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Settlers target Palestinian car in arson attack for the second time

International Solidarity Movement

31 January 2010

Settlers torched a car in the northern West Bank village of Asira Al-Qabliya in the early hours of Thursday morning, January 28. The attack was launched from the notorious Shalhevit Yam outpost of Yitzhar settlement, that lies a short distance from the village and has been waging a continuous campaign of intimidation on the village.

Residents of Asira Al-Qabliya reported a car from the outpost approaching the village at approximately 1:30am on Thursday morning. An Israeli military jeep was then sighted pulling up alongside the car, at which point soldiers were witnessed conversing with the settlers, although making no effort to force the settlers to retreat to the outpost. The jeep departed towards the settlement, leaving the settlers to linger on the edge of the village.

The family of Machmoud Darhoud awoke the next morning to find Darhoud’s work vehicle burnt down to its framework, still smouldering, in the driveway. The Darhoud home is located on the eastern edge of the village, halfway up the hill which atop sits the Shalhevit Yam outpost. The car appeared to have been doused in gasoline, inside and out, then set ablaze. Several tools necessary for Darhoud’s work in Asira Al-Qabliya’s stone quarry, left inside the car, were lost in the blaze too.

It is not the first time Darhoud’s property has come under attack, nor is it the first time such an assault has been launched with arson. A car belonging to the family was torched under almost identical circumstances in 2007, both cars costing the family a hefty value of 5000 shekels. Their home itself has been targeted repeatedly by settlers also. 2 weeks prior to the most recent arson attack a gang of 20 settlers surrounded the home, hurling rocks and screaming abuse at the terrified family inside. 9 months ago saw the most vicious attack yet, when approximately 60 settlers surrounded the home, hurling dozens of rocks and destroying almost all of the glass windows in the house. When the Israeli military arrived on the scene they quickly occupied the home, firing live ammunition that punctured the water tanks on the roof.

The attack spurred the family on to construct a large concrete wall around their home. The wall has done little to deter the assailants however, as sporadic attacks continue unabated. Despite the impressive two-storey stature of the Darhoud home, the entire family now sleeps in one room, as the 6 traumatised children manage only to sleep in the safety of one another. Darhoud reports that he will now be parking his other vehicle at his father’s house each night, located within the relative sanctity of the village.

Other families living nearby suffer similar problems from the precarious nature of their homes’ locations. The Jamal family home to the east of Darhoud’s has been spraypainted with Jewish Stars of David so many times now that the family has simply given up trying to clean them off. ISM activists maintain a period presence in the area, particularly on Saturdays when the Jewish holiday of Shabbat gives rise to the most violent manifestations of settler harassment.

Since the creation of the Shalhevit Yam outpost in 2001, families living in Asira al-Qabliya’s east have experienced more problems than they ever bargained for. It is a reoccuring theme for those unfortunate to live in the shadow of Yitzhar settlement, that has stolen thousands of dunums of farmland and dozens of water wells from Asira al-Qabliya and the surrounding villages of Buin, Madama, Einabus, Urif and Huwara. The last decade has seen a sharp increase in territorial settler violence.

Background on Yitzhar settlement:

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 in December 2009.

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.