Sunday, April 6, 2008

Border Police let settlers retake illegal West Bank outpost

The article below, on the re-establishment of an illegal settlement in the West Bank, does a good job of explaining the facts of the incident described, but a little more explanation is necessary to explain its significance.

The outpost of Shvut Ami was to be evacuated for the 10th time. This outpost, it is not disputed, is on private Palestinian land. A unique tactic was agreed upon for this last attempt to return the land to its rightful owners by the Israeli lawyer, human rights organizations, the local Palestinians and the Army. The Army would evacuate the settlers as usual, but knowing that they would immediately be free to return, Israeli activists from Yesh Din and Anarchists Against the Wall were officially "invited" by the property owner to be on site along with Palestinians from Qudum. Coordinating with the Army, it was agreed that only those "invited"—and cleared by the Army—would be allowed on the property after the evacuation of the settlers. Activists were preparing to spend about a month, in daytime and nighttime shifts, in this way to guard the property from settlers.

Thus it was all the more devastating when about 100 settlers attacked and beat the first six activists on the site just a few hours after the evacuation. The Army and Police failed to protect them adequately, and they were forced to withdraw in fear of their lives. The rule of law and justice for the Palestinian owner were once again overturned by brute force, with the collusion of the army and police forces. The activists and villagers, who had put their trust in the Army, were betrayed, and the settlers once again found success by disdaining the law.

The one ray of hope in this story is that it actually drew a rare official apology from the Army, and the evacuation will be undertaken yet again sometime in the next couple of weeks. The coalition of Palestinians, Israeli activists and lawyers remain determined to try again. --Rebecca Vilkomerson


w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m

Last update - 08:46 06/04/2008
Border Police let settlers retake illegal West Bank outpost

By Meron Rapoport

The Border Police last week allowed settlers to return to an illegal outpost on Palestinian land in the West Bank and force out left-wing activists who had been authorized to guard the place.

Officials at the Yesh Din human rights group say they had warned authorities of the settlers' plans ahead of time. The Border Police say their forces were unable to gain control over the settlers due to "numerical inferiority."

The incident occurred Wednesday on the Shvut Ami outpost, near Kedumim. According to Israel Defense Forces records, the structure is on land owned by Badriya Amar of the village of Qadum. The outpost has been evacuated nine times, but each time settlers return, preventing the legal owners from reaching the land.

Right-wing activist Datia Yitzhaki, a settler leader in the area, said the structure is "abandoned property" that therefore belongs to the state. "There was an understanding that it belongs to Kedumim and it doesn't matter what the army and the Civil Administration say now," Yitzhaki said.

After repeated evacuations and returns by settlers, Yesh Din, which represents Amar, proposed an arrangement whereby the IDF would allow a group of Israelis and Palestinians to occupy the building to keep out the trespassers.

Attorney Michael Sfard of Yesh Din said the agreement was for the IDF to notify Yesh Din in advance when it planned to evacuate the settlers so that it could send representatives to the venue.

The IDF said in a statement that "the military commander permitted a group of 10 Israelis who were invited by the landowner to enter the site because the IDF recognizes the rights of the Palestinian owners of the building to bring people to the place on their behalf."

On Wednesday morning, the IDF notified Yesh Din of the evacuation planned for that afternoon, but somehow the announcement also reached the settlers, who posted on the Internet calls for supporters to come to Shvut Ami.

Sfard called the IDF's legal department to warn them of the settlers' actions. "They told me not to worry, they'll send four Border Police officers to guard the place," Sfard said. He also sent a letter to the Samaria District Police on the matter, but when he called the office he was told the entire command staff was on a field trip to Eilat.

At 1 P.M., about 100 Border Police officers arrived and evacuated the four young settlers who were there at the time. About two hours later, the leftists arrived, as per the arrangement with the IDF. One of them said the IDF did not permit Amar herself to approach.

"When we arrived there were six or seven Border Police officers and a few settlers," one of the Israelis said. "The settlers started to hit and punch us. At first the Border Police pushed them away but then they left. About 100 settlers climbed up to the site and attacked us. When I approached one of the Border Police he said, 'Do I look like your bodyguard?'"

Sfard sent a second letter, this time to Judea-Samaria District Police Chief Shlomo Ka'atabi, asking him to secure the site "before the violence gets out of control." But only a few Border Police officers remained at the outpost, and they stayed in their vehicle.

"I realized that if the activists stayed their lives would be in danger, so I ordered them to leave," Sfard said. The activists left at about 4 P.M.

Yitzhaki confirmed that many settlers who were "furious" about the evacuation went up to the site, but she says it was the police officers who used violence against the settlers. She added that the settlers reoccupied the building after the IDF repaired damage caused during the evacuation.

"They used us to inflate the number of outpost evacuations," Sfard said. "The state says it has evacuated 11 outposts, but 10 of those evacuations were repeated evacuations of Shvut Ami."

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