Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Israeli squatters on land owned by Palestinian families went berserk on Sunday, after two squatters were shot by a Palestinian guerrilla in Huwwara, a small town of several thousand residents in the Nablus district. The shooter appears to have been from Nablus and was a member of the “Lion’s Den” resistance movement. The squatters set fire to at least 20 homes in the Palestinian hamlet, sometimes with the family still inside, and burned 30 automobiles and many trees. They threw rocks at people and shot at them and at houses. One Palestinian, Samah Hamdallah Aktash, 37, died from a gunshot wound to the belly, another is in critical condition from being hit in the head by a large rock, and nearly 100 other people were wounded. So reports Josh Breiner at Haaretz and WAFA.
The terrorist mob was from the “illegal” squatter-settlement of Evyatar. All squatting by Israelis on Palestinian land is illegal by the 4th Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute. But even the Israeli government frowns on Israelis just going off and building homes on Palestinian farms owned by local families. The Israeli government prefers to take away the Palestinians’ land itself, exercising a sort of eminent domain, and then sending in squatters. Under international law, it is a war crime for Israel to usurp the land of the Palestinians it occupies.
Breiner quotes opposition politician Yair Lapid as saying that the current, extremist government of Binyamin Netanyahu is a danger to Israel’s security, after “Smotrich’s militias set out to burn Hawara.”
Bezalel Smotrich, the leader of the fascist Religious Zionism Party, has been put in charge of the occupied Palestinian West Bank by Netanyahu, the first time such authority has been invested in a civilian Israeli politician rather than in the Israeli military.
Haaretz published an editorial Sunday by Zehava Galon pointing out that Israel is already in breach of international law by sending squatters in to steal Palestinian land. At least the fiction of a military occupation had been maintained, however, by keeping the administration of the Palestinian West Bank in the hands of the Israeli military, as required by the 4th Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute. Making Smotrich the civil administrator was an open declaration of an intent to annex this occupied territory permanently.
US State Department spokesman deplored the terrorist attack that killed two Israelis and the “violence of the settlers.” Commenters on social media pointed to the difference in language. Surely what the squatters did is terrorism, which the 1990s US federal code defined as violence undertaken by non-state actors against civilians in order to effect a change in political policy.
According to the Israeli newspaper Arab 48,, Mohammad Barakah said Sunday, “The squatters are an arm of the Occupation government, which bears full responsibility for the crimes and the “Night of Fires,” in Hawwara, Zaatara and everywhere in the West Bank and Jerusalem.” Barakah is the head of the High Follow-up Committee, an elected body representing many Israelis of Palestinian heritage, who form 21% of the Israeli population.
That is, Lapid and Barakah agreed with one another that the squatters’ rampage was the responsibility of the Netanyahu government and could not simply be dismissed as the action of a few random individuals. Smotrich, the new governor of the Palestinian West Bank, has often engaged in hate speech against Palestinians and incited to racial hatred.