Settler violence, army collusion and justice
Yesterday I found myself with two friends, on a Palestinian hillside, being pursued by an Israeli settler shouting and shooting indiscrimiately. This wasn’t what I had expected when I decided to attend a demonstration against the Isreali settler theft of land from the palestinian villagers of Al Misra’ar. Having trecked over the hills and through the olive groves from the village in the midday sun I could see ahead of me all the villagers who were leading the demonstration. Then I heard gunfire. Everyone was suddenly shouting and running. We turned to follow them, not knowing which way the bullets were going and if they would hit us. I helped my friend along, carrying her bags so she could walk faster, but in the panic she fell. I pulled her up and told her it was fine, we would just keep walking. Then I looked around me. Ahead of me everybody had disappeared. The gunfire and shouting sounded close. Should we keep running or drop to the ground? I looked behind me, and there was a civilian settler, wielding his gun, he shot and shouted for us to stop. Terrified we did so. He caught us up, shouted at us to put our bags on the floor, shot his gun towards the village, pulled my bags off me, pushed me, shouted at us to stand with our backs to him against a low wall that terraced the olive groves. I was being terrorised, had no way to defend myseself and was terrified. He shouted at us to walk back to the field where the demonstration had taken place - away from the village and the chance that anyone could know where we were or what was happening to us. We followed the orders that he had no right to make. Then the army came. What should we do? Asking to call the British Embassy was the only logical thing that came into my head. Either this or the army persuaded the erratic and manic settler to calm down a little. In any sane or civilised society they would have arrested the man who was terrorising us. They didn’t. Instead they colluded with his instructions and told us to keep walking over the hills, instructing us: “Go left, follow this path, straight ahead” and so on. When I next dared to look back I found the army had left us alone with the mad rifle wielding civilian settler. What could I do but keep walking? We got to the fence that divided the Olive grove from the land that the settlers had stolen from them. It was easy to distinguish this land as we could see where they had had neatly planted vines with water pipes irrigating each row - irrigating crops is a luxury that Palestinians are not allowed. We were told to go over the fence to where several jeeps and a few soldiers were standing. They would not let us have our bags but at least let us sit together in the shade of a pickup truck - maube i should thank the settlers for providing these facilities for us. After sitting around for some time in the soil the police came. They separated us. Then the settler came and parked a pickup truck the other side of me. I had the choice between staying sitting in the shade where nobody could see me at the mercy of the settler, or standing up and getting sun stroke. I foolishly chose the former, and regretted it when the settlers saw this as a fine opportunity to harrass and harrange me. The army didn’t seem to think this was a problem but eventually allowed me to move to sit where I felt safer. The mad rifle wielding settler was still hanging around socialising with the army. I spoke to one of the police women, explained what he had done. I asked her to take his details as she would have to act on what I was telling her. She said it was OK, she knew who he was: the security guard for the settlement. She did not take a statement from me and the police showed absolutely no interest in taking action against the settler despite my many appeals to them to do so. Now, two days later I have had the pleasure of being kept over night in the punishment block of the Israeli women’s prison without water, only one hour for exercise in 24 hours, threatened with deportation, and eventually released on the condition that I return to the police station today to collect my phone and camera and allow them to view the photographs on my camera. I am going there now feeling terrified and unsure of what will happen. I am still in shocked and traumatised at what has happened and will finish this blog when I return later. To read about our experiences in the prison have a look at my other blog ‘Life in the women’s prison’.