On Friday morning, a group of Israeli settlers entered the West Bank Palestinian village of At-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills. The settlers, who were escorted by the Israeli military, marched through the village in what seemed to be an attempt to intimidate and provoke Palestinian residents. Several of the settlers were armed
According to Operation Dove, several Israeli military vehicles parked outside of At-Tuwani’s entrance around 10:30 am. Dozens of settlers from the illegal settlement of Havat Maon arrived on foot around noon. They entered the village soon after and were escorted by the Israeli army. Settlers trampled on a resident’s agricultural field and an olive tree was reportedly damaged during the march.
Operation Dove adds that since January 29, Israeli settlers have damaged or cut down 17 Palestinian-owned olive trees in the area.
As settlers marched through At-Tuwani on Friday, they verbally harassed villagers. Witnesses report that the residents of At-Tuwani stayed calm, despite the fact that there is a real fear of settler violence based on past experiences with settlers from Havat Maon, who have attacked and injured residents of At-Tuwani and international escorts as they made their way from the village to school.
Settlers and soldiers made their way through the village, stopping at a site that some Israeli archaeologists claim to be an ancient synagogue. Some of the settlers began to pray while others, Operation Dove says, “provoked the Palestinians.”
At-Tuwani is located in Israeli-controlled Area C. The village predates the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the neighboring settlements. Because Palestinian residents face violence from settlers, the Israeli army is supposed to escort the area’s children to school. But it is often remiss in this duty.
As the occupying power, Israel is responsible for ensuring that all residents’ basic needs are met. While At-Tuwani has had electricity and running water for approxinately a year now, most of the surrounding Palestinian villages remain without it.
Now, I must point out the obvious: imagine what would happen if Palestinians, armed or not, tried to march into a settlement. Palestinians are barely allowed to march through their own villages. And they certainly don’t get any protection from the military when they do so.
Friday’s events are yet another example of Israel’s discriminatory policies that give privilege to Jews at the expense of non-Jews.
While the Israeli government might occasionally pretend that it doesn’t have control over the settlers, the military escort provided to the settlers who marched in At-Tuwani on Friday reminds that it is the state and the army that facilitate the settlers’ out-of-control behavior.
A version of this post first appeared on the website of the Alternative Information Center.