Last Saturday, October 13, thousands of Palestinians attended the funeral of Aisha Al Rawbi, a 48-year old mother of eight, who was killed in an attack by Israeli settlers. While driving toward their home in the West Bank village of Biddya, the Rawbi family’s car was struck by stones, which were reportedly thrown by Israeli settlers living in an illegal settlement. Aisha died as a result of a head injury. Her husband and two daughters survived the attack.
Israeli police, which is investigating the crime, has confirmed that it believes settlers are behind the attack.
According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the transfer of a population into an occupied territory is illegal. Still, the Israel settlement enterprise has been growing. Israeli settlers have established a parallel universe in Palestine. Currently, around 800,000 Israelis reside beyond Israel’s internationally recognized borders. Many of these extraterritorial settler-colonists enjoy a state-subsidized life in illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Violence committed by settlers against Palestinians is common and ranges from executions to arson attacks. Private property, schools, mosques, and churches are vandalized. Settlers routinely chop down olive trees in order to sabotage the harvests of Palestinian farmers.
The Nablus area, where Aisha Al Rawbi was stoned, has witnessed the highest amount of violent incidents, which have been on the rise throughout the West Bank, as reported by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Despite this widespread extremism, the IDF, which under international law should protect Palestinians, generally tolerates settler-violence.
Indeed, settlers enjoy impunity. As Israeli NGO B’Tselem has concluded, ¨[i]nvestigations, if even opened, are usually closed with no action taken against perpetrators as part of an undeclared policy of leniency.¨ This impunity is made possible by the structures of apartheid. Violent settler activity is in line with Israel’s overall dehumanizing treatment of the Palestinian population and part and parcel of its colonizing mission. As Israeli citizens, settlers have rights in the state of Israel, which are not enjoyed by Palestinians, who are the indigenous inhabitants of the same area and are subjugated by Israeli military occupation. Indeed, Israel continues to jail Palestinian children accused of stone throwing, while throwing stones at Palestinians remains a routine tactic for militant settlers.
Given this alarming record of settler violence and impunity, little can be expected of Israeli investigations into Al Rawbi’s case.