Sunday, May 20, 2012

Settler Attack Delegitimizes Israel

Two new videos (one and two) posted by B'Tselem show settlers shooting a Palestinian man during clashes in Asira al-Qibliya yesterday.  The video depicts a brush fire of unclear origin.  Palestinians are throwing rocks at IDF soldiers and settlers who are carrying M-16 rifles and a pistol.  The settlers had come from the nearby settlement of Izhar. While the soldiers retreat and do not open fire in the video, the settlers remain where they are.  24-year old Fathi Assayara then throws a large rock at the settlers.  They respond by firing about five shots.  Protesters run to Assayara, and carry him from the scene with a bloodied head.  Mr. Assayara is reported to be in stable condition at a Nablus hospital.

As the IDF Spokesman has noted regarding the incident, the full details of what transpired are as yet unclear.  The rock Mr. Assayara threw was large and could easily have been fatal had it hit a settler.  As civilians, the settler's right to self defense differs from those delineated by the IDF's rules of engagement for soldiers.  However, the existing evidence suggests the soldiers did not remove settlers from the area, nor did any of the IDF soldiers attempt to stop them from firing at what appears to be an unarmed crowd of Palestinians.

Most importantly, while the settlers may have some legal right of self-defense in this case, the Palestinians whom they appear to have been harassing have none.  Such incidents only contribute to the sense of powerlessness Palestinians feel when the government tasks the IDF with protecting settlers rather than maintaining general law and order.

The shooting is also likely to exacerbate international concern over Israel's presence in the West Bank.  While the actions of these settlers do not necessarily speak for the majority of the population (who would generally not carry or fire a weapon on the Sabbath if avoidable), the event only contributes to the notion that settlers are radical and have little concern for Palestinian life.  

If the Israeli government is serious about fighting delegitimization it will condemn the violence, continue to have the IDF investigate the incident, and indict those responsible for shooting.  It should also make sure IDF soldiers in clash-prone areas are equipped with sufficient non-lethal means to protect themselves and maintain order.

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