June 21, 2008
Palestinians fight with cameras
LIVELIHOOD GOES UP IN SMOKE
Palestinian olive trees burn after being set ablaze by Israeli settlers from the Yitzhar settlement on Thursday June 19 , in the West Bank village of Burin (AFP/Getty Images)
The Neo-Nazi Israeli Thugs(settlers)
Israeli settlers from the Yitzhar settlement watch after a Palestinian olive tree field was set ablaze by a group of Jewish settlers on June 19, 2008 in the West Bank village of Burin.(AFP)
A Palestinian woman reacts as Israeli settlers (unseen) from the nearby Yitzhar Jewish settlement try to set ablaze her olive tree field on June 19, 2008 in the West Bank village of Burin.(AFP)
Sarah Yeivin | AFP
HEBRON, West Bank: As a deterrent against armed Jewish settlers it does not look much. But the video camera has become a frontline defense for ordinary Palestinians living between Hebron and the Jewish settlement of Kyriat Arba in the West Bank.
“I always keep the camera at my side; it’s the only thing which prevents the settlers from hurling stones at us or coming into my shop,” says Bassam Al-Jaabari as he stitches a pair of shoes in his dusty and poorly stocked grocer’s shop.
He jerks his head toward a three-story house that can be seen about 100 meters away through the grill protecting his store windows.
More than a year ago, several families of Israeli settlers, who claim they had bought the property, moved into the building in the Palestinian district of Al-Ras.
The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, immediately provided the four Palestinian families living near that house with video cameras, as part of its program “Shooting Back.”
“We know from experience what happens as soon as settler move into the heart of Palestinian areas,” explains Issa Amro, the B’Tselem official responsible for the volatile Hebron sector in the southern West Bank. “They (the settlers) make the life of the Palestinians impossible. But if their neighbors film them, they think twice before harassing them,” he adds.
Since the start of 2007, B’Tselem has distributed about 100 cameras to Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, especially in the Hebron area where tension with the Jewish settlers is particularly intense.
Some of the videotapes have been broadcast by Israeli and international media, including one in March last year that showed an Israeli woman hurling a stream of insults for several minutes at a Palestinian neighbor in the old town of Hebron.
“The pictures of this woman have been broadcast throughout the world and provoked at lot of reaction. It was then we realized the potential of ‘Shooting Back’ which was then in a testing phase,” recalled Oren Yacokovobish, in charge of the B’Tselem program.
“The cameras have above all a deterrent effect; they protect Palestinians. They also enable the public to see incidents which otherwise are invisible and whose veracity can always be challenged,” he added.
Last Tuesday, two settlers were arrested after being filmed beating up two Palestinian shepherds, an elderly man and his wife, near Hebron. The incident was made public the previous week when the BBC broadcast video showing young masked settlers apparently attacking the couple with clubs.
“The settlers gave us a 10-minute warning to clear off from the land,” Thamam Al-Nawaja, 58, told the BBC after spending three days in hospital following the attack.
She said she and her 70-year-old husband stood their ground and that her arm was broken and her left cheek fractured in an ensuing attack.