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Being Respectful is Not a Part of Our Duty

by ISM Hebron, 26 May 2007

At approximately 15:00 hours on Saturday May 26, two Human Rights Workers (HRWs) were standing on Shuhada street in the Tel Rumeida district of Hebron when five Israeli settlers between the ages of 7 and 10 years old walked past making faces and shouting remarks at both HRWs. The HRW passed onto Tel Rumeida street where they met two Palestinian teenagers who continued to walk up the hill, some distance behind the settlers.

Proceeding to the top of Tel Rumeida St., HRWs witnessed that the settlers had stopped at a soldier’s guard post and pointed at the two Palestinian teenagers. The soldiers immediately approached the Palestinians. The settler children had accused the Palestinians of threatening to hurt them. Both teenagers denied the accusations and both HRWs who had been with them at the time attempted to testify to their innocence. The soldiers detained the two Palestinian teenagers and took their IDs for checks. Another senior officer, known as Nir, came onto the scene and questioned both the children and the teenagers as to what happened. He did not address the HRWs who maintained their presence and when the HRWs attempted to address the situation and explain that they had been present throughout the whole incident, they were told “not to interfere.” Eitan, a settler who is currently under investigation for harassment and the father of one of the settlers kids, arrived at the scene. Eitan proceeded to discuss with both the police and the soldiers the incident and called both HRWs “liars” for backing up the Palestinians and protesting their innocence. After approximately 40 minutes the police arrived and arrested both the teenagers.

The two teenagers were arrested for five hours and following this were forced to sign a “condition of release” to the sum of 2000 Israeli shekels each and to attend the police station at a future date. At no point were the HRWs questioned as witnesses to the event. The Palestinians were, in effect, arrested on the accusations of the settlers alone without actual evidence or proof.

At approximately 20:15, six soldiers and their commanding officer Nir invaded the roof of a house in Tel Rumeida where a group of 5 HRWs have been residing. Despite repeated attempts to engage with the soldiers to question them as to why they were on their roof and what they were doing, the 5 HRWs present were repeatedly ignored and at one point the soldiers pointed their guns at a female HRW and further aimed his gun at a Palestinian child who was on the street below. The soldiers proceeded to search around the roof area and despite the commanding officer deciding to leave after around 10 minutes, 4 of the soldiers remained on the roof without following command. The soldiers proceeded to hang about the roof, holding conversation and continually ignoring requests by the HRWs to leave the premises.

After the soldiers left they maintained a presence on the street outside the house and when a female HRW attempted to engage in a formal and respectful conversation regarding the incidence, she was told that it was a security check and that the soldiers have no obligation to engage in conversation with them or to tell them what they were doing. The soldier claimed that as they had not been violent they had therefore been respectful to all parties involved. Soldiers further claimed that they had the right to undertake their checks without warning and without consent or approval from senior authority and that “being respectful was not part of their duty.”