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(en) Palestine/Israel, MEDIA: "Truth from the land of Israel" - The "fate" of Mr Kelley.....

From Gush Shalom <info@gush-shalom.org>
Date Sun, 9 Sep 2001 02:17:13 -0400 (EDT)


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      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E
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[Editor Note: The "vigilantes" mentioned in the article are ALL
well known to the authorities and the general public. They get
lot of exposure in the media - including the public radio and TV,
daily newspapers, and their "pirate" radio station tolerated by the
authorities. 
In extreme cases they were investigated and even brought to court, but 
seldom convicted. Even when convicted they got very light sentences. 
Even when convicted as murderers, they got amnesty
and never been in jail for more than few years.
I.}


> From:           	"Yehudit Harel" <ye_harel@netvision.net.il>

Jack Kelley of USA Today wrote a cover story called "Vigilantes take up 
arms, vow to expel 'Muslim filth'" In it, he exposes Israeli extremists and
terrorists and their effect on the turbulent situation.  

Mr. Kelley came under attack, receiving over 300 emails from settler friends 
worldwide. He had received only 5 positive emails. We received a phone call 
from a distraught Mr. Kelley telling of the overwhelming Jewish criticism.  


ACTION REQUESTED:  

Email USA Today and Jack Kelley thanking them for their insight 
into the matter. They can be reached at:  

jkelley@usatoday.com 
editor@usatoday.com 

Yehudith

Vigilantes take up arms, vow to expel 'Muslim filth'
By Jack Kelley USA TODAY

                 HEBRON, West Bank -- After a quick prayer, Avi Shapiro
                 and 12 other Jewish settlers put on their religious
                 skullcaps, grabbed their semiautomatic rifles and headed
                 toward Highway 60.

                 There, they pushed boulders, stretched barbed wire and
                 set tires afire to form a barricade that, they said,
                 would stop even the biggest of Palestinian taxis. Then
                 they waited for a vehicle to arrive. 

                 As they crouched in a ditch beside the road, Shapiro, the
                 leader of the group, gave the settlers orders: Surround
                 any taxi, ''open fire'' and kill as many of the
                 ''blood-sucking Arab'' passengers as possible. 

                 ''We are doing what (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon
                 promised but has failed to do: drive these sons of Arab
                 whores from the Land of Israel,'' said Shapiro, 42, who
                 moved here with his wife and four children 3 years ago
                 from Brooklyn. ''If he won't get rid of the Muslim filth,
                 then we will.''

                 Claiming they have been abandoned by Israel's government
                 and determined to rid the West Bank of Arabs, vigilante
                 Jewish settlers are shooting and beating Palestinians,
                 stealing and destroying their property and poisoning and
                 diverting their water supplies, Israeli and Palestinian
                 officials say.

                 Though Jewish extremists have lashed out before -- most
                 notoriously in 1994 when a U.S. settler, Baruch
                 Goldstein, gunned down 29 Arabs in a nearby mosque --
                 never before have they struck with such frequency,
                 Israeli officials say. And nowhere has the violence been
                 as intense as in this disputed city, believed to be the
                 burial place of the Biblical prophet Abraham. 

                 Nearly 450 right-wing Jews, all of whom are armed and
                 claim a Biblical right to the land, live here among
                 120,000 Palestinians. Many, like Shapiro and his
                 colleagues, are ready to strike at any time.

                 Israeli and U.S. officials have warned Sharon that if the
                 violence against Palestinian civilians increases, it
                 could enflame already high emotions and lead the entire
                 region into war.

                 ''It only takes a spark to light a very big fire here,''
                 says Yossi Sarid, a left-wing Israeli opposition leader.
                 ''This is a city that is cursed.''

                 'A time bomb'

                 Since the start of the latest surge of violence in Israel
                 a year ago this month, at least 119 Palestinians have
                 been killed by Israeli civilians in the West Bank and
                 Gaza, according to B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights
                 group that has been critical of both sides. Hundreds have
                 been hospitalized, it says.

                 During the same time, at least 30 settlers have been
                 killed by Palestinian gunmen. 

                 In July, Jewish vigilantes killed three Palestinians,
                 including a 3-month-old boy, in Nablus. The State
                 Department condemned the attack as a ''barbaric act'' of
                 ''unconscionable vigilantism.'' No one has been charged
                 in the attack. 

                 ''These people are a time bomb,'' says Hanna Nasser,
                 Palestinian mayor of the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
                 ''No one is safe.''

                 The almost daily attacks have been condemned by nearly
                 all Israelis, including most settlers. Politicians, who
                 fear the extremists will spoil Israel's attempt to
                 portray itself as the victim rather than the aggressor in
                 this conflict, have been the most vocal.

                 ''These Jewish terrorists are criminals,'' Israeli
                 Foreign Minister Shimon Peres says. ''They've gone too
                 far.'' 

                 Yet, the attacks are expected to increase, Israeli
                 officials say. A group of Jewish vigilantes who possess
                 bomb-making materials has formed in Hebron, the officials
                 say. 

                 The group, which claimed responsibility for three recent
                 Palestinian deaths, has been distributing fliers in the
                 West Bank that read: ''Revenge is holy. It should be up
                 to the government to do it, but unfortunately, the
                 government does not care about the murder of Jews. There
                 are people whose patience has run out.''

                 Security officials also say they fear that the extremists
                 are widening their targets to include Israeli police and
                 soldiers sent to protect the settlers, as well as Western
                 diplomats and European peace monitors. All have recently
                 been attacked. The settlers accuse them of not doing
                 enough to protect them or of favoring the Palestinians.

                 On Aug. 21, 85 European Community monitors who had
                 patrolled Hebron since 1994 withdrew after complaining of
                 weeks of verbal and physical abuse by the settlers.
                 ''Every day, we were kicked, dragged and beaten by the
                 settlers,'' says Karl-Henrik Sjursen of Norway, chief of
                 the observer mission. ''They made life impossible for
                 us.''

                 Shots at a taxi

                 On a recent Sunday, Shapiro and the 12 other extremists
                 spotted their first target: a white Palestinian taxi that
                 had turned the corner and begun to rumble toward them.
                 From a hill 50 yards away, the Jewish men could be seen
                 removing the safety locks from the weapons. Their wives
                 were grabbing extra ammunition clips. Their children, all
                 of them younger than 12, were picking up rocks.

                 But the Palestinian driver, upon seeing the settlers,
                 brought his Mercedes stretch taxi to a sudden stop 50
                 yards from the checkpoint. He quickly turned the car
                 around. Cursing aloud, Shapiro ordered the men to open
                 fire. The shooting lasted for 10 seconds. 

                 At least two bullets hit the car. One shattered its back
                 window. Several women wearing white Islamic headscarves
                 could be heard screaming and seen ducking. It wasn't
                 known whether anyone was injured.

                 ''We'll keep this up until we eliminate all the Muslim
                 filth,'' Shapiro said before the confrontation. ''We have
                 to: It's our Jewish duty.''

                 'God's land given to us'

                 Analysts such as Elisha Efrat of Tel Aviv University
                 estimate that 10% of the 177,000 settlers in the West
                 Bank and Gaza are extremists, people who are willing to
                 die before giving up their land.

                 Many of them live behind 25-foot tall stone fences and
                 bulletproof windows in Hebron. The 450 settlers here, and
                 the 7,000 others who live down the road in
                 Israeli-controlled territory, see themselves as the
                 guardians of Hebron, which is considered Judaism's second
                 holiest city after Jerusalem. All are protected by
                 several thousand Israeli soldiers and police.

                 ''This is God's land given to us, the Israeli people,''
                 says settler Ariel Fischer, 38, citing Biblical passages
                 that support Israel's claim of the land. Like most of the
                 extremists, he's Israeli-born. ''If you don't wear a
                 yarmulke (skullcap), get out.'' 

                 Hebron is also home to 120,000 Palestinians, many of whom
                 live in the hilltop area of Abu Sneineh. 

                 For centuries, Arabs and Jews coexisted peacefully in
                 Hebron. Then a riot in 1929 resulted in the deaths of
                 more than 60 Jews. The British, who governed what was
                 then Palestine, resettled the remaining Jews elsewhere.

                 In 1967, after Israel captured the West Bank of the
                 Jordan River, some Jews returned. But those who came were
                 the most ideologically extreme of Israelis. Backed by
                 government policies that encouraged them to move into the
                 West Bank, the Israelis claimed a Biblical right to the
                 city and demanded that the Arabs leave.

                 Then in 1997, the Israeli army, which had controlled
                 Hebron since the war 30 years ago, withdrew from 80% of
                 the city and ceded control to the Palestinian Authority. 

                 The remaining 20% was left for the settlers.

                 That was a recipe for disaster, settlers say. Almost
                 daily since last September, there have been shots fired
                 into their settlement by Palestinian snipers. In
                 response, Israel put 30,000 Palestinians, whose homes
                 surround the settlement, under a 24-hour curfew. It
                 prohibits them from leaving their homes, even to go to a
                 doctor or attend school, and jails them if they do. Twice
                 a week, the curfew is lifted for a few hours to allow the
                 residents to shop. The rest of the time, they are in
                 their homes.

                 Last week, hundreds of Israeli troops, backed by dozens
                 of tanks and bulldozers, swept into Hebron for several
                 hours to destroy buildings they say had been used by
                 Palestinian snipers. Settlers want Israel to reestablish
                 control of the area by permanently reoccupying all of
                 Hebron. Until that happens, settlers say, they're forced
                 to take ''pre-emptive actions'' to stop the Palestinian
                 gunfire.

                 ''People here are extremely upset,'' says David Wilder, a
                 spokesman for Jewish settlers here. ''We're upset by the
                 daily shooting, killings and harassment by Palestinians.
                 People feel abandoned (by Israel's government) and so
                 some people are going to take up guns.'' Says another
                 settler spokesman Noam Federman, ''If we don't take up
                 guns, we'll be ducks in a shooting range.''

                 But Israeli officials say the settlers often provoke the
                 violence. Unlike the Palestinians, the settlers are free
                 to leave their homes at will. They regularly attack
                 Palestinian shops while the Palestinians, who are forced
                 to stay indoors because of the curfew, can only watch,
                 according to human rights groups.

                 Ahmad Abu Neni, 55, is blind and a Palestinian. His small
                 kiosk of cleaning supplies has been ransacked three times
                 since last September by settlers, human rights officials
                 say. He also has been beaten in the back with a brick and
                 punched repeatedly, they add.

                 Neni says Israeli soldiers tried to break up one of the
                 attacks by firing a concussion grenade at the attackers,
                 only to set his clothes on fire. He suffered third-degree
                 burns. His shop now closed, he survives on handouts of
                 food and money. ''If I had money and could see, I would
                 leave,'' Neni says. ''It's just a matter of time before
                 they beat me again.''

                 Nearby, Nafez Bani Jaber, 45, was burying all 123 of his
                 sheep. He says they were poisoned last week after 10
                 Jewish extremists chased him off his fields. Israeli
                 police say they have found needles dipped in poison that
                 they believe the settlers used on the sheep. Police say
                 poison also was dumped down a nearby well that
                 Palestinians use. 

                 ''First they poisoned the sheep. Next will be the
                 children,'' Jaber says. ''These are war crimes.''

                 Often, the violence directed at the Palestinians is aimed
                 at their Muslim faith. Settlers have spray painted
                 graffiti reading ''Mohammed is a homosexual,'' referring
                 to the Islamic prophet, and painted Jewish Stars of David
                 on the walls of the local Arab market. They also have
                 surrounded Muslim women and tried to rip off their
                 Islamic headscarves and body veils, human rights groups
                 say.

                 Samar Abdul-Shafti, 36, a Palestinian mother of two, was
                 photographed last month trying to escape several settlers
                 who were beating her as they tried to remove her
                 headscarf. It has happened two other times since then,
                 she says, revealing bruises on her arms, legs and
                 forehead. 

                 ''The Jews are trying to do to us what was done to them
                 during the Holocaust,'' Shafti says. ''They must not be
                 allowed to drive us from our homes. Someone must help.''

                 'Ashamed to be a Jew'

                 Palestinian police say they don't have the means to
                 defend the Arab residents.

                 Israeli soldiers seem unwilling or unable to help. Noam
                 Tivon, Israeli Defense Forces brigade commander for
                 Hebron, says his soldiers are in Hebron to protect the
                 settlers, not the Palestinians. Tivon says his soldiers
                 and police officers often are ambushed by settlers whom
                 he calls ''hooligans.'' 

                 The settlers accuse the police of failing to stop the
                 Arab violence.

                 ''They throw rocks at us, curse at us and vandalize our
                 police cars,'' says Israeli policeman Shahar Mahsomi, 25.
                 He suffered a concussion in March after a settler struck
                 him on the head with a rock. Another settler tried to
                 stab two police officers in the same scuttle. ''I never
                 thought I'd be fighting Jews,'' Mahsomi says.

                 The situation is just as dangerous at the nearby
                 settlements of Kiryat Arba and Givat Harsina where nearly
                 7,000 settlers, many of whom are hard-liners, regularly
                 attack neighboring Palestinians.

                 ''I can't believe we are risking our lives to defend
                 these fanatics,'' says Sgt. Avi Alamm, 28, as he watches
                 a settler boy, dressed as the late Goldstein, walked by
                 with an Israeli flag. Goldstein, who gunned down the 29
                 Muslims, is revered among some settlers as a prophet.
                 They encourage their children to dress like him on
                 occasion. ''The people make me ashamed to be a Jew,''
                 Alamm says.

                 Now, many Israelis are calling on the government to
                 dismantle extremist settlements such as the one here.

                 ''The Jewish settlement in Hebron is a major nuisance,
                 and the lawless behavior by Jews there in recent days
                 leads to one conclusion,'' the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz
                 recently editorialized. ''Hebron must be evacuated.''

The full text of the article can be also be found at:  

> http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20010904/3599125s.htm


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