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Settlers arrested in connection with near-fatal shooting of Palestinian man in Qusra

Police make rare arrests in connection to settler violence against Palestinians. But the circumstances surrounding the shooting were unique, and likely played no small role in pushing police to investigate seriously.

Settlers attack Palestinians in Qusra as IDF soldiers stand by (photo Sa’ad Al-Wadi)

Update (April 3): Police released all of the suspects and cleared them of wrongdoing, according to The Jerusalem Post

In a rare display of law enforcement against violent Jewish settlers, Israeli police raided the notorious illegal outpost of Esh Kodesh early Tuesday morning. Police arrested five settlers, including an active duty soldier, in connection with the near-fatal shooting of a young Palestinian man from the nearby village of Qusra a month and a half ago.

While the arrests are commendable, there are two things to keep in mind. Firstly, arrests do not necessarily mean that indictments will be filed, and if they are, what charges will be brought.

More significant, however, is that the shooting of Hilmi Abdul Azizi in Qusra was a unique case in several regards.

The shooting came at the crescendo of Palestinian protests surrounding hunger striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, six killings in as many weeks of unarmed Palestinians by the IDF, and a price tag attack against the village only days before.

Media outlets in Israel and around the world were speculating at the time that a third Intifada might be around the corner. Israel was so worried that Abdul Azizi’s death might spark more widespread violence that it even sent Israeli doctors on a covert mission into Nablus (a truly exceptional step), in order to transfer him to a hospital in Israel for lifesaving treatment.

Additionally, Israeli media picked up on the story and was highly critical of the “embarrassing” lack of law enforcement when it came to the string of settler attacks against Qusra. (Watch the Channel 2 report in Hebrew.) Police inexplicably closed their investigation into the price tag attack, in which six Palestinian cars were torched, based on “evidence” they “gathered” — without ever exiting their vehicles or stepping foot in the village.

Furthermore, the incident in which Abdul Azizi was shot, was captured in a series of photos that show settlers pointing guns at Palestinians while IDF soldiers stood idly by.

A settler (in white) pointing a gun at Palestinians on the plantations of Qusra, February 23 2013 (photo: Saad Al-Wadi)

There should be little doubt that the combination of critical media coverage, the embarrassing police investigation into the price tag attack and the fear of an outbreak of violence are significant factors, which create the context for today’s arrests.

Had those external factors not existed, one might question whether police would have taken this case seriously enough to even investigate, let alone arrest the suspects, who were photographed at the scene of the shooting, pointing their weapons at Palestinians.

It’s not that police have never arrested Jewish settlers for attacks against Palestinians, but cases in which they do are rare, and convictions are even rarer. On the off chance that this case results in any convictions, it shows the paramount importance of critical media coverage, which shines light on incidents that would otherwise be ignored. Most of the time such exposure is a futile exercise, but every once in a while it makes it so that police have no choice but to take the violence seriously.

Read also:
Police ignore Palestinian complaint about settler violence
UN report shows 40% rise in settler violence in 2011
Why IDF soldiers stand idly by when settlers attack Palestinians

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    1. American

      That’s encouraging. Do they publish the names of the arrestees?

      Reply to Comment
      • Haifawi

        No. In normal countries people are presumed innocent until guilty and we don’t do the whole “perp-walk” thing that the US seems so fond of.

        Note: I think that all settlers should have their names published for all the world to see. If you’re gonna commit war crimes then people should be aware of it.

        Reply to Comment
        • American

          By not publishing their names, you create the ideal situation for the criminal settlers. They can commit repeat offenses at various locations and no one will know. Otherwise, all you have left is the one-sided narrative as published in the JP.

          Now imagine if the JP story (which seems completely pro-settler to me) had ended instead with a sentence such as this: “One of the released settlers had been involved in eight previous incidents of violence in which Palestinians were injured or killed. The settler was cleared and released in every single one of the eight cases”. That addition would make things seems less like the whitewashed case of justified self-defense, as in the JP, eh?

          By concealing their identities, you also cannot tie the arrestees to any past history of criminal convictions before they became a settler. As I’ve familiarized myself a little with these situations, I’ve begun thinking that many of the settlers have criminal personalities to begin with. There seems to be something *wrong* with them in the head.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Empirical Conservative

      I’m sorry, but to me the arrests are “commendable” in the same way that the picking up of my trash every Friday by employees of the sanitation department is “commendable”. Given the publicity, there was no need to hunt for any evidence as it has all been gift-wrapped for them. So the police are performing the very minimal requirement of their job. But of course, the mere fact that they are doing so when the perps are Jewish and the victims are Palestinian seems to be notable. And therein lies the sad tale.

      Reply to Comment
      • I find it hard to believe the settlers would have been detained at all if 200 Palestinians entered some settler controlled area throwing stones, as the JP link you provide says. I also find it hard to believe that the police would not have considered other possibilities (like the Boarder Gaurds as mentioned in JP) before arresting settlers.

        And I find the speed of release indicative not of necessary innocence, but rather protection from above–and do not not mean Yahweh.

        Reply to Comment
        • American

          The photograph establishes the positions of Palestinians and settlers. If someone with a telephoto lens were to return there (and not get arrested or murdered), they could take establishing shots as factual evidence – which would matter to the 1% of the population on either side who make their mind up on facts rather than pre-existing bias.

          Reply to Comment