On 2 September, 2015 the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC) lodged a submission with the UN relating to the impact of Israeli settler violence on Palestinian women and families in the West Bank. One of the ideas behind the submission was to see what changes, if any, have occurred since the UN published a report on the impact of the settlements in 2013.
The submission found that on the question of numbers, in the past two years the settler population in East Jerusalem and the West Bank has increased by 65,000 or 12.5 per cent. This development alone would seem to make the stated policy goal of the US, EU and UN of a two-state solution increasingly improbable. The submission also refers to a recent study
which found that 60,000 settlers in the West Bank are actually US citizens. We have not yet had time to seek legal advice as to whether these individuals are breaking any US laws but it is an interesting question given that it is still the US position that settlements are illegal and an impediment to peace.
After noting that housing starts in the settlements are projected to jump 68 per cent this year, compounding an already compounded problem, the submission turns to the human impact of this activity by highlighting the individual cases of five women who experienced attacks by settlers in 2015. Two cases documented by WCLAC earlier this year bear a chilling similarity
to the attack in the village in Duma
in July which resulted in an infant being burnt to death after his house was firebombed. The infant’s father later also died of his injuries in hospital. In another case, a 61-year-old woman
describes how a rock was hurled through the window of the car she was travelling in by a settler while a group of Israeli soldiers were standing idly by
The submission also highlights the link between the settlements and the devastating night raids
conducted by the Israeli military on Palestinian homes each night. It is conservatively estimated that the military conducts around 1,400 night raids on Palestinian communities each year, which equates to over 65,000 night raids since martial law was imposed in June 1967. Our evidence indicates that these night raids take place on average within two kilometers from a settlement and even closer to roads used by settlers, highlighting a painfully obvious point: allowing individuals to move into a conflict zone in violation of international law leads to friction and further conflict.
There is a degree of predictability about this cycle. Successive Israeli Governments encourage, facilitate and finance settlement growth; tensions rise and the military is forced to crack down on the Palestinian population to ensure that the settlers can go about their daily lives largely undisturbed by the natives, otherwise known as me and my fellow Palestinians.
A few days after WCLAC lodged the submission Reham Dawabsheh died
from the injuries she sustained when her home was firebombed in a suspected settler attack in the West Bank village of Duama on 31 July 2015. Her infant son Ali was killed during the attack and her husband succumbed to his injuries in early August. Four-year-old Ahmed is now the sole survivor of the attack and remains hospitalised with second degree burns to 60 per cent of his body.
Salwa Duaibis is the head of the International Advocacy Unit at the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC).