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Brutality of settlers’ ‘price tag’ campaign erupts from notorious Yitzhar settlement

24 December 2009

Settler violence has erupted this week around Nablus, as outrage over the death of an Israeli settler triggers extremists’ “price-tag” campaign, its senseless violence directed once again at the hands of Yitzhar settlers on altogether unrelated, and repeated, Palestinian targets.

Ghalib Najar’s house sits on the southern tip of the beautiful, but long-suffering village of Burin. The family built their home in 1965, long before the arrival of settlers, their network of Apartheid roads or the Oslo zoning plans. Even when, in the early 1980s, the red-roofed houses of the (now infamous) settlements Yitzhar and Bracha began to dot the hillsides enveloping Burin, the Najar family still never expected what was to come.

In the years since, the family has come under repeated attack from their militant neighbours, their only crime to own land in the shadow of the mountain where Yitzhar settlement has now swollen and grown to 500 residents, living on thousands of dunums of what was formerly Burin and the neighbouring villages’ land.

Christmas Eve saw yet another attack on Najar’s family, including 8 children and 13 people in total. At 7pm 50 settlers, at least five armed with rifles, left their mountain stronghold and descended to Burin village. Surrounding the house, they began to shout and throw rocks at the windows, puncturing glass and terrifying the family. The noise alerted the village’s shabab (young men) to what was afoot, who then converged on the area in hopes of defending the village. The Israeli military arrived at 7:30, causing the settlers to disperse. At least one shot was fired by a settler as they escaped through the family’s olive groves, unimpeded by the army, towards the Yitzhar-bound, settler-only road lying some 50 metres from Najar’s home.

Four Israeli soldiers quickly entered Najar’s land, occupying the roof of the family’s home. Five military vehicles and an additional 10 soldiers remained positioned on the settler road, emergency sirens and lights blaring, but no attempt made to apprehend the assailants. Israeli soldiers atop the roof, denying any incursion had just taken place, attempted to prevent ISM activists from photographing the situation and threatened to apprehend the activists even as they interviewed Ghalib Najar and his family inside their home. The harassment came on the heels of lengthy questioning at nearby Huwara checkpoint, where soldiers had attempt to prevent activists from entering Burin, claiming that non-Arab people were not authorised to enter Palestinian villages. The military remained in the area for several hours, finally leaving the area around 10pm.

Yitzhar settlement is notorious for its fanatically ideological residents, the violence they inflict on neighbouring Palestinian communities, and the extremist doctrines they espouse. Saturdays, the Jewish religious holiday of Shabbat, typically sees Yitzhar settlers roused to fever pitch zeal, wrecking havoc upon Palestinian villages unfortunate enough to live in its shadow. Settlers have frequently launched attacks with rocks, knives, guns and arson on Palestinian families and property in the area. In one of the most extreme act of terrorism students of the Yitzhar Od Yosef Hai yeshiva fired homemade rockets on Burin in 2008.

Not content with committing their own acts of brutality, Yitzhar rabbis are key players in incitement of targeted violence across the West Bank. Rabbi Elitzur from the same Yitzhar yeshiva published a book this November titled “The Handbook for the Killing of Gentiles”, condoning even the murder of non-Jewish babies, lest they grow to “be dangerous like their parents”. Rabbi Elitzur is vocal in his encouragement of “operations of reciprocal responsibility” such as the arson attack made on Yasuf mosque three weeks ago.

Despite West Banks settlements’ status as illegal under international law, Yitzhar was included in the Israeli governments’ recent “national priority map” as one of the settlements earmarked for financial support. Yitzhar also receives significant funding from American donations, tax-deductible under U.S. government tax breaks for ‘charitable’ institutions.