settler violence

I can’t speak for everybody commenting on the events in Oregon, but when I have posted about the state’s selective use of violence between white people and people of color I am not pointing out a “double-standard” of a white supremacist government – I am pointing out its consistency. The double standard reasoning asks for the same state repression visited upon people of color (think COINTELPRO) to be visited upon white reactionary movements too. This makes little sense because it does nothing to remove state or white supremacist violence. If anything, it further legitimizes it. 

The flaw in reasoning here is a failure to understand that what appears to be a “double-standard,” or the selective deployment of state violence, in reality is the consistent maintenance of white supremacy. Not enacting state violence against white reactionaries is perfectly consistent with its historical inverse, enacting state violence against people of color. This is, in part, because state violence in the West has always been predicated on the oppression of PoC. In other words, the State as we know it today could not exist without white supremacy. 

So when white reactionaries like those in Oregon seek to practice enclosure, the process of claiming a number of small landholdings to create one larger, which ceases to be common land for communal use, but rather restricted to one owner for privatization and capital accumulation, it is not distinct from Western settler colonialism, it is a mechanism of it. The sort of ideology behind their actions is consistent with state power. They merely want to be their own sovereign state, however small.

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 Watch video of how three masked settlers chased internationals in the South Hebron Hills Humra Valley on Monday, using a slingshot to throw rocks at them. The two internationals, based in the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani as part of the Operation Dove team that accompanies Palestinian shepherds in this area vulnerable to settler violence, safely ran back to At-Tuwani before the settlers disappeared.

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Yesterday and early today we had training about working in Palestine and with our organization.  After our training ended, we made some decisions about where we were going to go and start out work in Palestine.

Our organization is led by Palestinians. That means that we only go to places or take part in protests if we have been specifically asked to do so by Palestinian individuals or organizations. After a brief rundown of what sort of requests had come in for assistance from international activists, a few of my colleagues and I decided to go north from Ramallah to Nablus. While we were there, we got an unexpected call from a farmer in the nearby village of Burin whose olive grove had been attacked by residents of an illegal settlement two nights previously.

Our primary job was to document the destruction in the olive groves and to speak with the farmer. These are some of the photos I took of the scene.

The Palestinian olive harvest takes place every year around October 15th, after the first rains of the season. The olives on the eighteen trees destroyed here were five weeks short of maturity.

Once a time of celebration, the olive harvest is now a time of terror for Palestinian farmers, many of whom require the presence of internationals just to maintain security during the season.

Hebron and Beit Ommar

Today I took a trip to Hebron (al-Khalil in Arabic), about 15 minutes from Beit Ommar. Hebron is a complicated city. It is the largest city in the West Bank, with a small but violent settler population. Half of the city is considered area C (under complete Israeli civil and military control), and half under area A (under complete Palestinian control). It is home to a few hundred Israeli settlers, who throw bottles, trash, rocks and other things down at the Palestinians walking through the market. There is metal netting to catch the debris, which has to be periodically cleaned. Military presence is very heavy, and soldiers protect the settlers while they attack the Palestinians. The settlers have been known to kick Palestinians out of their homes, while the soldiers stand by and watch. There is a 6pm curfew for Palestinians, and Palestinians are barred from using Shuhada street, the main street and economic center. The effect of this is strangling the Palestinian community economically.

(Trash and bottles thrown down by settlers at the Palestinian market below)

Beit Ommar, where I am staying, is an agricultural town of about 20,000 people, surrounded by six Israeli settlements. The entrance to the town is marked by an Israeli watchtower and heavy military presence. The soldiers harass the Palestinians as they are coming and going on nearly a daily basis.

(Israeli watchtower at the entrance to Beit Ommar)

The people in Beit Ommar are very politically active. One of the Palestinians I’m working with was one of the prisoners released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange (in which over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners were released in exchange for the release of one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. Now, Israel is attempting to re-arrest those Palestinians who were released in the deal). He was released one day before he was to finish his term. This happened with many, many people. Many of the people released in the exchange were released within a few days of the end of their sentence, some even on the same day. And now, because he was released before his sentence was over, even though it was just one day, he has been placed on a travel ban, and cannot leave the country. If he had finished his sentence, he would not be on the travel ban.

Virtually every man in this area has been in prison, starting at a young age.  102 people were arrested in the West Bank in the past two months, and over half of them were from Beit Ommar. I had dinner last night at Ahmad’s house with the rest of the organization. Ahmad’s 17 year old son is currently in prison, but the first time he went was when he was 14 years old. Soldiers periodically break into their home to arrest family members because they are activists. The soldiers do not need to charge them with any crime to arrest them. In prison, they are beaten and tortured. They broke Ahmad’s arm four times. Another man, Sagr, has been shot 6 times, and 4 of the bullets are still in his body. These are non-violent activists, struggling against an occupation that is illegal under international law and has been condemned countless times by the UN. Many of the times when they were shot, they were just trying to prevent a house from being demolished (which is how Rachel Corrie was killed). This is life under occupation. But when they’re not fighting the occupation, they get to enjoy views like this: