Activists exposing Israel’s illegal settlements face intimidation, violence, arrest

Israeli settlers have illegally occupied West Bank. Even Mitzpe Yair was built without the government’s permission thus violating international law besides Israeli law.

Israeli Defense Force (IDF) confiscated the construction material of Palestinian villagers of Qawaqis near Mitzpe Yair on the grounds they had built huts without permits. It must be noted that the army rarely issues permits to Palestinians who apply for them. Amiel Vardi, a well-known activist, phoned the IDF to demand it take similar action against the nearby Mitzpe Yair settlers, who had also built new structures, presumably without permits.

Vardi narrated that when Ta’ayush (“living together”) activists approached Mitzpe Yair, settlers assaulted them and grabbed their cameras. A settler pushed 63-year-old Vardi down the hill. He sprained his ankle. He said soldiers standing nearby did not stop the assault or arrest anyone, on the contrary IDF blamed activists for instigating a provocation.

Eric Goldstein Deputy Director, Middle East and North Africa Division, accompanied the tour organized by Breaking the Silence (BTS), a group founded by Israelis who served in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and now seeks to expose the reality of occupation. He narrates as their buses neared the Mitzpe Yair lookout, an Israeli army jeep and several soldiers blocked their path. Their commander showed the BTS team a written order declaring the area “closed” and asked the team to leave immediately.

When two of the group members calmly questioned the order, soldiers detained them both, as well as a lawyer for Breaking the Silence and Human Rights Watch, claiming they had violated a military order.