HEBRON – With Israeli police turning a blind eye to repeated attacks by armed settlers, Palestinians are using cameras as their frontline defense against setters’ assaults.
"I always keep the camera at my side," Bassam al-Jaabari told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Friday, June 20, in his poorly stocked grocer’s shop in the West Bank town of Hebron (Al-Khalil).
"It’s the only thing which prevents the settlers from hurling stones at us or coming into my shop," he added, pointing to a three-storey house about 100 meters (yards) away.
More than a year ago, several families of Israeli settlers, who claim they had bought the property, moved into the building in the Palestinian district of Al-Ras.
Immediately, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem provided the four Palestinian families living near to that house with video cameras to document settlers’ assaults, as part of its program "Shooting Back".
"We know from experience what happens as soon as settler move into the heart of Palestinian areas," said Issa Amro, the B’Tselem official responsible for the volatile Hebron sector.
About 500 settlers are housed in several tiny enclaves built since 1980 in the heart of the city, home to more than 167,000 Palestinians.
B’Tselem has distributed about 100 cameras to Palestinians in the West Bank since the start of 2007 to record assaults by settlers.
"They (the settlers) make the life of the Palestinians impossible," said Amro.
"But if their neighbors film them, they think twice before harassing them."
Last week, B’Tselem released a footage showing Israeli settlers brutally attacking two old Palestinian farmers in Hebron.
"The settlers gave us a 10-minute warning to clear off from the land," Thamam al-Nawaja, 58, told the BBC after spending three days in hospital following the attack.
She said she and her 70-year-old husband stood their ground and that her arm was broken and her left cheek fractured in an ensuing attack.
Some of the videotapes showing the setters’ assaults have also been broadcast by international media, including one in March last year that showed an Israeli woman hurling a stream of insults at a Palestinian neighbor in the old town of Hebron.
"The pictures of this woman have been broadcast throughout the world and provoked at lot of reaction," recalled Oren Yacokovobish, in charge of the B’Tselem program.
"It was then we realized the potential of ‘Shooting Back’ which was then in a testing phase.
"The cameras have above all a deterrent effect; they protect Palestinians. They also enable the public to see incidents which otherwise are invisible and whose veracity can always be challenged."
(IslamOnline.net and new agencies)