Oct 9th 2010

Israel's Human Shields and Live Bait

by Sharmine Narwani

Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East, and a Senior Associate at St. Antony's College, Oxford University. She has a Master of International Affairs degree from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in both journalism and Mideast studies.

"Sharmoota!" hisses the Jewish settler as she presses up against the bars of a Hebron home where she has forced a Palestinian woman to take cover. "Whore" in Arabic, the shameful word hangs in the air like verbal dynamite - and shocks again and again as rapid-fire "Sharmootas" are spat out at their victim. An Israeli soldier stands by and watches this provocation. He does nothing. Video 1, Video 2

Young teenage settlers hang around outside a Palestinian schoolhouse, waiting for the stream of Arab mothers and their children to make their way home. The settler youths - all girls - shriek abuses at the frightened Palestinian kids, kick the elders and pull headscarves off the heads of pious women - "terror games" to pass time on a Jewish holiday, all under the watch of armed Israeli soldiers who do not intervene. Video

There are 500,000 illegal Jewish settlers in occupied Palestinian territories today - a number that has increased five-fold since the US-sponsored "peace process" began 19 years ago.

  • Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, August 12, 1949, 6 UST 3516, provides, in paragraph 6: "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."

Peace advocates contend that this Israeli push to "settle" Jews in the occupied territories reflects the determination of an increasingly right-wing government to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Logic dictates that the physical presence of half a million Jews in illegal settlements and outposts - connected through a maze of Jewish-only roads - has stealthily destroyed the possibility of a land-for-peace compromise. And Israel's government has spent $17 billion on settlements since occupation began.

But here's something we don't talk about readily. Why would consecutive Israeli governments heavily subsidize and incentivize the relocation of young families - women and children - into hostile environments? Why would Israel - which claims security dangers wherever there are Palestinian populations - deliberately and systematically place its Jewish civilian population in "harm's way?"

The settlers are Israel's human shields and live bait.

"Naatzi! Naaaatzi!" This word, amazingly enough, is a settler favorite. "Nazis!" they screech at foreign TV crews, while waving their infants around. "Nazi, Nazi, Nazi," they chant as they provocatively try to stop Palestinians from harvesting their olive crops. And the IDF soldiers wait and watch - occasionally intervening to push a frustrated and humiliated Palestinian objector away from a taunting, threatening Jewish settler.

Eventually, a half-crazed Palestinian will fight back, even kill some settlers. Israeli authorities immediately step in and claim the "Security Risk" has increased and more Palestinian land has to be confiscated to ensure Israel's security. More Palestinians are detained, harassed, punished. More Palestinian homes are occupied or demolished. See how that works? Unleash your craziest Jews onto a Palestinian civilian population until someone blows a fuse and hits back. Then use that as the pretext to encroach further into the lives and onto the land of Palestinians.

Jewish settlers. Half a million of them in 121 illegal settlements and 102 illegal outposts. Human shields and live bait for Israel. The Jewish state's frontline army for depopulating Palestinian land.

International law recognizes the right of a person living under occupation to resist or retaliate against occupying forces - nobody would question a Palestinian lashing out at an Israeli soldier. But kill a Jewish settler, and the lines get blurred fast. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, the "occupier" (Israel) may not settle its populations (Jewish settlers) in occupied areas (West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem), but these laws also do not permit the harming of civilians except in the case of self-defence during an act of violence. In other words, although Israel flagrantly violates the former law by incentivizing Israeli citizens to move into occupied Palestinian territory, these same international conventions do not allow Palestinians to willy-nilly defend their lives and property from Jewish settlers - except during actual hostilities, when they are usually at a considerable disadvantage.

But are settlers really "civilians" as intended by the protective language of the Fourth Geneva Convention? This is debatable on at least one score, as the language dealing with "protected persons" is often prefaced with "civilian persons who take no part in hostilities..."

"The Hilltop Youth consist of hundreds of young settler boys and girls who have become protectors of the illegal outposts pitched on Palestinian-owned land throughout the West Bank. Traumatized by Israel's desettlement of Gaza, they have vowed to resist a similar fate, and heeding only the "law of God" and the religious-nationalist action calls from the likes of Judeo-fascist high-priestesses Daniella Weiss and Nadia Mattar, these kids have unleashed the newest waves of settler vigilantism: "Price-Tagging."

Every time authorities act against the perceived interests of the settlers, the latter will exact a "price tag" by carrying out reprisals against nearby Palestinians and their property.

  • Fourth Geneva Convention, PART III - STATUS AND TREATMENT OF PROTECTED PERSONS; SECTION I - Provisions Common to the Territories of the Parties to the Conflict and to Occupied Territories: Article 33: "No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited."

According to Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, these acts of vengeance include: "blocking roadways, so as to impede Palestinian life and commerce. The settlers also shoot solar panels on roofs of buildings, torch automobiles, shatter windowpanes and windshields, destroy crops, uproot trees, abuse merchants and owners of stalls in the market. Some of these actions are intended to force Palestinians to leave their homes and farmland, and thereby enable the settlers to gain control of them.

During the olive-picking season, when many Palestinians are at work in the orchards, settler violence increases. The violence takes the form of gunfire, which sometimes results in casualties among the Palestinian olive-pickers, destruction of trees, and theft of Palestinian crops."

  • 1977 Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions; Article 54 - Protection of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population: It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as food-stuffs, agricultural areas for the production of food-stuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.

The West Bank's "ideological" settlers have doubled in population in a decade, are rising up the ranks in the IDF, and belong to political parties that today play a pivitol role in Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling government coalition. They are increasingly outnumbering non-ideological soldiers in the IDF's combat units - zealots that "blow the horn of Joshua" as they enter the "battlefields" of Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Southern Lebanon.

While some argue that it is only a few hundred Jewish settlers/youths responsible for the violence against Palestinians, these assailants are heavily protected by the larger settler community, and rarely condemned by settler organizations.

In a very recent study on settler violence, the Washington DC-based Palestine Center collated data from over 1,000 settler "attacks" between January 2009 and August 30, 2010. The data found that "settlers from two-thirds of all the settlements (religious, orthodox, secular and mixed) in the West Bank have been involved in attacks on Palestinian civilians."

The religious settlements are by far the most violent - and here is where the data patterns get interesting: There is some clear order and logic to the actions of these violent settlers. The study points out that most attacks take place in Areas B and C in the West Bank - those areas under Israeli security control. Area B has a sizeable Palestinian population (though not as much as the densely populated centers in Area A) and Area C is where the majority of land in the West Bank lies.

The settlers know that in these two areas - which contain 80% of West Bank land - the security jurisdiction will be on their side, which means the IDF will protect and even facilitate some of their actions. If there is land to possess and Palestinians to mow through, these are the areas in which the settlers are most likely to succeed.

Even more chilling is that whichever way you slice and dice the data, settler violence is on the rise, and is "consistent, systematic and happening in all governorates in 280 villages and locations across the West Bank." With no repercussions for the settlers who live under the Israeli penal code in an apartheid-type system that separates them from the occupation and military laws to which Palestinians are subjected...they can get away with murder.

Take one step back and a picture emerges of an Israel intent on incorporating the West Bank and East Jerusalem into Israel "proper," with settlers conveniently positioned in the frontline of these efforts. The Jewish state cannot today openly instigate large-scale land confiscations and depopulation of the West Bank as some of its right-wing politicians have advocated. But little by little, by invoking "security threats" resulting from Palestinian retaliation against settler attacks, Israel has made massive gains over the two decades since peace talks were launched.

The question now is whether these "human shields" merit the protection afforded innocent civilians under international law. I say no. If the Palestinians in occupied territories present a security threat so compelling that it required the building of the notorious multi-billion dollar Separation Wall - then Israel has no business moving its men, women and children right into the danger zones. You can't have it both ways. Jewish extremists settle in the West Bank and East Jerusalem at their own risk, and should be subject to local laws and punishments alike.

Whatever they are, Israel's settlers are most certainly not "civilian persons who take no part in hostilities." There is nothing "innocent" about these people or the state that hides behind them, dangling their most crazy citizens as live bait to further a warped religious-nationalist agenda.


Note: Americans for Peace Now have launched an app that provides updated settlement data - downloadthe APN settlement map or view online.

Follow Sharmine Narwani on Twitter: www.twitter.com/snarwani


Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Apr 13th 2024
EXTRACT: "That said, even if Europe were to improve its deterrence capabilities, it would be unwise to assume that leaders necessarily make rational decisions. In her 1984 book The March of Folly, historian Barbara Tuchman observes that political leaders frequently act against their own interests. America’s disastrous wars in the Middle East, the Soviet Union’s ill-fated campaign in Afghanistan, and the ongoing war of blind hatred between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, with its potential to escalate into a larger regional conflict, are prime examples of such missteps. As Tuchman notes, the march of folly is never-ending. That is precisely why Europe must prepare itself for an era of heightened vigilance."
Apr 13th 2024
EXTRACTS: " Nathan Cofnas is a research fellow in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. His research is supported by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust. He is also a college research associate at Emmanuel College. Working at the intersection of science and philosophy, he has published several papers in leading peer-reviewed journals. He also writes popular articles and posts on Substack. In January, Cofnas published a post called “Why We Need to Talk about the Right’s Stupidity Problem.” No one at Cambridge seems to have been bothered by his argument that people on the political right have, on average, lower intelligence than those on the left." ---- "The academic world will be watching what happens. Were the University of Cambridge to dismiss Cofnas, it would sound a warning to students and academics everywhere: when it comes to controversial topics, even the world’s most renowned universities can no longer be relied upon to stand by their commitment to defend freedom of thought and discussion."
Apr 13th 2024
EXTRACTS: "Word has been sent down from on high that there is room for only “good stories of China.” Anyone who raises questions about problems, or even challenges, faces exclusion from the public sessions. That was certainly true for me." ----- " But my admiration for the Chinese people and the extraordinary transformation of China’s economy over the past 45 years persists. I still disagree with the consensus view in the West that the Chinese miracle was always doomed to fail. Moreover, I remain highly critical of America’s virulent Sinophobia, while maintaining the view that China faces serious structural growth challenges. And I continue to believe that US-China codependency offers a recipe for mutually beneficial conflict resolution. My agenda remains analytically driven, not politically motivated."
Apr 11th 2024
EXTRACTS: "The insurrection began just after 8 p.m. on November 8, 1923, when Hitler and his followers burst into a political rally and held the crowd hostage. ---- The Nazi attempt to seize power ended the following morning, ---- After two and a half days in hiding, Germany’s most wanted man was discovered ----- Hitler was charged with treason, and his trial began on February 26, 1924. ---- .....the judge, having found Hitler guilty, imposed the minimum sentence....That miscarriage of justice was facilitated by the trial’s location in the anti-democratic south, and by the role of the presiding judge, Georg Neithardt, a conservative who was happy to allow Hitler to use his court as a platform to attack the Republic. ----- Like Hitler in 1924, Trump is using the courtroom as a stage on which to present himself as the victim, arguing that a crooked 'deep state' is out to get him."
Apr 9th 2024
EXTRACTS: "If Kennedy’s emphasis on healing suggests someone who has been through “recovery,” that is because he has. Following the trauma of losing both his father and his uncle to assassins’ bullets, Kennedy battled, and ultimately overcame, an addiction to heroin. Like Kennedy, Shanahan also appears to be channeling personal affliction. She describes grappling with infertility, as well as the difficulties associated with raising her five-year-old daughter, Echo, who suffers from autism," ----- "Armed with paranoid conspiracy theories about America’s descent into chronic sickness, loneliness, and depression, Kennedy has heedlessly spread lies about the putative dangers of life-saving vaccines while mouthing platitudes about resilience and healing. To all appearances, he remains caught in a twisted fantasy that he just might be the one who will realize his father’s idealistic dreams of a better America."
Mar 18th 2024
EXTRACT: "....the UK’s current economic woes – falling exports, slowing growth, low productivity, high taxes, and strained public finances – underscore the urgency of confronting Brexit’s catastrophic consequences."
Mar 18th 2024
EXTRACTS: Most significant of all, Russia’s Black Sea fleet has suffered significant losses over the past two years. As a result of these Ukrainian successes, the Kremlin decided to relocate the Black Sea fleet from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk on the Russian mainland. Compare that with the situation prior to the annexation of Crimea in 2014 when Russia had a secure lease on the naval base of Sevastopol until 2042." --- "Ukrainian efforts have clearly demonstrated, however, that the Kremlin’s, and Putin’s personal, commitment may not be enough to secure Russia’s hold forever. Kyiv’s western partners would do well to remember that among the spreading gloom over the trajectory of the war."
Mar 8th 2024
EXTRACT: "As the saying goes, 'It’s the economy, stupid.' Trump’s proposed economic-policy agenda is now the greatest threat to economies and markets around the world."
Mar 8th 2024
EXTRACT: "Russia, of course, brought all these problems on itself. It most certainly is not winning the war, either militarily or on the economic front. Ukraine is recovering from the initial shock, and if robust foreign assistance continues, it will have an upper hand in the war of attrition."
Mar 8th 2024
EXTRACT: "...... with good timing and good luck, enabled Trump to defeat [in 2016] political icon Hillary Clinton in a race that appeared tailor-made for her. But contrary to what Trump might claim, his victory was extremely narrow. In fact, he lost the popular vote by 2.8 million votes – a larger margin than any other US president in history. Since then, Trump has proved toxic at the ballot box. " -----"The old wisdom that 'demographics is destiny' – coined by the French philosopher Auguste Comte – may well be more relevant to the outcome than it has been to any previous presidential election. "----- "Between the 2016 and 2024 elections, some 20 million older voters will have died, and about 32 million younger Americans will have reached voting age. Many young voters disdain both parties, and Republicans are actively recruiting (mostly white men) on college campuses. But the issues that are dearest to Gen Z’s heart – such as reproductive rights, democracy, and the environment – will keep most of them voting Democratic."
Mar 8th 2024
EXTRACTS: "How can America’s fundamentalist Christians be so enthusiastic about so thoroughly un-Christian a politician?" ---- "If you see and think outside the hermeneutic code of Christian fundamentalism, you might be forgiven for viewing Trump as a ruthless, wholly self-interested man intent on maximizing power, wealth, and carnal pleasure. What your spiritual blindness prevents you from seeing is how the Holy Spirit uses him – channeling the 'secret power of lawlessness,' as the Book of 2 Thessalonians describes it – to restrain the advent of ultimate evil, or to produce something immeasurably greater: the eschaton (end of history), when the messiah comes again."
Mar 1st 2024
EXTRACT: "The lesson is that laws and regulatory structures are critical to state activities that produce local-level benefits. If citizens are to push for reforms and interventions that increase efficiency, promote inclusion, and enable entrepreneurship, innovation, and long-term growth, they need to recognize this. The kind of effective civil society Nilekani envisions thus requires civic engagement, empowerment, and education, including an understanding of the rights and responsibilities implied by citizenship."
Feb 9th 2024
EXTRACT: "Despite the widespread belief that the global economy is headed for a soft landing, recent trends offer little cause for optimism."
Feb 9th 2024
EXTRACT: " Consider, for example, the ongoing revolution in robotics and automation, which will soon lead to the development of robots with human-like features that can learn and multitask the way we do. Or consider what AI will do for biotech, medicine, and ultimately human health and lifespans. No less intriguing are the developments in quantum computing, which will eventually merge with AI to produce advanced cryptography and cybersecurity applications."
Feb 9th 2024
EXTRACTS: "The implication is clear. If Hamas is toppled, and there is no legitimate Palestinian political authority capable of filling the vacuum it leaves behind, Israel will probably find itself in a new kind of hell." ----- "As long as the PLO fails to co-opt Hamas into the political process, it will be impossible to establish a legitimate Palestinian government in post-conflict Gaza, let alone achieve the dream of Palestinian statehood. This is bad news for both Israelis and Palestinians. But it serves Netanyahu and his coalition of extremists just fine."
Jan 28th 2024
EXTRACTS: "According to estimates by the United Nations, China’s working-age population peaked in 2015 and will decline by nearly 220 million by 2049. Basic economics tells us that maintaining steady GDP growth with fewer workers requires extracting more value-added from each one, meaning that productivity growth is vital. But with China now drawing more support from low-productivity state-owned enterprises, and with the higher-productivity private sector remaining under intense regulatory pressure, the prospects for an acceleration of productivity growth appear dim."
Jan 28th 2024
EXTRACT: "When Chamberlain negotiated the notorious Munich agreement with Hitler in September 1938, The Times did not oppose the transfer of the Sudetenland to Germany without Czech consent. Instead, Britain’s most prestigious establishment broadsheet declared that: “The volume of applause for Mr Chamberlain, which continues to grow throughout the globe, registers a popular judgement that neither politicians nor historians are likely to reverse.” "
Jan 4th 2024
EXTRACTS: "Another Trump presidency, however, represents the greatest threat to global stability, because the fate of liberal democracy would be entrusted to a leader who attacks its fundamental principles." ------"While European countries have relied too heavily on US security guarantees, America has been the greatest beneficiary of the post-war political and economic order. By persuading much of the world to embrace the principles of liberal democracy (at least rhetorically), the US expanded its global influence and established itself as the world’s “shining city on a hill.” Given China and Russia’s growing assertiveness, it is not an exaggeration to say that the rules-based international order might not survive a second Trump term."
Dec 28th 2023
EXTRACT: "For the most vulnerable countries, we must create conditions that enable them to finance their climate-change mitigation" ........ "The results are already there: in two years, following the initiative we took in Paris in the spring of 2021, we have released over $100 billion in special drawing rights (SDRs, the International Monetary Fund’s reserve asset) for vulnerable countries.By activating this “dormant asset,” we are extending 20-year loans at near-zero interest rates to finance climate action and pandemic preparedness in the poorest countries. We have begun to change debt rules to suspend payments for such countries, should a climate shock occur. And we have changed the mandate of multilateral development banks, such as the World Bank, so that they take more risks and mobilize more private money."
Dec 27th 2023
EXTRACT: "....if AI causes truly catastrophic increases in inequality – say, if the top 1% were to receive all pretax income – there might be limits to what tax reforms could accomplish. Consider a country where the top 1% earns 20% of pretax income – roughly the current world average. If, owing to AI, this group eventually received all pretax income, it would need to be taxed at a rate of 80%, with the revenue redistributed as tax credits to the 99%, just to achieve today’s pretax income distribution; funding the government and achieving today’s post-tax income distribution would require an even higher rate. Given that such high rates could discourage work, we would likely have to settle for partial inequality insurance, analogous to having a deductible on a conventional insurance policy to reduce moral hazard."