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Israeli soldiers stand by as settlers attack civilians in West Bank village

Instead of attending to protesters wounded by settlers, including an Israeli photographer pushed off a five-foot terrace, a man dressed as a medic assaults another protester.

By Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

An Israeli settler in a Magen David Adom uniform attacks a left-wing demonstrator during a protest in Nabi Saleh, March 3, 2017. (Haim Schwarczenberg)

An Israeli settler in a Magen David Adom uniform attacks a left-wing demonstrator during a protest in Nabi Saleh, March 3, 2017. (Haim Schwarczenberg)

[Updated below]

Video and photographs show Israeli settlers, including one wearing part of a uniform of Israel’s national emergency and ambulance services, seemingly attacking demonstrators and photographers on Friday during a protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. Israeli soldiers present did nothing to prevent the violence.

After several months during which there were no weekly protests in the village, local residents, along with Israeli and international activists, marched toward the village spring, which was taken over by Israelis from the adjacent settlement of Halamish in 2009.

For years the army has prevented the weekly demonstration from reaching the spring, using closed military zone orders, tear gas, stun grenades, rubber-coated bullets, and live ammunition to do so.

Because there hadn’t been protests of late, it appeared the army was caught off on Friday, and the protesters managed to reach the spring, where they waved a Palestinian flag. Within a matter of minutes, settlers from Halamish arrived, and began to attack the protesters. Soldiers arrived shortly thereafter.

Israeli photographer Haim Schwarczenberg, who has long documented Nabi Saleh’s struggle, told +972 Magazine that a settler pushed him from one of the terraces, causing him to fall from a height of around five feet. He was left bruised, and some of his equipment was damaged. Video shot by self-styled village documentarian Bilal Tamimi shows one settler walking through a group of soldiers to push Schwarczenberg. The soldiers did nothing to stop the him. Later on the soldiers refused to detain or even write down the attacker’s information, he recalled.

WATCH: Photographer Haim Schwarczenberg is pushed by Israeli settlers (video by Bilal Tamimi)

Photographs from the incident also show appear to show an Israeli civilian armed with an M-16 assault rifle and wearing an official uniform of Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s national emergency medical, disaster, and ambulance services, pushing protesters. Soldiers appear to be standing aside, doing nothing to stop the violence.

The Israeli in the photo at the top of this post is grabbing a left-wing Israeli protester while another settler attacks him. One need not imagine what would happen to a Palestinian medic who tried to get in the middle in a similar fashion.

In 2015, Palestinian medics who tried to assist a wounded Palestinian who had been run over by an Israeli Border Police jeep during a demonstration were attacked by police officers with pepper spray.

This is not the first time MDA workers have been involved in violent incidents in the West Bank. The most famous example is Ofer Ohana, volunteer ambulance driver involved in the killing of Abdel Fatah al-Sharif, who was shot and killed by Elor Azaria in Hebron early last year. Ohana arrived at the scene in an MDA ambulance and shouted, “That dog is still alive… somebody do something,” moved toward the body the knife that al-Shariff had tried to use to stab Israeli soldiers before he was shot, and thus allegedly tampered with evidence. He also prevented al-Shariff from receiving medical attention, and had a significant influence on the events that transpired — like in many other cases in Hebron.

Controversy erupted after MDA became an official member of the International Committee of the Red Cross several years ago, when it became clear that the organization continued to operate in the occupied territories, despite pledging to cease its activities there. In 2013 MDA asked its staff in the West Bank to remove the organization’s official logo. Since then settlers have been trying to bring the logo back. +972 Magazine has spotted MDA ambulances bearing the logo stationed in settlements throughout the West Bank a number of times in recent years.

An additional video filmed by Schwarczenberg shows a settler encouraging soldiers to attack the protesters, before physically grabbing a soldier and telling him, “get in there.” Breaking the Silence recently published a report that examines the ways in which settlers act as the sovereign on the ground in the West Bank, very often giving orders to Israeli soldiers.

WATCH: Settlers order soldiers to attack protesters in Nabi Saleh

Settlers have been known to attack protesters and left-wing activists, even in the presence of security forces. For example, last July I was attacked, alongside Yehuda Shaul from Israeli anti-occupation group, Breaking the Silence, by settlers during a tour of Hebron with Irish author Colm Tóibín. The settlers broke two of my cameras, all while police officers looked on.

Last May, B’Tselem, an Israeli NGO that documents human rights violations in the occupied territories reported that a former volunteer had been struck on the head by settlers after he attempted to document settlers harassing Palestinian teenage women with dogs. Soldiers present did nothing to stop the attack, to detain the settlers or provide assistance to the volunteer, who was later hospitalized with minor injuries.

As detailed in a report by human rights group Yesh Din, tellingly titled “Standing Idly By,” Israeli troops have an obligation to protect civilians in the occupied territories.


A Magen David Adom spokesperson sent the following statement in response to a series of questions:

The man in the photographs is a volunteer EMT with MDA. He was dispatched to the incident by the settlement’s civilian security coordinator, in light of reports of injuries. Upon arrival he was blocked violently by the rioters who prevented him from reaching the patient, with the use of pushing, threats and shouting. With no other choice, the volunteer EMT was forced to separate between two people in order to reach the wounded, to provide him first aid and evacuate him from the location in an ambulance.

It should be emphasized that the volunteer didn’t use violence himself and did not strike [anyone] — but rather separated the sides to the best of his ability, in order to reach the person in need of medical care. After reaching the ambulance and transferring the wounded to the team that had arrived, the volunteer returned to the site in order to ensure that there weren’t any other wounded people, and only then returned to the settlement.

Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with this reality in which photographs are taken out of context in order to serve certain interests, but in this case it is the civilian in the photo who is guilty, who acted violently, who attempted to kick and hit the volunteer — who only asked that he step back from him and the patient. We are certain that the full documentation of the incident, as opposed to a few single frames, which were given to you tendentiously, will prove as much.

An Israeli military spokesperson sent the following statement:

[Last Friday] a group of around 50 Palestinian protesters and left-wing activists arrived at Meir Spring (editor’s note: Meir Spring is the name Israeli settlers gave to the village of Nabi Saleh’s spring) next to the village of Nabi Saleh waving flags and blocking the main route. Upon their arrival, they stopped an Israeli vehicle and attacked the passengers. A group of settlers arrived at the location and violent clashes broke out between the settlers and the Palestinians. IDF and Border Police forces separated the protesters and the settlers in order to take control of the incident and to clear the area. The claims raised will be looked into.

The following video has come to our attention. Starting at around minute 2:10, an Israeli settler in the grey sweatshirt and cargo pants appears to attack the man pictured at the top of this article, and a scuffle ensues:

A second video, which appears to be shot earlier at the same incident, shows the same Israeli man, wearing the same outfit, pulling up in his car, exiting the vehicle and punching a female photographer for no reason:

A version of this article also appears in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. Grandpa Frost

      All these videos show is violent, psychotic screeching by Arab and Leftist rioters trying to harass civilized Jews. This article is the definition of fake news.

      Reply to Comment
    2. carmen

      It’s obvious who the soldiers take their orders from. They appear as fearful of the settler trash as the GoI. Civil war on the horizon.

      Reply to Comment
    3. i_like_ike52

      The goal of the demonstrators in places like this or in Hevron is to drive the Jews out of these places. Many Jews resent such an attitude and are going to defend their presence these. The goal should be to SHARE historic and holy places, not to make riots in order to drive Jews out. Unfortunately, Arab “rights” are perceived as meaning “no Jews allowed”.

      Reply to Comment
      • Tommy Goldberg

        Ike, Ike, Ike. Black is white, up is down with you.

        It’s the settlers who refuse to share. They took over the spring with no legal justification whatsoever (according to international OR Israeli law), which has the immediate consequence of the army will banning the local Palestinian residents from accessing the site — for the “protection” of the land thieves.

        It’s the same with the illegal outposts. One of the Amona settlers (correctly?) predicted that the Palestinian landowners would not be able to return to their land even after the evacuation, as the army would order the area closed “for security.”

        Reply to Comment
    4. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Was it an authorized demonstration?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben

      Alexander Berman of New Paltz, New York says it best about the astounding entitlement mentality and the human rights level on which the settlers and their supporters operate. Berman, an American I presume, who in all probability has never lived in the Middle East and whose family also have not, apparently thinks that he has an ethnosupremacist right to lord it over people whose fathers and forefathers have lived in this area continuously for generations upon generations up to the present. (And if Lord Berman is a settler back home on a nice American vacation, free to come and go, swagger around, fly in fly out of Settler Disneyland, that makes the same point all the more.) And Lord of the Land Berman’s attitude?

      “Leftists with their Arab pets” shouldn’t “complain” when “Jews get sick of being antagonized…These leftists and Arabs are lucky I’m not there because I’d give them more than a little smack in the face.”

      The way Berman sees is “these Arab pets” should be “lucky I don’t smack them. Because I can. Because an army soldier is standing right behind me ready to shoot any Arab who dares step out of line.”

      What attitude and what history does this remind one of? With terrible irony. The demeanor of masters.

      Ze’ev Sternhell:
      What Israel’s founding fathers never imagined
      “No one ever envisioned the actual possibility that power would fall one day into the hands of people with the demeanor of masters, for whom the oppression of another nation was second nature. Who ever imagined that the Jewish community might one day turn into a colonialist entity and lay the foundations of an apartheid regime as a permanent condition, and would want to engrave that shame in its law books on top of that?”

      _Ike52 picks up on the same theme with gusto. Here we go again with the “Judenrein” lie and the reverse victimization ploy. Ike, your ability to twist things around 180 degrees is something else. These settlers are gangsters. Organized criminals. Thugs. Drunk on a herrenvolk mentality, small people full of themselves because they have an occupying army to hide behind. Very ugly people. As always with the Israeli Right, your concept of “sharing” and “rights” is most interesting. Halamish settlers take over village spring, defend this with thuggery, but it’s the demonstrators against this that have an “attitude problem.” The narcissism in this is glaring. But you know if you were really into sharing you would annex the entire West Bank and extend citizenship to all. That you obviously have no intention of doing that debunks your claim to “sharing.”

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        Benny with his “settlements” talk again. If a formal peace deal would be negotiated and signed, there would not be illegal settlements. There would only be legal ones.

        Right now, the situation is ambiguous. But with a peace deal everything would be resolved, even if some settlements may be dismantled or some settlements would end up going under Palestinian Arab rule.

        But Abbas does not want to resolve things (or maybe he knows that he can’t because Hamas is breathing down his neck). So, Abbas is refusing to negotiate.

        Without negotiations, there cannot be peace.

        Without peace, the occupation continues. And it is clear that the “settlements” are just a convenient excuse.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          “Without negotiations, there cannot be peace. Without peace, the occupation continues.”

          This has such a creepy Orwellian feel to it. Do you ever listen to yourself?

          “And it is clear that the “settlements” are just a convenient excuse.”

          I’d love to see you say this if Palestinians “settled” in West Jerusalem or anywhere west of the green line. (I know, it’s an impossibility, but as a thought exercise, it says it all.)

          Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            AJEW:“Without negotiations, there cannot be peace. Without peace, the occupation continues.”

            BEN:”This has such a creepy Orwellian feel to it. Do you ever listen to yourself?”

            I have to, because you just don’t respond to these very pertinent issues. You run from those questions like a rabbit. Your attempt to juggle out of a response to Abbass’s failure to even negotiate is pitiful, Benny.

            AJEW:“And it is clear that the “settlements” are just a convenient excuse.”

            BEN:”I’d love to see you say this if Palestinians “settled” in West Jerusalem or anywhere west of the green line. (I know, it’s an impossibility, but as a thought exercise, it says it all.)”

            No need for a thought exercise. Between 1948 and 1967 when the Arabs controlled the West Bank, they settled in the Jewish quarter of East Jerusalem and your kind never criticised them for taking over Jewish properties.

            But we digress (thanks to you). The question is how will this mess be resolved if Abbas refuses even to negotiate? How can there be peace without negotiations? By magic? That’s what you seem to imply Benny by dismissing my question as Orwellian.

            Oh and how can the occupation end without peace, Benny? Tell me what is wrong with THAT question?

            Reply to Comment
    6. Les Fawcett

      What would you do if someone tried to steal your country?

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        You already have an answer to your question. Just look at history. The Arabs DID try to steal our country, they attacked us in 1948 and 1967 but we fought back and stopped them.

        As for the West Bank which we ended up controlling after the Arab war of aggression in 1967, we have said time and time again, we are willing to withdraw from most of it as part of a negotiated peace deal in which Israel would end up with secure and recognised borders, in line with UN SC resolution 242. But the Palestinian Arabs are still not even Willing to negotiate with us, let alone sign a peace deal. Under the circumstances therefore, the occupation has to continue.

        What would the allies have done if Germany and Japan would have refused to sign a peace deal after they were defeated? I’ll tell you what: they would have reacted with much greater savagery towards the German and Japanese population if they too would have continued with terrorism (as the Arabs do) AND Germany and Japan would be occupied to this day, or they would all be dead. You doubt it? Then read what the Brits did to Dresden towards the end of the war (the entire city was fire bombed and hundreds of thousands of Germans ended up dead and maimed). Oh and of course Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuked by the Americans resulting in similar numbers of casualties as Dresden.

        We are complete bumbling amateurs compared to all of that.

        Now, please, I am not necessarily being critical of the allies. It was a savage war. The Germans and the Japanese were not exactly angels either. Their atrocities exceeded the atrocities of the allies. All the more reason for a bit of introspection before going to town on Israel and criticising us mindlessly non stop. We too are pitted against a ruthless foe, the Arabs, who are not exactly innocent babes in the wood who are just victims and did nothing wrong!

        AAAANd… they still refuse to even negotiate! So what exactly do you want us to do? Be compliant?! Nah!

        Reply to Comment
        • AJew

          “What would you do if someone tried to steal your country?”

          I would try to negotiate as good a peace deal as I could get resulting in a two state solution with agreed and recognised borders which no one would have the excuse to try and steal.

          I would then get on with life and try to build up my country for the benefit of our citizens instead of indulging in war fantasies involving on me taking over my neighbor’s country (Israel) and kicking it’s population (the Jews) out trying to send them “back where they came from” which is the wet dream of the Palestinian Arabs. A wet dream which is the source of all their misfortunes!

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            ​”which no one would have the excuse to try and steal”

            At least you let slip what you’re really up to. You’re not a negotiator you’re a loan shark (land shark?) — who wants Abbas to cough up Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim, Efrat, E1, East Jerusalem, etc., or else. There’s a difference. You would never submit to what you’re demanding he submit to. Enough with the pose. This simple minded refrain of “Abbas refuses to negotiate (while we gobble settlements)” convinces no one. Illusion of haggling. Read the estimable Shir Hever on “the illlusion of haggling”

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “At least you let slip what you’re really up to.”

            Don’t be childish, Benny no slip, I just did not want to side track the discussion into that tired accusation which we have done to death. Some other time maybe?

            In the meanwhile, for the sake of going on with this discussion about how to move on with life and make peace, I was prepared to use your language to show you two the error of your ways.

            Your way is to be stuck forever and not to move forward. Your way is not to even negotiate but rather to stomp your little feet and throw hissy fits that unless your enemy accepts your preconditions you won’t even negotiate. And you don’t care that in the meanwhile “Rome Is Burning while you are fiddling and throwing tantrums”.

            Reply to Comment