Sunday, August 3, 2014

Saturday funeral for settler soldier

Saturday night (actually, very early Sunday morning) was a night of sadness, and of fear. Sadness for Israeli settlers, and fear for Palestinian families.

On Friday August 1st, an Israeli soldier was killed fighting in Gaza. He was from the settlement of Kiryat Arba, one of the largest settler communities in Hebron. Hundreds of Israeli settlers and soldiers came to join his grieving family. The soldier, whose name I do not know, was one of the 63 Israelis who have died in the recent armed conflict between Israel and Hamas. Of the 63 Israeli dead, 3 are civilians and 60 are soldiers. Other deaths in Gaza are those of Palestinians, whose death toll has by now reached 1,800. Most of those who have been killed were not fighters, but civilians. I cannot imagine the pain either of the soldiers' parents, or that of the parents of the hundreds of Palestinians who have died also.

News of the funeral filled many Palestinians with fear. When something bad happens to Israeli settlers, the response often is to take it out on the Palestinians. Israel police began going around, telling Palestinians to close their stores early, and to stay inside their homes. ISMers and CPTers called up several Palestinian families, and we decided it would be a good idea to provide a protective presence. ISMers slept in two Palestinian homes, three activists in each house. We would have liked to have done more, but due to concern for our own safety, we decided not to stay in groups smaller than three.

Two fellow ISMers and myself spent the night with a Palestinian family. We were with a man, his wife, and three children. The man and his wife were worried. From the roof, we observed the settlers and soldiers gather at the cemetery. We did our best to not be seen, and were at times crawling from place to place and keeping to the shadows. The streets below us were filled with Border Police patrolling with guns, and some armed settlers. There were some very nervous jokes and gallows humour, that only would sound funny in the situation we were in. At around 2 in the morning, we heard mournful singing, as the soldier was being laid to rest. We fell silent. Although in all fairness, being a settler and in uniform, the soldier was part of an occupying army that commits crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank- and it is far worse in Gaza- he had a family and loved ones who were mourning his loss.

We came down from the roof around 3 in the morning, and drifted off to sleep. Fortunately, the family we were with was not attacked. The same can be said for the other family the other 3 ISMers were with.

Due to both safety concerns and to show respect to the grieving settlers, we decided not to take any photos.

Unfortunately, it seems that not all Palestinians escaped settler violence that night. According to our Palestinian contacts, there was another settler attack. After the funeral ended, several settlers tried to attack the home of a Palestinian family. Their neighbours showed up, and a fight ensued. Israeli Border Police arrived, and took the side of the settlers. Clashes ensued between them and Palestinians. Two young Palestinian men were shot in the head. They are in the hospital, and it is unknown whether they will make it.

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