August 3, 2021

Former Israeli soldiers denounce collusion between army and settlers in West Bank

The testimonies reveal a web of reasons: there are the emotional ties, the friendships forged between soldiers and settlers, a certain ideological proximity between the two, citizens of the same country, and then the orders, often very clear when it comes to ‘stop the Palestinians, much more vague about the Israeli settlers … All this ends up creating a “System” where the army at best ignores, at worst is complicit in the violence of the settlers, describes the new report of the NGO Breaking the Silence, “In Service”, published Wednesday, July 21, through thirty-six accounts of former Israeli soldiers stationed in the occupied West Bank.

“We have hundreds of videos in which settlers commit violent acts, many that show soldiers next to them, thousands of incidents in which settlers attack soldiers… And yet the system continues to ignore this. violence there “, says Ori Givati, spokesperson for the NGO. According to him, often after attacks by settlers there are no arrests, complaints from Palestinians are ignored, investigations are quickly abandoned.

Read also Fifty Years of Illegal Occupation in the West Bank: How Colonization Continued to Expand

“I have no recollection of a settler being arrested. (…) I had the feeling that the army was constantly afraid of going after them ”, describes a staff sergeant stationed in 2012 in Yitzhar, a colony deemed violent near Nablus, in the northern West Bank. Many stress that they are there to protect the settlers, without flinching, even when the latter take the route that mobilizes the most troops because it passes through Palestinian neighborhoods, even when the provocations are clear and the settlers have initiated violence.

“It was in Yitzhar, a colony opposite the village (Palestinian) by Burin. We got a call to intervene. We arrived and settlers were throwing stones at Palestinian farmers. We ended up in the middle – it’s a valley – and I remember we were helpless. There was nothing we could do. We didn’t arrest anyone that day. The idea was always to calm the Palestinians, recalls Netai Halup, 30, who served in the area between 2012 and 2013. Today it is even worse. When I see the videos, it’s clear: the army is not in the middle, it is on the side of a single camp ”, the settlers.

Palestinians on their own

Their violence serves a purpose: “It is an instrument to appropriate more land”, recalls Ori Givati. Opposite, the Palestinians are on their own. On May 14, during Eid Al-Fitr, Wafa Amran, from the village of Burin, believed that his “Last day had arrived”. “About fifty settlers, protected by the occupation soldiers, attacked us”, lets go the young woman in an absent voice. For two hours, she takes refuge, pregnant, in the bathroom of her house with her three children; her husband is trapped outside, unable to approach their home, kept at bay by the soldiers.

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