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The Israeli government is as responsible for Duma murders as those who threw the firebomb

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Since the announcement of an indictment in the deadly firebombing in the occupied West Bank village of Duma, Israeli media outlets have analyzed the likelihood that the killers will be punished, given that the main suspect’s confession were extracted by torture.

But they have not mentioned the elephant in the room: culpability for the murder of baby Ali Dawabshe and his parents lies not only with those who threw the firebomb, but with the Israeli government which promotes, subsidizes and protects their presence in the West Bank. The more than 600,000 residents of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Syrian Golan Heights are in violation of the Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power may not transfer its population to the occupied territory.

The Duma case also demonstrates Israel’s violation of its obligation as the occupying power to protect the local population. But to portray the daily violence Palestinians live under as a failure of Israeli policy turns reality on its head. The establishment of illegal settlements requires expulsion of Palestinian residents, and maintaining the settlements demands various forms of violence, many of which are more deadly than the Duma attack.

In the murders of the Dawabshe family, it is not as if the Israeli authorities merely failed to apprehend the killers – they actively chose not to. According to an emergency dispatch report, settlers were seen leaving the village walking in the direction the Adei Ad settlement outpost minutes after the firebombing, but authorities declined to pursue them.

This is not an aberration, but an instance of a policy of Israeli authorities deliberately ignoring settler violence (Israeli soldiers sometimes join settlers in the attacks). According to the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din’s report titled Standing Idly By “…All Israeli law enforcement agencies show tolerance for and turn a blind eye to the various types of offenses perpetrated by Israeli civilians throughout the West Bank.”

The Shin Bet had long been aware of attacks carried out by the group the suspected killer Amiram Ben-Uliel belongs to, but has used a kid-glove approach – a sharp contrast to the heavy-handed military operations reserved for Palestinians suspected of attacks on Israeli Jews.

This implicit support for attacks on Palestinians is not limited to the military and law enforcement agencies. Direct support for Israel’s settlements – including the most ideologically extreme of them – exists throughout the Israeli government.

Member of Knesset Stav Shaffir noted this dynamic. “Government ministers condemn the ‘price tag’ violence, but at the same time embrace (the perpetrators) with budgets and support.”

Indeed, the settlement outpost (considered “illegal” under Israeli law) where Ben-Uliel lived on a hill overlooking Duma until the attack, was created using 1.7 million shekels ($433,000) from the Housing and Construction Ministry, and the State planned to authorize the outpost.

Shaffir identified the Agriculture, Education and Welfare Ministries as key contributors, two of which are controlled by the far right-wing Jewish Home party.

The Agriculture and Rural Development ministry is headed by Uri Ariel, a Jewish Home party member who is part of the Temple Mount movement, which aims to destroy Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock, turn Israel into a theocracy and fulfill an apocalyptic prophecy – the same ultimate goal of group the suspected Duma killer belongs to.

At the helm of the Education Ministry is Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett. Under his direction, religious public schools are teaching students to ‘long for the third temple,’ belying Bennett’s public statements that he does not currently seek to change the status quo at the Al-Aqsa compound.

Bennett recently defended fellow Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich’s description of the Duma attack as “murder” but not as terrorism. This is a reversal of Bennett’s initial statement when he, along with Justice Minister and fellow Jewish Home member Ayelet Shaked, called for the death penalty for the Duma killers – who they then called “Jewish terrorists.”

For her part, Shaked has also made an about-face from her initial promise for vengeance, meeting with the mother of one of the suspected killers and calling for a “fair” and “just” trial.

Shaked garnered international headlines during Israel’s 2014 mega-assault on the Gaza Strip when she posted a pro-genocide statement on her public Facebook page. Months later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu awarded her the Minister of Justice position, which Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Nachman Shai complained was like “giving the Fire and Rescue Services to a pyromaniac.”

Given the central role that the Israeli government has had in supporting even the most radical settlers, the insufficient effort to prosecute the killers only highlights its own guilt.

This is not to say that there is no conflict between the vigilantes and the establishment. Rather, the establishment prefers to be in control of the ongoing violence.

Four months after the Duma firebombing, the Israeli military dropped a much larger firebomb from a warplane on a sleeping family in the Gaza Strip. The result of this attack was similar – a pregnant mother and baby girl were killed in their home. But no one declared the pilot to be a Jewish terrorist, and there was no hand-wringing from liberal Zionist groups.

For the Israeli government and its supporters, the issue is not that they are disturbed by dead Palestinians. It is that vigilante killings – particularly those committed via such gruesome methods – are difficult to explain to the outside world. Better to leave it to the establishment, where bombing sleeping families earns a reaffirmation of Israel’s “right to self-defense,” rather than a blow to the State’s international image.

About Dan Cohen

Dan Cohen is an independent journalist and filmmaker based in Palestine. He tweets at @dancohen3000.

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50 Responses

  1. DaBakr
    January 29, 2016, 1:01 pm

    “the elephant in the room”. author mentions his take on the so-called ‘elephant’ while ignoring the brontosaurus around the corner. we buried three young women/mothers -stabbed to death -recently because it was simply what? “human nature” as moon stated ? cohen lacks any journalistic standard of neutrality but does qualify as a fine palestinian propagandist (hasbarist)

    • Mooser
      January 29, 2016, 1:48 pm

      “cohen lacks any journalistic standard of neutrality but does qualify as a fine palestinian propagandist (hasbarist)”

      ROTFLMSJAO! That’s it, “Dabakr” when “propagandist” doesn’t express the requisite degree of contempt and contumely, call ’em a “hasbarist”! Such a powerful insult you had to put it in parentheses.

    • talknic
      January 29, 2016, 1:52 pm

      @ DaBakr ” we buried three young women/mothers -stabbed to death -recently”

      So go kvetch to the people responsible. The Zionist Federation who started the Greater Israel pyramid scheme to colonize Palestine in 1897, the Jewish Agency who lied to have Israel admitted to the UN and successive Israeli Governments who have purposefully encouraged Israelis to break a convention (GC IV) adopted to protect all civilians including those of the Occupying Power from the violent consequences one can expect when you occupy another people, dispossess them, illegally acquire their territory

    • Kris
      January 29, 2016, 8:06 pm

      @DaBakr: “we buried three young women/mothers …”

      Sadly, you buried three young women/mothers who willingly allowed themselves and their families to be used as human shields for Israel’s program of ethnically cleansing the West Bank.

      So sad for their families, and especially for their children, who will grow up to realize that their mothers died because they chose to be part of Israel’s sordid land grab.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 30, 2016, 12:51 am

        at least one of them wasn’t a mother, she was a single settler woman -24 yrs.

        and this is not an elephant in the room either. unless there’s another animal 5 times the size of an elephant that comes to mind. the only elephant in this episode of human history is the occupation military and the gov of israel.

        the propagandist here is the first commenter in the thread, and attempting to spam it no less (psst).

    • olive52
      January 31, 2016, 9:03 am

      Coming to the realization that anyone who opposes the MW ideology of one-sided reporting gets replied with name-calling among other insults. To challenge an untruth or offer another opinion is met with votriole and anger.

      I would hope that this could be a place where there could be communication in a respectful manner even if there are opposing views.

      • eljay
        January 31, 2016, 12:09 pm

        || olive52: … I would hope that this could be a place where there could be communication in a respectful manner even if there are opposing views. ||

        You’re absolutely right: DaBakr’s attack on Mr. Cohen was disrespectful and mean-spirited. Thank you for calling him out on it.

      • Mooser
        January 31, 2016, 1:12 pm

        “MW ideology of one-sided reporting”

        You might want to look at the “about” page. If you have a problem using your browser to find another website, push the “help” button in your browser.

      • oldgeezer
        January 31, 2016, 1:29 pm


        Yes, you have said that 5 times now. Now if only you had something to contribute.

  2. Mooser
    January 29, 2016, 1:45 pm

    “we buried three young women/mothers -stabbed to death”

    Yeah, and the Palestinians haven’t got anything like that. Why, if any more “women/mothers” are killed, there won’t be any!

    Gosh, how horrible, to be killed for being a “women/mother”.

    • DaBakr
      January 30, 2016, 12:07 am

      @ ms

      [..] i can’t tell you what palestinians say about israelis who are stabbed to death. israelis are not cheering any palestinian deaths. but its certain what left-wing oddballs on mw think. all jews in territory perceived or ‘considered’ to be palestinian is fair game. but then nobody should worry. left-wing nut jobs are perceived to be a kindly ‘human rights’ oriented lot.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 30, 2016, 12:40 am

        israelis are not cheering any palestinian deaths.

      • rugal_b
        January 30, 2016, 3:27 am

        Smh only a white Rabbi would be saying these things.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 30, 2016, 3:53 am

        not to be confused with a white rabbit

      • echinococcus
        January 30, 2016, 4:37 am

        Both species being soft, cuddly and nice –a plus for the Zionist entity, according to Jon66.

      • talknic
        January 30, 2016, 5:11 am

        @ DaBakr ” israelis are not cheering any palestinian deaths”

        Oh you poor Zioignoramus. Did you catch it or pick it up in training?

        “but its certain what left-wing oddballs on mw think”

        Then you should have no problem quoting them, verbatim

        ” all jews in territory perceived or ‘considered’ to be palestinian is fair game”

        Israelis illegally in non-Israeli territory ARE fair game. Go whine to the moronic thieving creeps who encourage them to break GC IV in order to create illegal facts on the ground, you’re wasting your own time here looking foolish

      • tree
        January 30, 2016, 5:59 am

        only a white Rabbi would be saying these things

        Rugal sweetie, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu is Mizrahi. His grandfather was an Iraqi Jew. His father, Mordecai, who had similar genocidal views, was the Chief Sephardic Rabbi in Israel for ten years, until 1993.

        Any human being is capable of vile and hateful thoughts. It doesn’t require one to belong to a particular race. To suggest such a thing is itself a racist statement. You really aught to clean up your own racism before lecturing the rest of us here on how progressive you are.

      • diasp0ra
        January 30, 2016, 6:03 am


        I honestly think you are a troll at this point.

        But if somehow you are not trolling, have you never heard of a million other Israeli Rabbis, either Sephardi or Mizrahi who also drip venom and wish death unto Palestinians and say that gentiles were born to serve Jews or die?

        Just look up Ovadia Yosef for a more prominent example.

      • tree
        January 30, 2016, 6:26 am

        Exactly right, Diasp0ra, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was another Mizrahi Jew of Iraqi ancestry with some nasty bigoted ideas.

        And I think rugal, nee a4tech, comes to us via Spencer Sunshine’s Political Research Associates. A troll with a mission.

        Dear Roha,

        Yes, I ought to have said “ought” not “aught”. Too late to edit.

      • rugal_b
        January 30, 2016, 9:48 am

        @Tree, Diaspora

        White can mean many things, and the Rabbi being Iraqi descent doesn’t mean he can’t also be white. After all, dark skinned Italians can be white, Arabs like George Clooney also can be white, why not this rabbi?

        [..] educate yourself on what racism actually is, before casually throwing around the loaded R word. This only makes it harder to call out truely racist behavior. In the most simplistic terms, racism = power + prejudice. Since white people occupy the top position in the power pyramid, you cannot, in any meaningful way, be racist against white people.

      • Rashers2
        January 30, 2016, 11:36 am

        @Rugal, “Since white people occupy the top position in the power pyramid, you cannot, in any meaningful way, be racist against white people.” Definition of “racism” (Oxford English Dictionary): “The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races;…”
        It is perfectly possible to racist against whites but that’s really beside the point. In your eagerness to comment on Shmuel Eliyahu’s ugly sentiments, you looked at a photograph and omitted to Google the name, an error you now compound by spouting comments like that above through your lower mouth.
        Instead of digging a deeper hole, reflect that it doesn’t matter if someone’s Mizrahi, Ashkenazi, Arab or Latino, it’s what they say and do by which we should judge them. Judging by what he says, Eliyahu’s a fairly contemptible specimen of humanity and there’s “form” among the Sephardic rabbinate in Israel, as @diasp0ra points out with the reference to the charming Ovadia Yosef.

      • Mooser
        January 30, 2016, 11:41 am

        If you please, either give him an archive, or get rid of him. So he gets to sit-n-spin and can’t even be held to it? (Not that there’s any problem finding quick 180’s and even 360’s in the same thread, of course)

      • Annie Robbins
        January 30, 2016, 11:57 am

        i’ve tried multiple times and it hasn’t been done. can you write phil or adam please. as far as i know they bundle tech complaints and deliver them in batches to the tech person once and awhile when they build up. so bug them to make sure this gets on the list.

      • RoHa
        January 30, 2016, 11:56 am

        For aught I know, it was your software that made the error. We ought to check our posts more carefully, but I know I often flai to do taht.

      • RoHa
        January 30, 2016, 11:58 am

        “you cannot, in any meaningful way, be racist against white people. ”

        Perhaps Annie can’t, but I know, from experience, that quite a few Japanese can.

      • MHughes976
        January 30, 2016, 12:34 pm

        Anyone can prejudiced, unfair and unjust towards White people, something which I might call racist. White Jewish people have been known to be at the receiving end of injustice; perhaps that was not because of their whiteness but it shows that being White is not always a protection against serious harm.
        It may be that white people in general are so powerful that they cannot in general be harmed by prejudice, so if your definition of racism includes the proviso that it should be harmful on a significant scale then again it may be, just may be, that we shall find that Whites never experience racism in that particular sense. But that would be to treat exposed subgroups of Whites as if their vulnerability did not matter, which in itself seems to be a kind of damaging prejudice.

      • Mooser
        January 30, 2016, 1:09 pm

        “can you write phil or adam please.”

        Sure. Sure I will, and remind them I’m still around and of how many people have asked to be rid of me? I think disintegration is the better part of velour in this case.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 30, 2016, 2:34 pm

        Arabs like George Clooney also can be white

        george is not arab although his wife is. according to wiki “Clooney has Irish, German, and English ancestry”

      • echinococcus
        January 30, 2016, 3:20 pm

        Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu is Mizrahi. His grandfather was an Iraqi Jew. His father, Mordecai, who had similar genocidal views, was the Chief Sephardic Rabbi in Israel

        Wow, these Zionist geniuses can’t even keep straight their Jewish nomenclature! And they’re supposed to be Jewish, even high Rabbies etc?

        His granpa is Mizrahi, Iraqi, i.e an Arab Jew, while that Arab’s son becomes a Sefardí, i.e. a Spanish-speaking Western Jew. Some metamorphosis, I tell ya. Except, of course, if the mother was a Sefardí and the father’s contribution was deemed insignificant, but that’s not how Rabbies usually work.

      • Mooser
        January 30, 2016, 8:50 pm

        “but its certain what left-wing oddballs on mw think. all jews in territory perceived or ‘considered’ to be palestinian is fair game.”

        “Dabakr” is handing out indictments for thoughtcrime! It’ll be room 101 for us “left-wing oddballs”!

      • rugal_b
        February 1, 2016, 7:09 am

        The comments on this thread proves how embarrassingly deluded white progressives are and why the other groups in the activism circles are increasingly adopting an anti-white stance. The sheer entitlement and savior complex among white progressives is unreal.

        If you can’t even understand a basic concept such as racism, citing old dictionary definitions that doesn’t disrupt your privileged world view, what makes you think you are welcomed to speak for the Palestinians who face unreleting racism in white America just as they do in Tel Aviv?

        I mean, I get why white people do it, never having to be put in their place living in a society that worships whiteness therefore not developing any sense of humility and self awareness. It is still cringe worthy tho, watching these white people actually believing in all the BS their white supremacist society spew on them.

      • Mooser
        February 1, 2016, 1:31 pm

        “therefore not developing any sense of humility and self awareness.”

        No, not like your’s. Yes sir, “rugal b” when it comes to “humility and self awareness” you’ve got the field beat by a couple of furlongs.

      • rugal_b
        February 5, 2016, 4:33 am

        @Tree, Diaspora, Mooser and others, here is an awesome video showing an eloquent young lady schooling her teacher (who has the same mindset on racism as many here) on what racism actually is, please watch and enlighten yourself. It is only 30 seconds long:

      • rugal_b
        February 5, 2016, 4:35 am
  3. JLewisDickerson
    January 29, 2016, 4:04 pm

    RE: “Given the central role that the Israeli government has had in supporting even the most radical settlers, the insufficient effort to prosecute the killers (of the Dawabshes) only highlights its own guilt.” ~ Dan Cohen

    SONNY & CHER SINGING METAPHORICALLY (at the risk of my being “Aspergery”* ):

    The beat goes on, the beat goes on
    Drums keep pounding
    A rhythm to the brain
    La de da de de, la de da de da . . .

    * Bibi referred to as obtuse, blustering, pompous & “Aspergery” –

    FOR SOMETHING MORE SUBSTANTIVE, SEE: “Fighting Settlers’ Impunity and Immunity”, by Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service, 12/16/11

    [EXCERPT] . . . The Israeli occupation, particularly the future of wildcat settlements built by settlers without formal government approval has been a simmering issue ever since their creation during the 1990s.
    In 2005, former head of the State Prosecution Criminal Department Talia Sasson published a landmark report on the question. Commissioned by then prime minister Ariel Sharon, the report found the Israeli government guilty of “institutional lawbreaking”
    and of the theft of private Palestinian land to covertly establish over a hundred “illegal outposts”. The damning irony is that the “outposts” were a 1997 initiative by none but Sharon himself, then foreign Minister under Netanyahu, who’d urged settlers to seize hilltops in order to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.
    The report recommended criminal investigation against those allegedly involved in the scheme, but it was shelved. Repeated injunctions have since pressed successive governments to address the issue. . .



    “In a government of law, the existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.” ~ Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis in his dissenting opinion to Olmstead v. United States (1928)

    SOURCE –

    P.P.S. ■ Sasson Report –

    • JLewisDickerson
      January 29, 2016, 5:19 pm

      P.P.P.S. ALSO SEE: “How the army helps settlers establish illegal outposts” | By Yossi Gurvitz, for Yesh Din | | September 24, 2014
      Through the use of civilian security coordinators in settlements and outposts, the IDF has, essentially, privatized law enforcement in the West Bank. A further aspect of this symbiotic relationship is the army’s use of the coordinators to promote de facto recognition of unauthorized settler outposts.
      LINK –

      P.P.P.P.S. AND SEE: “The Lawless Zone report ~ The transfer of policing and security to the Civilian Security Coordinators in the settlements and outposts” | By Yesh Din | September 17, 2014
      LINK –

      ■ REPORT(PDF): “The Lawless Zone”, By Yesh Din –

      Meir the Civilian Security Coordinator – The Lawless Zone

      • JLewisDickerson
        January 29, 2016, 6:52 pm

        RE: “How the army helps settlers establish illegal outposts” | By Yossi Gurvitz, for Yesh Din | | September 24, 2014 LINK – link to

        MY COMMENT: I made the effort to find the original article at +972, but then I forgot to change the link. So typical of me! Hopefully, I’ll soon be able to blame everything on Asperger’s [more formally known as ‘Asperger syndrome’ (AS), a/k/a Asperger’s syndrome, Asperger disorder (AD) or simply Asperger’s – not to mention that in the DSM-5 (published May 2013) it was eliminated altogether as a separate diagnosis and folded into ‘autism spectrum disorder’].
        I recently ordered a number of books on AS, and I’m hoping they will enable me to self-diagnose with a relatively high degree of confidence.
        This is way better than finding the Holy Grail!
        Despite what Monty Python might say.
        Now, where was I before I most recently got all “Aspergery”?
        Oh yeah, here is the link to the Gurvitz article “How the army helps settlers establish illegal outposts” at +972:

      • JLewisDickerson
        January 30, 2016, 5:03 am

        Standing Idly By – a new report by Yesh Din

        Published on Jun 21, 2015

        Today we published ” Standing Idly By”, a new report dealing with the phenomenon of incidents in which soldiers are witnesses to violence by Israeli citizens against Palestinians and their property and do nothing to prevent the harm, refrain from detaining or arresting the perpetrators after the incident, fail to secure the scene to allow the collection of evidence, or fail to testify about the incident to the police.

        To this day the army has avoided handling the issue: most soldiers are not aware of how they are supposed to react in incidents in which Palestinians are harmed by Israeli citizens, and they do not understand that it is their obligation to protect Palestinians.

        Share our video and read the full report –

      • JLewisDickerson
        January 30, 2016, 5:16 am


        Standing Idly By ~ IDF Soldiers’ Inaction in the Face of Offenses Perpetrated by Israelis against Palestinians in the West Bank
        A Ninety-Five Page PDF | By Yesh Din | May 2015


        This report address Israeli soldiers’ practice of standing idly by in the face of crimes committed by Israeli civilians against Palestinians and their property in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), a practice that is almost as old as the occupation itself.

        The term “standing idly by” refers to incidents in which IDF soldiers witness attacks on Palestinians or their property and do nothing to prevent or stop them, or to detain and arrest the offenders immediately thereafter. In other words, the soldiers refrain from exercising their powers to detain and arrest the individuals involved in the incident, secure the scene in order to enable the police to investigate and collect evidence and, at a later stage, provide testimony about the incident to the police.

        The military’s duties and powers as acting temporary sovereign in the OPT, as the agency in charge of enforcing the law and maintaining public order, are anchored in the provisions of international law, repeated judgments issued by the Supreme Court of Israel, and in military orders. Yet, from the early days of the occupation, when it comes to Israeli offenders, the IDF’s “command ethos” has been geared toward evading this responsibility, which was defined by the Supreme Court as one of the major, fundamental obligations of a military commander in an occupied territory, and shifting it to the Israel Police. The military’s refusal to uphold its obligations allows the practice of standing idly by to proliferate, and expresses yet another aspect of the policy of tolerance toward illegal activity by Israeli civilians, and the illegality of the settlements in the West Bank. Despite government reports warning about the lack of coordination between the military and the police, the two agencies have yet to establish a framework for coordination that would guarantee an appropriate level of law enforcement in the West Bank.

        Soldiers’ practice of standing idly by has been documented for decades by both government agencies and human rights organizations, which have warned about its serious implications. Yet despite this, the military has thus far refrained from drafting operating procedures and standing orders that clearly and comprehensively set out the sequence of actions soldiers must perform during violent incidents involving Israeli citizens. The military also refrains from following the Procedure for the Enforcement of Law and Order in the Judea and Samaria Area and in the Gaza Strip Area, issued by the Attorney General in 1998, which instructs the military and the police on their particular responsibilities in violent incidents involving Israeli citizens. The military itself, through the IDF Spokesperson, told Yesh Din that existing military protocols on handling violent incidents involving Israeli citizens need to be “updated, revised and re-examined.”

        Testimonies given by dozens of officers and soldiers in command positions to Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence, referring to the issue of standing idly by, indicate that the military provides sub-standard training, that soldiers do not understand that they have a duty to protect the Palestinian population, that they are not aware of their powers as enforcers of law and order – as defined in military orders, the Attorney General’s procedure or military protocols, and they do not know what they may or may not do during violent incidents involving Israeli citizens. The testimonies also point to a deeply flawed interface between the military and the police.

        Standing idly by in the face of violence is one aspect of the policy of tolerance toward criminal activity by Israeli citizens, which applies, in addition, to illegal construction in settlements, criminal seizure of private Palestinian land, and violation of labor and environmental protection laws. These practices render the concept of rule of law meaningless in the West Bank, and adversely affect the rights of its Palestinian residents, who are meant to benefit from the status of protected persons under international law. The tolerance shown for these types of crime repeatedly illustrates how the settlements are hotbeds of human rights violations in many different ways.

        TO DOWNLOAD Standing Idly By (PDF, 95 pages) –

      • diasp0ra
        January 30, 2016, 5:43 am


        Thank you for this wonderful report!

      • JLewisDickerson
        January 30, 2016, 6:57 am


        THE LAWLESS ZONE ~ The Transfer of Policing and Security Powers to the Civilian Security Coordinators in the Settlements and Outposts
        A Fifty-Five Page PDF | By Yesh Din | June 2014



        A protracted territorial struggle has been waged in recent years in many parts of the West Bank between settlers seeking to expand the areas under their control and annexing as much land as possible and Palestinian landowners interested in farming their land. The civilian security coordinators (CSCs) and the civilian guarding squads that operate in the Israeli settlements on the West Bank are among the most influential parties in this struggle. The CSCs are agents of the army, in that they are subject to the Military Justice Law and hold policing powers, but they are appointed by the settlements and see themselves as representing the settlements’ interests. This conflict of interests, combined with the absence of a clear definition of their powers and weak supervision of their actions, creates daily friction and clashes between the CSCs and settlement civilian guard usquads, on the one hand, and Palestinians farmers, on the other. In many cases the end result is that Palestinian landowners are unable to farm their land.

        The CSCs and the guarding squads that operate in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are quasi-military civilian forces composed of residents of the settlements and outposts in the area. They are equipped with IDF weapons, undergo military training, and are empowered to undertake policing actions, such as searches and detentions, and to use force. Their activities are ostensibly supervised and monitored by the IDF. The use of these forces in the settlements is based on a military doctrine called “regional defense,” which predates the establishment of the State of Israel, when such forces based in Israeli frontline communities were charged with supporting army forces during military confrontations or invasions by foreign armies. In the West Bank, the “regional defense” approach has come to be confined to the protection of the settlements and outposts against intrusion, without the additional aspect of contributing to the overall security situation.

        This report reviews the powers granted to these quasi-military forces in the fields of law enforcement and authority over soldiers stationed in the settlements and in the extensive areas placed under their control – areas referred to as “guarding zones.” In 1971 the State of Israel began to operate quasi-military forces in the settlements and outposts, yet over forty years later key aspects of their operations have yet to be formally defined. By way of example, no rules have been established regarding IDF supervision of the appointment and operations of CSCs and guarding squads. Neither have rules been defined regarding the relations between these forces and IDF soldiers stationed in the settlements, or other army units, nor regarding the geographical boundaries within which these quasi-military forces are permitted to operate. Moreover, the operational responsibility for these forces is currently diffused between three bodies: The Ministry of Defense, which finances their operations; the IDF, which is suppoed to supervise their work; and the settlements themselves, which appoint the CSCs and guards from among their residents and serve as their direct employers.

        This diffusion of authority creates a conflict of interests manifested in two key areas. Firstly, the CSCs and the members of the guarding squads, who bear weapons and hold policing and law enforcement powers, are supposed to represent neutral interests for the respect for the law and maintenance of public order. Yet they also belong to one of the two mutually hostile groups in the West Bank – i.e. the settler population – and, as such, they clearly support the territorial interests of the settlements in a manner that frequently clashes with their function as representatives of the law and public order. There is no dispute that the settlements in the West Bank seek to expand the territorial areas under their control, in most cases at the expense of the land of Palestinian residents. In their struggle to this end, many settlements use means including the violation of military orders (which enjoy the status of law in the West Bank), through means such as illegal construction and the criminal seizure of Palestinian land. This conflict of interests is clearly illustrated in the application of the authority granted to CSCs to define what constitutes a security threat as the foundation for the deployment of guarding squads and army forces. This authority enables the CSCs to define events in a manner that prevents Palestinians from accessing their land adjacent to settlements and outposts, thereby realizing the settlements’ aspirations to expand their sphere of territorial control.

        Secondly, although the CSCs are accountable to the IDF in professional terms, their salaries are paid by the settlements (with funds from the Ministry of Defense), and in most cases they are residents of the settlements. This situation creates tension between their commitment to army orders and their commitment to their place of residence and to the leaders of the settlements.

        It is also important to note that the use of these quasi-military forces is part of a broader trend. Since the mid-1980s, executive powers in the field of law enforcement, including the state’s core powers relating to the use of force, have been increasingly privatized and transferred to interest groups. As in the case of the privatization processes inside Israel, this transfer has taken place without meaningful supervision and without adequate examination of its ramifications. No consideration has been given to the manner in which the transfer of powers to elements within the settlements influences the rule of law in the West Bank or the rights of Palestinians – the protected residents of the area in accordance with the provisions of international law.

        The transfer of policing and law enforcement powers to an ideological interest group has a particularly pernicious impact when it takes place in an occupied territory, in which the settlements themselves were established in gross violation of international law and entail the usurping of land on a massive and protracted basis. The granting of such sweeping powers to an interest group that openly and declaratively rejects the provisions of international law is indicative of the chaos that characterizes the official Israeli attitude toward law enforcement in the West Bank.

        Yesh Din believes the activity of the CSCs and guarding squads not only fails to uphold public order and the rule of law in the West Bank, it also undermines them and weakens Israel’s ability to fulfill its duty under international law to protect the Palestinians and their property.

        TO DOWNLOAD The Lawless Zone (PDF, 55 pages) –

      • Annie Robbins
        January 30, 2016, 9:02 am

        thanks for this dickerson

      • Mooser
        January 30, 2016, 11:46 am

        “Through the use of civilian security coordinators in settlements and outposts, the IDF has, essentially, privatized law enforcement in the West Bank.”

        Because if the IDF did any of this, as official procedure, it would be prosecutable. So it’s all ad-hoc and hired help, and administrative and financial responsibility can be disappeared.

  4. MaxNarr
    January 29, 2016, 5:07 pm

    In Israel, the same as in America, people are innocent until proven guilty. I personally think this attack was not committed by settlers. I condemn the administrative detention being performed on the settlers and I hope they receive a fair trial. If it comes to light this attack was committed by Jews then they should be punished. Until then, I must reserve my judgement.

    • Annie Robbins
      January 30, 2016, 12:58 am

      I condemn the administrative detention being performed on the settlers

      hold that thought while i run out to the car and grab my violin.

      • a blah chick
        January 30, 2016, 12:04 pm

        His commitment to due process is really touching, ain’t it?

    • diasp0ra
      January 30, 2016, 5:46 am


      Does your condemnation also include the vast majority of administrative arrests, i.e. against Palestinians? Do Palestinians also have a right to a civil court and just due process?

      At this point even the Israeli government has admitted that the perpetrators were the settlers. Your belief is not justified or backed up by any evidence or proof.

    • Mooser
      January 30, 2016, 11:49 am

      “If it comes to light this attack was committed by Jews then they should be punished.”

      Sorry, don’t quote follow, “MaxNarr” . What does their religion have to do with it. Why, if people commit ARSON and MURDER (both of those can be capital crimes) does their religion matter? Please explain.

      (Oh, “MaxNarr” BTW: I just checked. All
      the suspects are denying they are Jews, having accepted Christ and Allah while in detention. So how do we proceed, legally, now? Those prison-cell conversions often turn out to be quite genuine.)

    • Mooser
      January 30, 2016, 8:56 pm

      “I condemn the administrative detention being performed on the settlers”

      Damn! I should know better, but “MaxNarr” sucks me in, every time. Sure “MaxNarr” you “condemn administrative detention”, you bet! That one was too over-the-top.
      Taken in completely by a parody-Zionist troll! I should know better.

  5. Elizabeth Block
    January 30, 2016, 10:21 am

    You may know how the photo of Aylan Kurdi, three years old, drowned on a beach, galvanized Canadians to organize, raise money, and pressure our government to accept Syrian refugees.
    It occurred to me to wonder: What would be the Palestinian Aylan Kurdi? and then I thought, If Ali Dawabshe doesn’t do it, nothing will.

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