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Self-defense patrols form in West Bank as PA fails to protect Palestinians following Duma firebombing

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Since the settler firebombing that burned alive eighteen-month-old Ali Dawabshe and killed his father Sa’ad, Palestinians in Duma and other villages have formed night patrol groups to confront settler incursions. Unarmed, they have no means to repel settlers who have the full backing of the Israeli military.

“We don’t have anything to defend ourselves or any equipment. We just try to warn people if we see something,” said one member of the Dawabshe family who identified himself as Akram, preferring to use a pseudonym for his own security.

Before the firebombing, seven people had volunteered to protect the village, posting themselves at the northern and southern entrances to the village. Since then, the Duma municipality made efforts to recruit more volunteers, but only ten people have been consistent in their commitment. Now, activists are working to obtain flashlights and radios for the patrols.

Patrols have also organized in the the nearby village of Qusra.

Since 2004, there have been 1,000 settler attacks in the occupied West Bank every year  – nearly three per day. Though the Israeli military is ostensibly responsible for providing security in Area B – where Duma is located – the military’s role is to protect settlers and enforce occupation, leaving villages like Duma completely defenseless.

Villagers in Duma hope that the Palestinian Authority (PA) would provide defense from rampaging settlers, but PA forces have been completely absent. This is breeding resentment against the PA in the West Bank, and spurring on the growth of vigilante groups. This anger is due not only to the settler attacks but the fact that while the PA is unable to protect the people it is supposed to represent, it continues to collaborate with the Israeli military to repress rival political factions and resistance to the occupation.

The freshly buried graves of baby Ali and his father, Sa'ad Dawabshe. (Photo: Dan Cohen)

The freshly buried graves of baby Ali and his father, Sa’ad Dawabshe. (Photo: Dan Cohen)

I sat with Akram Dawabshe on a front porch in Duma on a hot afternoon. He has been imprisoned by the PA for eighteen days for the past two summers. In 2013, he was arrested on charges of affiliation with Hamas, which he denies. “I’m not with Fatah or Hamas. I’m Palestinian – that’s it,” he remarked.

During Israel’s 51-day war on the Gaza Strip last summer, which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians including 551 children, Akram says he was handcuffed and blindfolded while he was interrogated on suspicion of having a weapon. Akram denies these allegations too. “Some of the prisoners told me I should buy a weapon and turn it in to the PA, just to get it over with,” he said.

Functioning as a police state within the confines of the Israeli occupation, many of Akram’s friends have been arrested by the PA, and several were taken in for Facebook posts in support of armed resistance in Gaza last summer.

Though it has no security presence in Area B, the PA does Israel’s bidding outside of its assigned jurisdiction. As a high-ranking official from the Preventive Security Forces explained in a October, 2014 Al-Shabaka policy brief by Sabrien Amrov and Alaa Tartir, “We get lists with names. [The Israelis] need someone, and we are tasked to get that person for them.” While Israeli officials treat PA President Mahmoud Abbas as a whipping boy, lashing out at him when lone-wolf Palestinians attack Israelis, the piece notes that “Israeli intelligence officials [say] ‘coordination has never been as extensive’, with ‘coordination better in all respects.’”

Amrav and Tartir note, “The Euro-Med Observer for Human Rights recently reported that in 2013, Palestinian security forces had arbitrarily arrested 723 persons and interrogated 1,137 without clear charges, court decisions, or warrants. Additionally, the PA security forces arrested 56 persons because of Facebook status against them, arrested 19 journalists, and a number of cartoonists and writers. It further documented 117 cases of extreme torture.”

The Call for Armed Resistance Grows in the West Bank

The occupation continues to foster support for armed resistance in the West Bank and many have grown tired of the false promises of the PA. Following the burial of Sa’ad Dawabshe next to baby Ali, one segment of mourners chanted praise for armed resistance and asked al-Qassam and Saraya al-Quds, Hamas’ and Islamic Jihad’s respective armed wings, to take revenge for the firebombing. In the charred bedroom where babi Ali burned to death, “al-Qassam” had been scrawled onto the walls. As I took photographs, one villager furiously scrubbed the words away, fearful of the village being seen as identifying with armed resistance.

In Gaza, militant factions maintain a broad base of support among the population despite rivalries in their political wings. For example, Abu Obaida, the red kuffiyeh-wrapped charismatic spokesman for the al-Qassam brigades, remains Gaza’s most beloved figure. Similiarly, many Palestinians in the occupied West Bank who do not support the political aspirations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad do support their armed resistance wings. “We love to see rockets come from Gaza,” Akram told me. But as long as the PA exists, armed resistance in West Bank villages like Duma seems extremely unlikely. “It’s not possible here. Even if we tried, the PA would stop us,” he explained.

PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and his security forces attended the funerals of both Sa’ad and baby Ali Dawabshe. At the entrance to the village, unarmed PA security forces wearing military uniforms carried the body. “Bullshit,” Akram remarked. “It’s just a media show.”

Abed Dawabshe, a fifty-year-old history teacher agreed: “After they failed to protect the family, now they’re doing this? It’s too late.”

Dan Cohen

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

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26 Responses

  1. Hostage on August 14, 2015, 1:06 pm

    I think that the time has long since come and gone for the 10th Emergency Special session of the UN General Assembly to deploy a peace keeping force on the Palestinian side of the Green Line and send Israel the lions share of the assessments for its maintenance – in line its past practice in the Israeli instigated Suez Crisis, UNEF, and the ICJ “Certain Expenses” advisory opinion.

    Zionist hasbara has always lamented the so-called “fact” that Nasser’s ejection of the General Assembly’s UNEF peace keeping force started the Six Day War. It looks like its redeployment on the Palestinian side of the armistice border is the only thing that can finally end it once and for all.

    • ivri on August 15, 2015, 9:35 am

      I don`t think you thought through this ideal in its practical terms. What perfectly applied for the Israel-Egypt conditions with a huge desert separating two functioning countries is totally absent in the West-Bank where many Arab and Jewish villages, towns and settlements are juxtaposed within a miniature geographical area.
      Then, the Lebanon wars ended with similar arrangements but just about all the obligations of Hezbollah in it were violated )primarily not to be re-armed again. Israel cannot leave its security needs in other`s hands so will never agree to that.
      Also given the massive REAL big problems in Syria, and perhaps also in Iraq, Yemen, Sudan and Libya with millions dying, displaced and fleeing to other countries (including many to Europe), which are also on the UN SC agenda, just what attention span you expect it will find for this infinitely dwarfed case? Some people just refuse to recognize the far reaching repercussions, in terms of focus and centrality, of the truly immense changes in the region in the last two decades. It`s a new world here but some got so infatuated with “their case” – which once occupied the center-podium – that they are unable to move on.

      • Boo on August 15, 2015, 3:56 pm

        The crimes against humanity currently being committed by Assad’s backers and IS in Syria against Syrian civilians are certainly more numerous than the crimes against humanity being committed by Israeli settlers against West Bank civilians and the crimes against humanity committed by the IDF against the citizens of Gaza last summer.

        Despite being less numerous, those latter crimes are every bit as heinous, and therefore I reject this your latest patented attempt at deflection.

      • Accentitude on August 16, 2015, 5:41 am

        There are no “Jewish villages, towns” in the West Bank. Only Settlements and Outposts full of racist violent squatters who have no legal right to be there. Since the IDF has made it abundantly clear that they have no intention whatsoever to stop violence against the civilian Palestinian population of the West Bank,an international Peace Keeping force is exactly what’s necessary to prevent Settler violence against Palestinians, and of course, Israel in its role as the Occupier should foot the bill.

      • ivri on August 16, 2015, 11:53 am

        Bring in the foreign forces and also pay for them? It is the kind of fantasy thinking that has stalled everything in this saga for decades and decades now. Until somebody in the Arab side gets real it will go on like that for more decades.

      • Hostage on August 16, 2015, 1:55 pm

        @Hostage I don`t think you thought through this ideal in its practical terms.

        Sure I have. The alternative goes like this: When do we start conducting air strikes against all of these Israeli civilians openly carrying assault rifles into and out of rows of Jewish housing in the West Bank? Israelis claim that the loss of innocent lives from doing that in Gaza is not disproportionate to the military advantage that is derived. If Israelis are entitled to acquire “defensible borders”, then nothing prevents the bombing of all of these illegal outposts that harbor Jewish terrorists and are situated on “land that will be part of Palestine under any conceivable future settlement”.

        Also given the massive REAL big problems in Syria

        @ivri “UN Reveals Israeli Links With Syrian Rebels

        Reports by UN observers in the Golan submitted to 15 members of Security Council detail regular contact between IDF officers and armed Syrian opposition figures at the border.”
        read more:

        Inside Israel’s Secret War in Syria

        Barack Obama authorises air strikes against Isis militants in Syria

      • diasp0ra on August 16, 2015, 3:41 pm


        With regards to the “Arabs”, there is nothing more left to compromise. Seriously, be happy the 1967 borders are accepted and stop trying to eat more land and the conflict would have been over a decade ago.

        But you got greedy.

        As for fantasy, Ivri, everyone told Nelson Mandela that his whole campaigns goals were fantasy, and that he should be happy leading his own bantustan, we all know how that ended :)

        Time is not in your favor, as the recent PR crisis of Israel shows.

      • echinococcus on August 16, 2015, 3:54 pm

        So someone is busy imagining that the Zionists have any rights to any kind of protection. The owners of the land are entitled to full protection against the armed invaders, all of whom must be counted as invading, i.e. war criminal personnel –no matter if uniformed or not. To answer the avaricious question about the costs, obviously all costs of everything since November 1947 are to be born by the Zionist entity and its backers, i.e. the US, to the last red cent. What a harebrained question.

      • ivri on August 16, 2015, 5:20 pm

        @Diaspora: Nelson Mandela
        Why on earth will all cases in the world end up like there? This is the example everybody love to cite. Just for beginners, Mandela was a pacifist while the Arab campaign against Israel was throughout drained with blood – and a lot of it. Just the terror season in the second Intifada has left lasting scars here. This by itself makes a huge difference bot in the eyes of Israelis and the world`s.

      • James North on August 16, 2015, 6:54 pm

        ivri: You just lost what little shred of credibility you might have still had with your “Mandela was a pacifist” statement. Google “Umkhondo we Sizwe” and report back to us what you find.

      • diasp0ra on August 17, 2015, 6:53 am



        Mandela literally founded the armed wing of the ANC and received combat training abroad to fight the apartheid regime.

        Also, I’m sorry we didn’t lie down and die. It was truly monstrous of us to resist colonization :(

      • ivri on August 17, 2015, 9:11 am

        @James North
        Take it easy and don`t rush into insults. Decoding Mandela`s development is not for here but even if it is true that at early stages he was militant he quickly changed tack. Google yourself and find out that he was embraced by very many in the West as a man of peace.

      • Mooser on August 17, 2015, 2:42 pm

        “Decoding Mandela`s development is not for here but even if it is true that at early stages he was militant he quickly changed tack “

        Which only shows how easy it should be for Zionists to do the same. Why continue with your useless extreme and militant and criminal actions? Take Mandela’s example, and besides, where is the Jewish Gandhi?

    • diasp0ra on August 18, 2015, 7:55 am


      “but even if it is true that at early stages he was militant he quickly changed tack”

      You don’t know what you’re talking about. Read his biography. Mandela to the very end held that there is no moral conflict in resorting to violent resistance to fight oppressors. He said that in the end choosing the correct tactic is more important than dogmatism towards any kind of resistance.

      He maintained that had violent resistance been the way to achieve what he achieved, he would have gone with violent resistance. It was a question of effectiveness.

      There are so many radical leaders that are portrayed as “men of peace” in the west, by turning them into poster boys for non violence without mentioning their radicalism and ignoring their actual history.

      Same has happened with MLK, nobody talks about how militant and radical he was, they only remember out of context the “I have a dream speech” and ignore how he became more and more radical as time went on and was later assassinated with government involvement.

      That never gets mentioned, because they want to drill into peoples heads that anything challenging the status quo is bad. Please, demonstrate in a manner that is convenient to your oppressor.

      The same has happened with Mandela. Mandela was NEVER a pacifist, reading his biography reveals his stance on this. He did advocate violent resistance to oppression.

      Also, “the west” can go drown in its own hypocrisy, they had Mandela tagged as a terrorist for years even after the struggle was over. They only came to embrace him as a “”””man of peace”””” when it was convenient for them, but during the struggle he was turned to a villain and defamed nonstop.

  2. echinococcus on August 14, 2015, 2:04 pm

    Something is wrong with the title:

    Self-defense patrols form in West Bank as PA fails to protect Palestinians

    Since when was it the PA’s job to protect Palestinians? Read the job description in the Oslo thing: the PA is there to protect the Zionist entity, and itself too, from the resistance.

    • annie on August 14, 2015, 2:51 pm

      Read the job description in the Oslo thing: the PA is there to protect the Zionist entity, and itself too, from the resistance.

      you don’t say.

      Villagers in Duma hope that the Palestinian Authority (PA) would provide defense from rampaging settlers, but PA forces have been completely absent. This is breeding resentment against the PA in the West Bank, and spurring on the growth of vigilante groups. This anger is due not only to the settler attacks but the fact that while the PA is unable to protect the people it is supposed to represent, it continues to collaborate with the Israeli military to repress rival political factions and resistance to the occupation.

      • DavidDaoud on August 16, 2015, 4:53 am

        I can’t help seeing the parallels between the present situation in the West Bank and the “Black Lives Matter” movement in the U.S.A. The impunity to kill of the settlers and Israeli army. The same sort of impunity to kill black people by white policemen in some parts of the U.S.

      • echinococcus on August 16, 2015, 3:57 pm

        Just to clarify, any self-defence groups must defend simultaneously against Zionist entity uniformed goons, so-called “settlers” and other irregulars, and also, fully, against the collaborationist PA militia. All three are Zionist entity personnel.

    • diasp0ra on August 16, 2015, 4:16 pm


      Choose your battles.

      It would serve 0 practical purpose to attack PA personnel.

      Yes, the PA is crap, but attacking it in this fashion would only isolate the people of the village further.

      • echinococcus on August 16, 2015, 5:36 pm

        I wasn’t writing about how to proceed. How could I? I am not in or of the area. With enormous probability most will think that this kind of alliances/misalliances make sense and later realize they are useless; no use second-guessing people in the field.
        What has do be done and cannot be limited by that kind of considerations, though, is being very clear as to how things stands essentially. This is something that demands reminders when most discussants appear to be unclear.

  3. diasp0ra on August 14, 2015, 2:34 pm

    Like we say in Arabic in regards to the PA “Sulta bala Sulta”, or “An authority without any authority”.

    What kind of governing body can’t defend its own people? How do they feel like they have a lick of legitimacy?

    We know the situation. We know how rough it is, and we know your hands are tied in a million ways. But at the very least you could halt security coordination with Israel. You can’t keep making big speeches about how this crime will not pass without retribution, and then go and maintain security coordination with the people who committed this crime.

    The same speeches were made with Abu Khdeir, and they will happen for the next victim as well.

    As the adage goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

    In other news, all of Palestine is holding its breath for the possible death of hunger striker Mohammed Allan, who went on hunger strike over 54 days ago in protest for renewing his Administrative Detention without any charges. He hasn’t seen his family since March, and the Israelis are not allowing them to visit him in hospital even though the Red Cross says his death is very imminent.

    • Citizen on August 15, 2015, 5:50 am

      Perfect Zionist moral logic: force feed the hapless protesting administration detention victim to kill him & then claim humanitarian motive.

  4. annie on August 15, 2015, 3:49 am

    This peaceful and picturesque idyll is suddenly broken when the headlights of a car on the sand road below prompts one of Douma’s four civil defence units, comprising 10 volunteers each, to spring into action from the top of the valley at the edge of the village’s perimeter where the group is stationed.

    One volunteer shines a search light from the top of the pick-up truck searching the wadi for any signs of Israeli colonists.

    Volunteer head Habib urgently phones members of the other guard units which are stationed at other points on the village outskirts to enquire about unusual movement or activity.

    “It’s ok it’s not colonists. The car is from the village so we can relax but we will be on duty till 4am after starting our patrol at 10pm,” Habib tells Gulf News.

    The volunteers will not give their names as they are afraid of being arrested by the Israelis.

    Before Gulf News could accompany the group, our credentials had to be verified for security reasons.

    From the hill across the valley Israeli soldiers can be seen monitoring the village with binoculars and search lights.

    Other soldiers are placed at the entrance of the village checking the IDs of all who enter and leave the village.

    However, most Palestinians are too afraid to leave at night while Israeli colonists roam the roads freely under the protection of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF)

    • Citizen on August 15, 2015, 5:53 am

      Night run by n***** haters in Jim Crow South, protected by complicit local sheriff. Actually double worse since the crackers were home grown, not imported.

      • Mooser on August 17, 2015, 2:47 pm

        “Night run by n***** haters…”

        Never heard that expression before, Citizen. It’s opposite, sure, plenty of times, but that one is new to me.
        Do you think it is an appropriate use of the word ?

    • DavidDaoud on August 16, 2015, 4:56 am

      Chilling to imagine being one of those villagers, especially a man of a certain age.
      You got it right, Citizen ↑

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