Palestinian schoolchildren face daily settler attacks
Mel Frykberg

Palestinian schoolgirls (right) in Hebron walk across rough ground to avoid Israeli settlers (left) blocking their route. (CPT)

AL-TUWANI, occupied West Bank (IPS) – Being able to travel to school in relative safety is something children all over the world take for granted. But, for Palestinian children living in the shadow of the ubiquitous and illegal Israeli settlements dotting the occupied West Bank, simply walking to school can be a terrifying experience.

“It is really scary walking to school. We never know when the settlers will attack us and beat us,” said Rima Ali, 10, from the village of Tuba in the southern West Bank, about two hours drive south of Jerusalem.

“Every day we have to watch out that the settlers are not in the valley ahead of us and if we see them we run away,” Ali told IPS.

Ali still bears the scar from when a settler pushed her causing her to fall to the ground and cut herself below the eye.

Hundreds of Palestinian children in Tuba and the surrounding Palestinian villages face the same daily predicament as they try to reach school in the Bedouin village of al-Tuwani.

Situated on a hilltop overlooking al-Tuwani are the Israeli settlement of Maon and the extended settlement outpost of Havot Maon.

The only road which previously connected Palestinians to neighboring villages and to the nearby Palestinian town of Yatta — a 10-minute drive away — has been appropriated for the exclusive use of settlers. Palestinians are banned from driving on it.

The villagers are now forced to take off-road dirt tracks, which circumvent the settlers-only bypass road and the settlements. If they walk the route it takes approximately an hour on foot — assuming they don’t have small children with them.

Settler attacks — including arson attacks on agricultural fields, chopping down olive trees, poisoning water wells, killing livestock and assaulting Palestinian villagers living near settlements — have become a way of life for Palestinians all over the West Bank as the Israeli authorities continue to turn a blind eye.

But the repeated attacks on schoolchildren forced a group of international Christian peace activists from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) to establish school escorts for the children in a bid to try and protect them.

Furthermore, the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, was forced to intervene several years ago after several foreign citizens escorting children were attacked by chain and baseball-wielding settlers.

Two CPT members were hospitalized after they suffered injuries including a punctured lung, a broken arm and a fractured skull.

The Israeli military was ordered to provide daily military escorts for children from various towns and villages in the southern West Bank.

However, the children and the peace activists have complained that the military escorts are often unreliable and sometimes a source of hostility toward the children themselves, as many of the soldiers are sympathetic to the settlers.

And while the number and severity of attacks have dropped they have not stopped. Last week a young Palestinian couple, with three children under the age of three, was trying to make its way home to Tuba after visiting Yatta.

They family was warned by two members of the CPT that a group of settlers had been spotted on the ridge above earlier in the day and that it would be safer for them to take the longest route home to avoid a confrontation.

“We decided to accompany the family in case there was any trouble. Despite taking the longer route a group of five settler men rushed towards us from the valley above and attacked the father who had a toddler in his arms,” American CPT member Sarah MacDonald told IPS.

MacDonald and another CPT member, Laura Ciaghi from Italy, were videotaping events in case they needed to go to the police.

“I decided to try and engage the settlers to try and protect the family,” Ciaghi told IPS. Ciaghi was thrown to the ground and repeatedly kicked in the ribs and back as the men stole both video cameras from the women.

“Because the settlers focused their attention on us the Palestinian family was able to get home safely and so we feel we achieved some kind of victory,” added Ciaghi.

Ciaghi was badly bruised, required a stitch to her scalp and had contusions on her head.

The Israeli police and army were called to investigate but, with the exception of a couple of individuals, most of them appeared to be disinterested and no thorough investigation was carried out.

This does not surprise Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, which monitors human rights abuses against Palestinians in the West Bank and acts as an intermediary between Palestinian victims and the Israeli security forces.

In order to file complaints Palestinians need to go to police stations which are located in the illegal Israeli settlements. However, the catch-22 is that they are not permitted to enter the settlements and this is where Yesh Din steps in.

“The police often ‘lose the paperwork’ or are ‘unable to identify perpetrators’ of attacks against Palestinians,” Yesh Din director Lior Yavne told IPS.

“And of the few cases opened, less than 10 percent result in any conviction,” Yavne added. “This situation is completely different from when Palestinian attacks on Israeli settlers are investigated.”

Meanwhile, despite the Israeli government calling for the demolition of Havot Maon over two years ago, on the grounds it was built illegally according to Israeli law, the outpost continues to expand and the settlers living there continue to attack Palestinians.

In the interim, Israel is carrying out a massive campaign of Palestinian home demolitions as settlements all over the West Bank expand at an unprecedented rate.




  1. Sara said,

    November 25, 2009 at 18:32

    Set up small classes at homes. The israeli army and settlers will no longer have backs of children for target practice. It’s easier for a small group of teachers to travel between homes than hundreds of kids to schlep to schools. The less visible, other side of the israeli “heroics”, is to equate education with fear. If the child survives a shot to the back of the head, the irrational: education = fear/deathly threat, will last a lifetime. Guaranteed.

  2. elona-llyn-shoshanna kidner-williams said,

    November 25, 2009 at 20:55

    It is simply horrendous that we are suggesting that Palestinian children should have to be schooled at home and by travelling teachers, receiving an education quite unlike other people.

    Why do the world allow the Israeli Government to break international laws, Geneva Conventions, and UN Resolutions by even building a settlement on Occupied Land to begin with? Instead of requiring Palestinians to stay out of sight, do you not believe it is time for the Israeli Government to comply with Law and withdraw to the borders it was mandated in 1948 by the League of Nations. Nowhere in that resolution does it say that if the Arabs did not agree to the partition of Palestine that the Jews could take the remaining 47% that had remained with the Palestinians. Unbelievable, Jews owned 5 -6% in 1948 of Palestine and they are GIVEN 53% of Palestine for which they have paid not one shekel.

    It is time for this out of control zionist thuggery to be disarmed, all Ashkenazis, who are the problem, moved to Biribizhian, the 1st Jewish State, and all Zionist Groups worldwide, rounded up, made to pay back the money they have robbed the banking world of, and sent back to Biribizhian and made to live off the land for the first 60 years with no outside help from anyone. They should be disarmed, borders sealed, water rationed, only allowed certain foods, and would have to pass through police checkpoints every few miles. I think it might be good for them to taste their fruit, the fruit they have fed the Palestinian people for so long – the bitter fruit of hatred – strange, since these “Jews” claimed they were “returning home”, yet they hated everything about beautiful Palestine and a wonderful, educated and clean, artistic people. They certainly have not treated the Holy Land as Home. They destroy more of it every day and replace it with ugly zionist architecture that just does not fit the land. You see, you Ashkenazis were never here to begin with and you have not respect for the land or its people, even your own.

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