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by Stephen Lendman
Israel gets away with murder and much more. Crimes against humanity repeat multiple times daily. Palestinians are defenseless.
Who can contest Israel's military might? It's other security forces are ruthless. So are extremist settlers. Yesh Din Volunteers for Human Rights addresses them.
"Acts of violence are being committed by Israeli civilians against Palestinians in the West Bank on a daily basis," it says.
They repeat in many forms. They include violence and vandalism. They're not isolated incidences. They reflect more than hate or anger.
They're "part of a sophisticated wider strategy," says Yesh Din. They're "designed to assert territorial domination of Palestinians in the West Bank.
They include settler-imposed "no go zones." Palestinians face armed militants. They come from nearby settlements and outposts.
They "create effective 'no go zones.' " They're on privately owned Palestinian land.
Doing so gets them to abandon it. The do it in fear for their lives. Israeli soldiers, police and other security forces provide no protection. They support lawless settlers.
They commit so-called "price tag" attacks. Settlers use the term to describe retaliations relating to Israeli government actions limiting their political goals. Palestinians bear their brunt.
From September 2004 through 2011 alone, around 3,700 incidents occurred. They're documented by time, type, location, number of injuries and/or deaths, and settlements of origin.
Every West Bank governorate is affected. Key is that Israeli and collaborating Palestinian security forces do little to stop them.
Ordinary Palestinians are left vulnerable on their own. They live in a virtual war zone. Israel is an occupying power.
International law is clear. Palestinian security and safety must be protected. Israel ignores its mandated responsibility.
It's worse than that. Israeli forces commit daily crimes against humanity. Settlers commit their own with impunity.
Complaints go unaddressed. Investigations when conducted are whitewashed. According to Yesh Din, over 97% "of investigative files relating to damage to Palestinian olive trees are closed due to police failings."
Repeated vandalism incidents go unpunished. Evidence shows "Israeli police overwhelmingly (don't) investigate incidents (or) prosecute offenders."
Vandalizing olive and other fruit trees "has become one of the symbols of the occupation." Doing so repeats with disturbing regularity.
Crimes go unpunished. Palestinians are fair game. Settlers attack them and their property with impunity.
Israeli security forces are well aware of what's ongoing. They do nothing to stop it. They encourage it by inaction and failing to hold perpetrators accountable.
From 2005 through June 2013, Yesh Din documented 211 incidents of willfully damaging or destroying Palestinian fruit trees.
Four incidents alone led to perpetrators being punished. Doing so amounted to wrist slaps.
Vandalizing Palestinian property constitutes a serious assault on their well-being. Olive and other fruit trees provide employment and income for 100,000 Palestinian households.
According to Yesh Din researcher Noah Cohen:
"As the statistics show...areas of friction are well known. Nevertheless, the IDF leaves the Palestinian residents in these areas exposed to repeated violent attacks."
The implication of the ongoing failure (by Israeli police) to investigate and prosecute persons who vandalize trees is equally apparent."
It reflects the "complete abnegation of responsibility, and the abandonment of these areas to the control of violent and extremist elements."
Failure to hold them accountable leaves Palestinians frustrated. Why complain when doing so is fruitless. "Those who do have little hope for redress," says Yesh Din.
Israel's failure to hold criminal elements accountable "empowers them and supports the continuation of their strategic brand of violence."
Yesh Din confronts individual and institutional violence, as well as other criminal acts. Its volunteers take victims' testimonies. They document what goes on.
They file criminal complaints. They follow-up with local authorities. They represent aggrieved victims. They work toward advancing genuine reform. They do so because it matters.
Israeli soldiers commit daily violence. Impunity is institutionalized. Accountability doesn't matter.
"Most cases of violent crimes against Palestinians not only go unpunished - but often are completely ignored by the authorities," says Yesh Din.
"This is a blatant violation of the human rights of Palestinian civilians living in the West Bank and of Israel's duties under International Humanitarian Law."
Even when criminal investigations are initiated, accountability rarely follows. Never against higher ranking IDS soldiers.
"Very light sentencing" follows rare convictions. It's too little to matter. Palestinians trying to file complaints face "staggering obstacles" doing so.
"The complete absence of military police stations open to the public in the West Bank, for example, makes it literally impossible for Palestinians to file complaints directly with the military police," says Yesh Din.
Defending the human and civil rights of persecuted people is an enormous task. Confronting the frequency of Israeli lawlessness makes it overwhelming.
On January 7, Haaretz reported a rare instance of Palestinians giving extremist settlers a taste of their own medicine.
Ten settlers trespassed on Palestinian land. They were confronted. They "were apprehended and beaten by Palestinian villagers," said Haaretz.
They were handed over to Israeli soldiers. The incident began Tuesday morning. Civil Administration officials arrived at the settlers' outpost. They came to uproot olive trees planted on private Palestinian land.
Palestinians "organized themselves into security details. Hours later, 10 settlers arrived at Kfar Kusra village. They were masked. They wore gloves.
About 30 Palestinians surrounded them. They apprehended them. They took them to an abandoned building. They beat them. The incident lasted about an hour.
They were handed to soldiers. Some were injured. It's not known what Israeli authorities intend to do. A Yesh Din spokesman explained what happened, saying:
"After a (Civil Administration) action at the illegal outpost of Esh Kodesh...a group of Israeli civilians entered the villages of Kursa and Krayot, with the intention of harming the villagers."
"The Palestinians themselves reported the incident to the security forces and requested that they arrive to arrest the attackers."
They "were taken by the army and we hope that, in contrast to previous incidents, they will be transferred to the police for investigation and clarification about what they were doing in the village."
"Settler retaliation against Palestinians following action (by the civil administration) has become a regular and well-known phenomenon, particularly in that area."
"The fact that the IDF was not deployed to protect the Palestinian villagers is symptomatic of a policy that completely abandons the Palestinian residents of the area and ignores the basic duty of the IDF as the sovereign authority in the area."
"Unfortunately, past experience teaches us that today's incident will be followed by further revenge attacks against Palestinians."
"We expect the security forces to deploy as necessary in order to avoid all harm to the local residents."
Israel consistently won't do do so. Expect this time to be no different. Palestinians are on their own. Protection depends on their own resilience.
Israeli soldiers post a much greater threat. On January 5, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported one incident. It's much like many others.
It headlined "Israel: No Evidence that Boy Killed by Soldiers Posed Any Threat."
Israeli soldiers murdered a 15-year-old Palestinian boy. They did so in cold blood. On December 9, he was shot in the back. It happened near his school.
"It was the second incident involving the lethal shooting of a child in the back by Israeli forces deployed near a school in 2013," said HRW.
Witnesses explained what happened. Wajih al-Ramahi was shot and killed.
He and other youths were throwing stones at soldiers. They were about 200 meters away. They faced no risk of being hit.
Joe Stork is HRW Middle East and North Africa director. "Twice this year, Israeli soldiers hiding near schools, apparently to make arrests, have killed children who posed no apparent threat," he said.
"If the past is any guide, these boys' families can look forward to a prolonged, opaque, and fruitless process that does not hold perpetrators to account or deliver justice."
An earlier 2013 incident involved Israeli soldiers hiding near a Budrus village boys' school. They fatally shot 16-year-old Samir 'Awad.
He entered an open military gate in Israel's Apartheid Wall. Soldiers appeared. Awad threatened no one.
He tried to run away. He was shot and killed. IDF authorities said they're investigating both incidents. Expect whitewash to follow like always.
Medical sources and photos showed al-Ramahi "had a bullet wound in his back and no exit wound," said HRW.
"The lack of an exit-wound is consistent with statements that the bullet was fired from an assault rifle at considerable distance from al-Ramahi."
"There was no apparent justification for the use of live ammunition."
"International standards on the use of firearms in policing situations stipulate that lethal force may be used only as a last resort when strictly necessary to protect life."
"Should the incident be covered by the laws of war, which are applicable in the occupied West Bank, the shooting would violate the prohibition on targeting civilians, so long as the individual was not actively participating in hostilities."
"An attack on a civilian that is carried out intentionally or recklessly is a war crime."
Since September 2000, Israel only held six soldiers accountable for willful murder and other high crimes. The longest imposed sentence was seven months.
The open area where 'Awad was shot "slopes downhill from the school" he attended, said HRW. About 250 meters away, "a series of military structures form part of the Israeli" Apartheid Wall.
Witnesses said 'Awad and two other boys walked toward the Wall. A 15-year-old boy told HRW:
"This was the first time we'd ever seen the fence gate open. We just decided to go inside because there was no (military vehicle) on the road. We thought there weren't any soldiers there."
A 14-year-old boy said:
"We saw the gate was open, and we got excited, we decided to go through it. It’s a grey gate."
"We crossed the barbed wire coils and (two boys) went through the gate, first (a 13-year-old), then Samir, and then there were soldiers who had been lying in the ditch, four on the left and two on the right (of the gate)."
"They stood up and said, 'Stop.' The others ran back toward the village, and the soldiers fired in the air, two or three times."
"Samir got scared and ran the wrong way through the gate. He tried to climb the (second) fence, and one the four soldiers from the left-hand side shot him in the leg."
"He fell, got up, and came back through the gate toward the village. Another soldier grabbed him by the shoulder, but he got past and tried to run away toward the village."
"He was limping. One of (the soldiers) threw a sound bomb, and then another soldier shot him in the back and the head."
The boys and other children nearby posed no threat. They carried nothing in their hands. They weren't throwing stones.
Medical records show 'Awad was shot three times - in the leg, back of the chest and back of the head. He was murdered in cold blood.
These aren't isolated incidents. In 2013, Israeli soldiers killed 28 West Bank Palestinians. Children are targeted like adults.
At least 11 Gazan children were shot last year. Israeli air and ground attacks kill other Palestinians.
On January 3, 16-year-old Adnan Abu Khater was shot and killed. Since 2000, over 6,700 Palestinians were killed. Almost 1,400 were children.
Israel gets away with murder and much more. Excessive force is longstanding Israeli policy. Soldiers are taught to hate Arabs. They have license to kill. They take full advantage.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen [at] sbcglobal.net.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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