A new report – translated testimonies
Israeli Activists report about the attempted lynching of Palestinian farmers and Israeli activists by Anatot settlers, with Israeli police collaboration – 30/9/11
Background, as reported by activists:
For four years Yasin Abu Saleh el-Rifai and his wife Iman are fighting an almost doomed battle to save their land. The plot has belonged to his family, the el-Rifai family, for generations and it is his land, by inheritance. His grandfather’s tomb is situated there too. The impressive structure of the tomb still stands, but the settlers have desecrated it, removing the bones from the tomb and destroyed the any remains in order to eliminate the evidence. Unfortunately for him, and for many other residents of Anata, some of them members of his family, an Israeli settlement by the name of Anatot (aka Almon) was built on their land in 1982. This settlement has grown over the years and today its fenced-off area includes hundreds of acres of private, taboo-registered Palestinian land, which the Palestinian owners cannot access.
A few words about this settlement: the settlers of Anatot are some of the worst people. It is a secular, extreme right-wing settlement of police officers and army officers, some of them retired. So the law is with them…and far away from the public eye they do what they want, a constant rampage. Sicilian Mafia in Israel of 2011. Netanyahu’s personal driver is also a resident of Anatot.
El-Rifai’s story is somewhat different from the story of the other Palestinian landowners. He and his wife, an Israeli citizen, formerly Jewish with a “blue” ID are allowed to enter the settlement and they are not denied access to the land. This is not the case for the other landowners, who are not Israeli citizens, and are therefore required to conduct impossible coordination procedures in order to reach their land and cultivate it.
Their ‘blue’ ID cards have not spared el-Rifai and his wife a great deal of agony. In recent years Anatot’s settlers have been doing all they can to try to expel them from their land. The land that appears to be barren in the clip was once full of olive trees. Settlers ran over el-Rifai’s wife with a mini-tractor, the two were beaten on several occasions, requiring hospitalization. Yasin was also stabbed. Their share of misery has also included the uprooting of all fruit trees on the plot, destruction of agricultural equipment, contamination of the water well by throwing carcasses and garbage into it, burning the cave which is located within the confines of the plot, constant uprooting of any newly-planted trees, threats against the two as well as physical assaults on them. Countless complaints have been submitted to the police, but nothing has been done to stop the abuse. El-Rifai and his wife have not given up, and against all odds they are trying to hold on to their land. Yasin, desperate to find some support, contact activists through the Internet a few months ago.
Activist Tal’s account:
On Friday, a group of Israeli activists from various groups came down to sit with Yasin on his land, drink coffee, eat something, plant a few symbolic trees, and raise a Palestinian flag on his plot. We were certainly not looking for trouble. We were a small group, women and elderly people among us.
As we were sitting there, eating and laughing, Yasin received a call on his mobile phone, and the settlement’s security officer threatened him that “people want to come up and beat you to a pulp, if that’s what you want, keep the flag there”. The phone call was recorded. You can listen to it here.
Afterwards, seven police and military vehicles appeared on the main road. They stood there for half an hour. Then a few civilian (privately-owned) cars drove up to them, and there seemed to be an exchange going on. All of a sudden, all the military vehicles disappeared, except for one police car, and within minutes tens of private cars gathered on the road. Around 50 people came out of these cars, led by an army officer and a border police, who were not trying too hard to stop them…The rest is history. They came up to us, cursed us, beat us with stoned and clubs and iron rods, plundered. Yasin was thrown to the ground, his head cracked open with an audible bang (he’s not a young man, and he suffers from a heart condition and diabetes). He lay motionless on the ground for a few minutes, his wife holding his head and trying to stop the bleeding. We formed a protective ring around him, so that the bloodthirsty settlers don’t reach him. At that time I thought he was dead. I yelled “get an ambulance”, but no one paid attention. Miri (an activist) saw another activist, Edo, being beaten right next to a police officer, the settlers taking his camera. The officer was speaking on his phone. She approached him and said: “They stole Edo’s camera and now they are hitting him!”. The officer’s nonchalant response was “you’re interrupting my conversation”. I stood there trying to prevent the attackers from reaching Yasin. A police officer came and took me away saying he’s doing it to protect me. None of the officers protected Yasin. None of the attackers were pushed back or detained. Three of us were arrested on false charges and released later that evening because there was no case against them. The settlers chased us with their cars, causing damage to our cars, all the way up to West Jerusalem. Police officers who drove along, escorting us, did not think something had to be done about that. An entire spectrum of Anatot settlers, children, youths, women, the young and the elderly participated in the attempted lynching. No one would have cared if we had been killed there. Only the police who would have had to account for this.
Activist Guy’s account:
Three months ago, we, Taayush activists, received an appeal from the couple. They were almost desperate and they asked for our help. We came down there, another activist and I, and we met a lovely couple, whose sole request was not to be driven off their land and not to suffer physical abuse and damage to property.
Due to various constraints, it was difficult for us to help at the time, but we did try to enlist various activists and groups. In recent weeks, activists have come down a few times and planted new trees, but each time, after a short while el-Rifai found them uprooted.
Today, Friday 30.9.11, a few of us decided to come and visit the couple. We numbered around 15 people. we brought work tools with us, such as hoes. Needless to say, we were welcomed with open arms and much love.
A short time after our arrival, we saw the settlement’s security vehicle stop on the main road. It seemed that the security officer didn’t like our presence there and called the police. A Border police team arrived, but they didn’t intervene or interfere. Gradually, more and more settlers gathered on the main road, approximately 200 Meters in front of the hill where we were working. By noon, more than 20 settler cars could be spotted there. Then we saw two of them going up towards us, and I immediately called the police and alerted them to the danger. Below us, on the main road, we were able to see a few police cars, but they didn’t prevent the two settlers from approaching us. When they came near us, they cursed and threatened us. Other settlers began to go up the hill towards us, dozens of them…
I called the police again, I warned them that bloodshed was imminent, I begged them to send the policemen who were present uphill, towards us, but to no avail. The settlers came up to us, and attacked us. This was simply an attempted lynching. I was punched a few times, knocked down to the ground, and when managed to lift myself up, I saw a border police officer. I ran to him and begged him to protect me, to save me, I practically hung onto him. But they just kept hitting, not heeding his calls to step back. They broke one of the cameras which I was holding, snatching it and throwing it to the ground and trampling over it. More punches and I am screaming and seeing the end. Again, I find myself on the ground, again lifting myself up and starting to flee, my glasses are gone and I don’t know where I’m running, and I do see the settlers approaching me, and screaming at me. I ran towards the road and saw a police officer. Weeping and distraught, I asked him to save me.
He took me to the car and somehow I along with another activist managed to escape and exit the settlement.
But what about the rest?
They continued to be beaten, and the attempted lynching went on. Three of us are still at the hospital, one with a head injury, and I came out of all this, miraculously, with just one arm broken and lots of bruises