Palestinians’ daily settler nightmare
Hebron, West Bank - “They stole my bicycle,” sobbed 9-year-old Marwan Sharabati outside his home, pointing at Jewish settlers walking undeterred down Martyr Street in the old quarters of Hebron, south of the West Bank.
His father, Mufeed, rushed to comfort him: “You will get it back, son. Don’t worry”.
“This is part of the daily practices of Jewish settlers, who also shower us with stones, beat our women and kidnap and kill our children with the support of Israeli soldiers,” lamented the older Sharabati, resuming an interview with The Arab Weekly he interrupted to console his son.
A few months ago, Jewish settlers kidnapped Marwan as he played with his sister near their house, his father said. “I raised hell with Israeli police until they fetched him from Jewish settlers and brought him back home,” he said.
“He’s traumatised and usually screams and kicks if someone taps him from the back while he’s inattentive, thinking it’s Jewish settlers attempting to abduct him again.”
Marwan Sharabati is one of scores of Palestinian children who have been kidnapped, harassed or even burned alive by extremist Jewish settlers under the watchful eye, or allegedly as part of a larger violent campaign, of the Israeli Army, according accounts by Palestinian and Israeli residents of the West Bank.
Avi Issacharoff, a Middle East analyst for the Times of Israel, argued in a recent opinion piece that the violence will persist because the “state has demonstrated untenable tolerance and turned a blind eye, time after time” on “terrorism” committed by extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians.
In a gruesome act, Israeli settlers burned to death Palestinian toddler Ali Dawabsheh as the 18-month-old boy slept at home with his parents and brother, Ahmed, 4.
On July 31st, an extremist group calling itself “Price Tag” torched the Dawabshehs’ home in the village of Duma near the West Bank city of Nablus, throwing Molotov cocktails inside, trapping the family. Ahmed and his parents were severely burned. The boys’ father, Saad Dawabsheh, died eight days after the attack.
His mother, Riham Dawabsha, died on September 6th.
A year earlier, Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu-Khdeir was abducted by Israeli settlers on a street in traditionally Arab East Jerusalem. His charred body was found hours later at Givat Shaul settlement in the Jerusalem forest. An autopsy suggested he was beaten and burned alive.
The murder suspects, Jewish settlers, said the attack as a response to the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens a month earlier.
A spokesman for Rabbis for Human Rights said the Dawabshehs crime was the 10th deadly attack by settlers against Palestinians in Nablus in July. The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), however, provides a more disturbing account. It said the number of Jewish settlers’ attacks on Palestinian civilians, one-third of them lethal, stood at 11,000 from January through June.
Violence against Palestinians is part and parcel of Israel’s occupation policy, draped in numerous crimes that have gone unpunished.
Ali Dawabsheh is no different from the 490 Palestinian children killed in Israel’s 51-day war on the Gaza Strip in July 2014. More than 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, died and more than 20,000 houses were demolished in Israeli attacks, said to be retaliation for missiles being fired from the area.
Adel Shadid, a Palestinian expert on Israeli affairs, said Israeli violence emanates from biblical beliefs.
“A growing number of ultra-orthodox Jews, who are rising to prominence in Israeli settler societies, insist that the West Bank and Gaza are for the Jews in line with God’s promise to them,” Shadid said.
“They are killing even children because they think they will grow up to become enemies of Israel.”
Hebron has a Palestinian majority of 170,000 and a small Jewish populace, estimated at 500-800, living mainly near the outskirts of the city. An area, called the H1 sector of Hebron and home to around 130,000 Palestinians, is governed by the Palestinian Authority responsible for the rest of the West Bank.
H2, which is inhabited by 40,000 Palestinians, is under Israeli military control to protect Jews living in the old quarters of Hebron hills, near Al Haram Al Ibrahimi, Arabic for the Ibrahimi Mosque, also known to Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham.
The site is also revered by Jews. It is known as the Cave of the Patriarchs, a series of subterranean chambers that reflect Jewish tradition of double tombs for Abraham and his wife, Sarah, and others. Jewish and Muslim tradition have it that the cave and the adjoining field were purchased by Abraham as a burial plot.
Mufeed Sharabati, the father of the boy whose bicycle was taken by Israeli settlers, said he and other members of his family have not been spared in the violence by Jewish settlers.
His said his daughter was run over by a car belonging to a Jewish settler in 2014 and he was beaten until unconscious by Jewish settlers and police.
“When I woke up in the hospital hours later, I was told the beating caused a blood clot near the brain and fractured my spinal cord,” he sighed. He said he underwent urgent surgery in Jordan, where parts of his spinal cord and four discs were replaced with artificial implants.