The Violence at Khalet Al-Makhoul
” ‘They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity,’ ” French diplomat Marion Castaing said.” ‘This is how international law is being respected here,’
Not in some hidden corner of Africa, or forgotten Latin American dictatorship, but in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank, and by the troops of the supposedly civilised State of Israel, which boasts that it is "the only democracy in the Middle East", claims to uphold international law, and expects not just fair but privileged treatment by the European Union.
Here is the report of what happened on Friday, September 20:
(Reuters) - Israeli soldiers manhandled European diplomats on Friday and seized a truck full of tents and emergency aid they had been trying to deliver to Palestinians whose homes were demolished this week.
A Reuters reporter saw soldiers throw sound grenades at a group of diplomats, aid workers and locals in the occupied West Bank, and yank a French diplomat out of the truck before driving away with its contents.
"They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity," French diplomat Marion Castaing said. "This is how international law is being respected here," she said, covered with dust.
The Israeli army and police declined to comment.
Locals said Khirbet Al-Makhul was home to about 120 people. The army demolished their ramshackle houses, stables and a kindergarten on Monday after Israel's high court ruled that they did not have proper building permits.
Despite losing their property, the inhabitants have refused to leave the land, where, they say, their families have lived for generations along with their flocks of sheep.
Israeli soldiers stopped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delivering emergency aid on Tuesday and on Wednesday IRCS staff managed to put up some tents but the army forced them to take the shelters down.
Diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia and the European Union's political office, turned up on Friday with more supplies. As soon as they arrived, about a dozen Israeli army jeeps converged on them, and soldiers told them not to unload their truck.
"It's shocking and outrageous. We will report these actions to our governments," said one EU diplomat, who declined to be named because he did not have authorization to talk to the media.
"(Our presence here) is a clear matter of international humanitarian law. By the Geneva Convention, an occupying power needs to see to the needs of people under occupation. These people aren't being protected," he said.
In scuffles between soldiers and locals, several villagers were detained and an elderly Palestinian man fainted and was taken for medical treatment to a nearby ambulance.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement that Makhul was the third Bedouin community to be demolished by the Israelis in the West Bank and adjacent Jerusalem municipality since August.
Palestinians have accused the Israeli authorities of progressively taking their historical grazing lands, either earmarking it for military use or handing it over to the Israelis whose settlements dot the West Bank.
Israelis and Palestinians resumed direct peace talks last month after a three-year hiatus. Palestinian officials have expressed serious doubts about the prospects of a breakthrough.
"What the Israelis are doing is not helpful to the negotiations. Under any circumstances, talks or not, they're obligated to respect international law," the unnamed EU diplomat said.
(Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Louise Ireland)
The Israeli troops who manhandled EU diplomats at Makhoul might have embarrassed Israel's representatives in Brussels and its supporters, insofar as they embarrass that easily. But they were not just unruly soldiers or raw conscripts flustered ("provoked" in the words of the IDF) by a difficult situation. They were carrying out their government's policy, and implementing consistent brutality.
Makhoul is one of a group of hamlets in the northern Jordan valley, part of what has been designated "Area C". Israeli government propagandists here say the area was allocated to Israeli control under the Oslo agreement, as though that temporary arrangement for five years, made 20 years ago, was meant to give them permanent rule. They say the village has been ruled illegal by the Israeli Supreme Court, as though the people there are invading newcomers, like the illegal Israeli settlers. But the people of Makhoul and neighbouring villages were established there on their land long ago, before the Israeli state existed, let alone the occupation.
And not even the shabby and threadbare Oslo Agreement which Israel cites when it suits provided for blatant ethnic cleansing, which is being practiced.