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank.
Settlers accused the killer or killers to be Palestinian, without any evidence and despite rumours that Thai labourers involved in a pay dispute with their employers in Itamar could have been responsible.
Settlers attacked Palestinians and their property throughout the occupied West Bank as their “day of rage” extended over the week.
Rabbi Meir Goldmintz, who teaches at West Bank seminary, said: “The government must understand that it doesn’t pay to destroy our homes and we are going to make them regret what happened here.
“We are going to pay them [Palestinians] a visit to do what the Israeli government should be doing to them and not to us,” he said, pointing at nearby Palestinian villages.
True to their word, on March 17 major traffic intersections near Nablus were blocked by settlers burning tyres as cars and pedestrians were attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails.
A group of settlers firebombed a house in the nearby village of Huwwara, forcing the evacuation of two Palestinian children to hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation.
On March 21, a Palestinian was stabbed by settlers and a shop was set on fire. Later, a group of settlers were seen stoning Palestinians' cars in Hebron in the southern West Bank.
One of the Hebron settlers also ran over a five-year-old Palestinian boy, causing moderate injuries. On March 20, an 11-year-old Palestinian girl walking to school was run over.
Jewish settlers armed with machine guns and accompanied by soldiers from the Israeli military uprooted hundreds of olive trees planted by Palestinian farmers near Bethlehem.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government announced that 500 new settlement units would be built in response to the settler murders.
Some analysts argued that Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu has used the killings as a political tool to present Israel once again as the victim in the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict at a time when Israel is becoming increasingly isolated and international condemnation of the occupation intensifies.
At the same time, Israeli officials have carried out a demolition policy against what they described as “illegal” Palestinian homes and property built without permits in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinians face enormous bureaucratic difficulties obtaining the permits.
Sarit Michaeli from Israeli rights group B’Tselem told Inter-Press Service: “It is almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits for ‘Area C’ of the West Bank, which comprises approximately 60% of the territory.”
Israel has divided the occupied West Bank into “Area A” that falls under Palestinian control, “Area B” that falls under Israeli military control and Palestinian civil control, and “Area C” that falls under full Israeli control.
Figures released by the United Nations showed a twofold increase in the number of Palestinian homes and agricultural buildings destroyed by Israel this year.
The UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) recorded 70 demolitions since the start of 2011, displacing 105 Palestinians, of whom 43 were under the age of 18.
The demolitions were carried out across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and ordered by Israeli police, municipal officials and Israel’s Civil Administration.
Chris Gunness, an UNRWA spokesperson: “The process of demolitions is a triple humiliation, with families forced to build illegally, faced with the demolition of their homes and a process that all too often occurs in front of the faces of their children.”
However, despite announcing that settler outposts deemed illegal by the Israeli government would also be demolished, a report by the Israeli daily Haaretz said that settler property demolished was for the most part tents and tin shacks.
Furthermore, the article said the Israeli government will retrospectively legalise a good portion of the outposts it previously declared illegal.
Israel rights group Peace Now has revealed that more than 50% of the land the illegal settlements had been built on had been expropriated from Palestinian villages and communities — and retroactively declared Israeli “state land”.
The group also revealed that there are more than 100 wildcat outposts in the occupied West Bank set up without permission from the Israeli authorities.
Michaeli told IPS: “Parallels between Israeli and Palestinian construction in the West Bank can’t be drawn. All Israeli settlement in the West Bank is illegal under international law.
“Settlers are positively discriminated against when it comes to illegal construction. Palestinians should have the right to build and grow, but Israel is using its illegal construction policy as a political tool to restrict the Palestinians.”
[Reprinted from ElectronicIntifada.net .]