PAJU Note:

Here is the Jewish version of the Klu Klux Klan, well-ensconced in the illegally occupied Palestinian West Bank. Reminiscent of the KKK beatings and lynchings of Black Americans in the Southern United States, all part of contemporary history.

  • Bruce Katz

Israeli settlers abduct, brutally attack Palestinian teen in West Bank

15-year-old Tareq Zbeideh describes how he was kidnapped, tied, and beaten by settlers while picnicking with his friends near a settlement outpost.

According to Zbeideh, 15, he was enjoying a picnic with friends near the former settlement of Homesh — one of the four Israeli settlements removed from the occupied West Bank during the Gaza Disengagement in 2006 — when settlers hit him with their car and tied him to the vehicle, before dragging him to an isolated area and beating him. The attack lasted half an hour, during which Zbeideh says the settlers tied him to a tree, beat him with a belt, sprayed him with pepper spray, electrocuted him, and then burned him with the car’s cigarette lighter.

He was found by the Israeli army, which returned him to his family. “I thought I would not make it out alive,” Zbeideh said this week.

As he lay on the couch in his home, located just southwest of the city of Jenin, Zbeideh recounted the events of that day, when he headed out with a group of friends to a neighborhood on the outskirts of Silat a-Dahr overlooking what remains of Homesh. After the disengagement, Homesh was supposed to return to Palestinian hands, but in recent years settlers have set up a new outpost there.

On Tuesday, at around 9:30 in the morning, we bought some things at the grocery store and went up [to the neighborhood],” said Zbeideh, who left school as COVID-19 began to spread across the occupied territories and now works casual jobs. “There were six of us including me. We go to sit there sometimes. We sat for 20 minutes, and then we saw two people arriving on foot and in a gray car. They spoke to us in Hebrew. They wore a kippa [Jewish skullcap] and side locks, so we realized they were settlers. My friends fled. I have a leg injury, so it took me longer to walk down a dirt road instead of through the hills. Then their car hit me, and I fell to the ground.”

“Four of them got out of the car,” he continued. “Three started hitting me, the fourth brought a cable. They put me on the hood, tied me up, and started driving up toward the settlement. They pressed the brakes, and I was tossed forward because they had loosened the cable [during the drive].”

Zbeideh’s friends witnessed the beginning of the incident from a distance, after which they ran to call for help. “We went for a picnic,” says H., one of Zbeideh’s friends who was with him that day. “[The attackers] threw bottles and stones at us. We saw they had weapons, so we ran away. They told us to stop in Arabic, and then the gray car hit Tareq. After they hit him, we saw that they were attacking him and we ran away. We were very scared. We did not see him when they took him, only when he was beaten with a stick.”

The next part Zbeideh’s friends no longer saw, but for him, it was only the beginning. “They bounded me with plastic [handcuffs] that the army uses and beat my legs with sticks,” he said. “After that, they released the handcuffs and hung me from a tree, with my hands crossed above my head. My feet did not touch the ground, they were in the air.” Zbeideh added that the settlers also attacked him with pepper spray and an electric shocker.

Zbeidi said that he tried to shout at them, but the kidnappers spoke to him in Hebrew, which he does not understand. “They brought a rubber belt and beat me with it. After that they cut the rope and I fell to the ground. Then they cut my legs with a knife. On my other leg they used the car’s cigarette lighter to burn me, twice on my right leg.”

Zbeideh showed us the wounds on his foot and his right shoulder, which he said was caused by an electric shocker. “I screamed in pain. I was conscious. I thought they wanted to kill me. I did not think I would return home alive to my family.”

Zbeideh estimates that the attack lasted between half an hour and 40 minutes, during which the assailants repeatedly cursed at him. “They kept verbally humiliating me, talking about my mother and sister, calling me a ‘son of a bitch’ while spitting on me.” He said the attackers eventually hit him in the head with a piece of wood, and he lost consciousness. When he woke up, he was in the back of a military jeep, handcuffed and bleeding.

Meanwhile, Zbeideh’s friends informed his family of the abduction, one of whom then called the Palestinian Authority. The PA contacted the Israeli authorities, and a military jeep arrived in the area and found the boy. The family was then told to arrive at the entrance of Homesh to pick up their son.

‘He had nightmares they would come arrest him’

The new outpost at Homesh is frequently visited by dozens of young Jews on a daily basis. According to Palestinian residents, they arrive in several cars, traveling around 12 kilometers deep into Palestinian territory to reach the site. There are no other settlements in the area.

Over the last few years, settlers have tried to build a yeshiva [Jewish educational institution] on the site, which has been demolished numerous times by the Israeli authorities. Since the disengagement, the army has used a variety of orders to prevent Palestinians from entering the area, despite High Court rulings allowing them to do so. The local residents have also reported many cases of settler violence on a near-weekly basis.

Between 2020-2017, Israeli human right organization Yesh Din documented 25 incidents of settler violence or damage to Palestinian property in the Homesh area. Most of the victims, according to the organization, refrain from lodging a complaint with the police, often due to fear of reprisal or lack of trust in the Israeli law enforcement authorities.

The family members did not know that Zbeideh was actually inside the military jeep. “There was an argument with the soldiers. I told them what had happened, we did not at all understand that he was with them in the car. They said they wanted to arrest him because he was inside the settlement. When we began shouting, they let us talk to an officer on the phone.”

Abu Qais says that before Zbeidi was released from the jeep, he was told that if “anything [violent] happens in the area, they will come straight to his house and arrest him.” The uncle added that when he was let out of the jeep, Zbeideh “was almost dead. We saw shoe marks on his neck, on his chest, his legs were bloody and full of scratches.”

Zbeideh says that when he woke up tied to the floor of the jeep, he was full of thorns, sand, and blood. “They gave me the phone [to speak to an Arabic-speaking soldier], they threatened me that no matter what had happened in the settlement they would arrest me.”

A senior source confirmed that Zbeideh had spoken on the phone with an Arabic-speaking officer, and that the boy had admitted to him that he had come to the scene with his friends to throw stones. This claim, however, is both baseless and was not obtained through a formal investigation. In addition, the fact that the soldiers did not arrest the boy despite the allegations may indicate that they, too, understood the course of events.

The family is shocked yet not surprised by the attack. “Three months ago, they did this to a guy from the village of Beit Marin,” said a-Razeq. “They beat him so badly he could not walk.” After being released by the army, Zbeideh was taken to a hospital in Jenin where he stayed for 24 hours. On Wednesday he was able to walk on his tiptoes.

The IDF Spokesperson did not deny the incident and confirmed that it had returned Zbeideh to his family. Yet it presented a different version of the incident, according which the Palestinian boys had been throwing stones at settlers. A senior source in the army claims the soldiers did not witness the violence themselves, and therefore did not call the police or detain any suspects.

The family has yet to file a complaint with the police, but if an investigation is opened it will not be difficult to locate suspects who beat Zbeideh, as the roads leading to the area are equipped with several military cameras. But a-Razeq knows that Palestinians and settlers live under a completely different set of rules in the West Bank, and that the response by the authorities reflects that disparity. “If a Palestinian had committed such a thing against a Jew, 500 people would have been arrested during the investigation.”

A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

Oren Ziv is a photojournalist, a founding member of the Activestills photography collective, and a staff writer for Local Call. Since 2003, he has been documenting a range of social and political issues in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories with an emphasis on activist communities and their struggles. His reportage has focused on the popular protests against the wall and settlements, affordable housing and other socio-economic issues, anti-racism and discrimination struggles, and the struggle to free animals.

Ahmad Al-Bazz is a journalist and documentary filmmaker based in the West Bank city of Nablus. He has been a member of the Activestills photography collective since 2012.

Adapted from: https://www.972mag.com/settler-attack-teen-palestinian/

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