The (almost) unbelievable story of an Israeli killer – and the lies that are protecting him

Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers (Majdi Mohammed - AP)

Kathryn Shihadah

Israel-Palestine News  /  July 10, 2022

Official Israeli version

The official Israeli version of the incident differs, as is often the case.

A spokesperson for the Israeli military claims that a “violent confrontation” between Jewish settlers and Palestinians had already taken place when the soldiers arrived – the account emphasized that the confrontation had taken place before they arrived.

Soldiers allegedly noted a wounded Palestinian, and offered to put him in a military ambulance and take him to a hospital so he could get “the necessary medical treatment.” The official narrative asserts that the Palestinians refused.

Aftermath

A few days later, Israeli soldiers arrested members of the Harb family in a 2 am raid that included stun grenades. 

One of those arrested described the interrogation: “They concentrated on the fact that we had said the army and police were present when the incident occurred – they tried to tell us they weren’t there when it happened…That was all they asked about.” 

He added, “I maintained my testimony that the settler stabbed Ali in front of the soldiers, just as I had said in my declaration to the Israeli police just after the killing happened.”

Israeli intelligence arrested a 44-year-old Jewish settler; hundreds of Israelis, among them far-right members of the parliament, protested the arrest, demanding the killer be set free.

“Self-defense”

In fact, on Tuesday, July 5th, the settler who killed Ali Harb was released to house arrest.

The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports: Police are now regarding the case as one of reckless homicide…rather than a more serious charge of murder.”

 If convicted, the maximum sentence would be 12 years. (Reckless homicide is a form of involuntary manslaughter.)

The settler, who was trespassing on private Palestinian property and being asked to leave, has claimed that the stabbing was in “self-defense. 

Shin Bet investigators do not regard the incident as “deliberate” or “terrorism.”

Outpost violence

While all of Israel’s settlements in the Palestinian West Bank are illegal under international law, outposts are not even officially recognized by Israel; nevertheless outposts receive funding and military support from the state. 

The violence used to intimidate and ultimately ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from the land has been practiced since the founding of Israel, and even before – and generally goes unacknowledged and unpunished by the state.

Palestinian activist Ghassan Daghlas explains,

The Israeli government has given the settlers a green light to take over any land they can take by force.

In the Salfit region alone [where Ali Harb was killed], there are 24 settlements and settler outposts, and they are among the most violent settlers in the West Bank.

Palestinians in the region have no protection, and they have to come out to protect their lands, risking their safety and lives.

 Settlers come out to establish new outposts on Palestinian land because they know that they have the army and the government’s protection, and that’s why they attack Palestinian farmers and villagers as well.

Palestinian leaders stress that killing of Ali Harb is yet another outcome of Israeli impunity – including Israeli settlers – in the international community.

Of the 650,000 Jewish settlers living on Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, not all seek to expand further, as did those who were involved in the killing of Ali Harb. The Israeli government encourages Israelis to settle, and offers incentives to get them to move to the occupied territories. Their presence impacts Palestinian lives in the form of the government appropriating land for the settlements, Jewish-only roads to the settlements, and space for expansion – all carved out of Palestinian property without Palestinian consent.

The ideological settlers go beyond this disruption and squat on additional Palestinian property besides what they already have. Both types of settlers are in breach of international law.

Kathryn Shihadah is an editor and staff writer for If Americans Knew; she also blogs at Palestine Home