UN official blames Israeli settlement activity for Duma deaths

UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman says violence against both Israelis and Palestinians is aided by lax law enforcement in the West Bank.

August 21, 2015 02:45
3 minute read.
The Dawabsha family home in Duma

The Dawabsha family home in Duma, July 2015. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)


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Israeli actions such as settlement activity and poor law enforcement in the West Bank together create an environment of violence that led to the death of the Dawabsha family members in the Palestinian village of Duma and cause attacks against settlers by Palestinians, charged a UN official.

“I underscore that this attack [in Duma], like so many others over the years, including against Israeli settlers, occurred in the context of a chronic lack of adequate law enforcement in the West Bank,” UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the UN Security Council in New York on Wednesday.

“Such violence is possible because of the environment created as a result of Israel’s decades-long policy of illegal settlement activities,” the diplomat said.

He made the statements as he spoke of the increase in West Bank violence in the month. That increase included a terrorist attack, thought to be carried out by Jewish extremists, in which two Palestinian homes in the village of Duma were torched.
Sa’ad Dawabsha, 31, and his son, Ali, 18 months, were both killed in that attack.
Sa’ad’s wife, Reham, and son, Ahmed, 4, were seriously injured.

In the aftermath of the Duma incident, Palestinians attacked soldiers in four different incidents, injuring 6 soldiers.

In civilian attacks, a Palestinian knifed an Israeli at a gas station on Route 443 two weeks ago. On Wednesday evening, an Israeli man and his 22-month-old daughter were wounded when stones were thrown at their vehicle near that same road. Earlier in the month, an Israeli woman was injured when her car was firebombed in Jerusalem.

In New York, Feltman told the UN Security Council that “the recurrent violent incidents and radicalization in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and Gaza, threaten to further destabilize an already tense environment.

“The incidents share a common thread: They are the inevitable product of the failure to make the tough choices necessary to resolve this conflict. They are the ramifications of the failure to prioritize the pursuit of a shared future built on trust rather than fear,” Feltman said.

There must be renewed local, regional and international efforts to renew the peace process, he said, adding that Israel should enable the growth of Palestinian sovereignty, its economy and security.

He also warned that Israeli security forces must uphold international law when arresting Palestinians or dealing with riots.

The Palestinians, in turn, need to unify their factions to ensure that “the legitimate Palestinian Authority must represent all of Palestine and all Palestinians.”

Feltman, who previously served at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, said that he was also concerned by some legal changes in Israel, including the Knesset’s recent decision to allow for the force-feeding of a hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners.

“Numerous human rights and medical bodies have questioned whether force feeding meets international standards of medical ethics, safety and human rights. Careful consideration should be placed on addressing the underlying human rights concerns which lead prisoners to such extreme protests, including prolonged administrative detention,” he commented.

The UN official expressed concern about the recently enacted law allowing for harsher punishments for those who throw stones at a moving vehicle. The legislation makes such offenses punishable by prison sentences of up to 20 years.

“The law is likely to affect children disproportionately,” he said.

He also expressed worry about the recent Supreme Court ruling that the 1952 Absentee Property Law could be applied to Palestinians who own property in east Jerusalem but have moved to the West Bank, which could result in Palestinians who moved out of east Jerusalem to the West Bank losing their property.

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