A Palestinian family's brutal beating by Israeli settlers has been captured on video and aired just a week before the UN Security Council is set to consider a resolution condemning construction of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.
The BBC reports that the video, recorded last Sunday, shows four men attacking an elderly shepherd, his wife, and his nephew after the four told the shepherd to move his flock, which was grazing near the settlement of Susia in the West Bank. The BBC describes the film, which is available on its website:
Over the brow of the hill walk four masked men holding baseball bats. To the right of the screen, in the foreground, stands a 58-year-old Palestinian woman.
Thamam al-Nawaja has been herding her goats close to the Jewish settlement of Susia, near Hebron in the southern West Bank.
Within a few seconds, she, along with her 70-year-old husband and one of her nephews, will be beaten up.
As the first blows land, the woman filming - the daughter-in-law of the elderly couple - drops the camera and runs for help.
The BBC writes that Mrs. Nawaja was hospitalized for three days after the attack with a broken arm and fractured cheek. After returning home, she told the BBC that her attackers "don't want us to stay on our land. But we won't leave. We'll die here. It's ours." Agence France-Presse reports that an Israeli police spokesperson says an investigation has been opened, but no arrests have been made.
The International Middle East Media Center, a joint media effort between Palestinian and international journalists, reports that "Attacks by extremist Israeli Jewish settlers against the indigenous Palestinian population of the West Bank are common, and the incidents have increased as Israeli settlements have expanded on Palestinian land over the last 15 years."
The recording of this particular attack was made possible by the "Shooting Back" project launched by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. On its website, B'Tselem writes that by handing out more than 100 video cameras to Palestinian families in the West Bank, it hopes to provide them with a tool to prove illegal abuses they suffer at the hands of settlers.
Citizen journalism – a phenomenon that has garnered much attention of late – is particularly relevant in the context of the Israeli occupation, in which various types of abuse occur on a frequent basis and impact the daily lives of Palestinians. The ever-present violations of human rights constitute the mundane, ongoing reality of military occupation and settler enterprise, and are too often overlooked.
B'Tselem also uses this footage as a powerful tool for filing complaints with the army and the police, and as supporting evidence in court cases. In the West Bank, victims of abuse by settlers or soldiers are often discouraged from lodging complaints by weighty bureaucratic obstacles. B'Tselem now uses video as one way to promote accountability and seek legal redress for Palestinian complainants.
A B'Tselem spokesperson told the BBC that the project is proving effective.
The thinking behind the project is that when trouble flares, rather than just giving a statement to the Israeli police or army, video carries much more weight.
"The difference is amazing," says Oren Yakobovich, who leads the Shooting Back project.
"When they have the camera, they have proof that something happened. They now have something they can work with, to use as a weapon."
We asked a spokesman from the Susia settlement for a comment on Sunday's incident. He declined.
The release of the attacks comes just a week before the UN Security Council is set to consider a resolution demanding a halt to Israel's ongoing construction of settlements in Palestinian territory. Haaretz reports that the the resolution was spurred in part by the Israeli government's announcement of plans to build several hundred more settlements in largely Palestinian East Jerusalem.
UN sources told Haaretz that the draft is the first that addresses the settlement issue in "a sweeping, unequivocal and direct manner." According to the sources, the driving force behind the resolution is Saudi Arabia, although officially, it was an initiative of the Arab League.
Diplomats affiliated with the Arab bloc said that Arab representatives at the UN have been discussing the new resolution for several weeks, during which time the draft has undergone several revisions. ...
If the resolution is put to a vote, most Security Council members are expected to vote in favor of it. However, the United States' position on the issue is not yet clear. Although the American administration has consistently opposed Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the U.S. nonetheless generally vetoes Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, viewing them as unhelpful interference in the peace process.
Haaretz adds that the Arab bloc was also inspired to submit the resolution by recent comments made by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. In a message read June 3 during the International Meeting on the Question of Palestine, Mr. Ban condemned the settlement construction, saying:
Continuing settlement activity contravenes both international law and Israel's obligations under the Road Map. Also, the construction of the barrier in the occupied Palestinian territory contravenes the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. These activities must cease at once.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the Bush administration does not believe Israel should build any more settlements. She said the moves exacerbate tension in peace talks with Palestinians.
The road map peace plan requires Israel to freeze all settlement activity. Israel says it never agreed to freeze construction in Jerusalem, and says neighborhoods in the city have a different status from settlements in the occupied West Bank.