Settler violence: Cars torched and hate graffiti sprayed in Um Safa

Settler violence: Cars torched and hate graffiti sprayed in Um Safa

Published: 
29 Aug 2017

On Wednesday, 9 August 2017, at about 2:30 A.M., Wasim Bader, 28, a married father of one, who lives in the Palestinian village of Um Safa, north of Ramallah, was sitting in his living room when he noticed a car stopping at a junction close to his home. The junction lies some 20 to 30 meters from the house and is lit at night.

Graffiti sprayed painted by settlers on the front wall of Wasim Bader’s house at Um Safa. Photography: Iyad Hadad, B’tselem . 9.8.17
Graffiti sprayed painted by settlers on the front wall of Wasim Bader’s house at Um Safa. Photography: Iyad Hadad, B’tselem . 9.8.17

In a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad later that day, Bader described what happened next:

The settlement of Ateret is about 200 to 300 meters from my home. I saw a car stop at the junction next to my neighbor Muhammad’s house and turn around to face the settlement. At first, I thought it was young Arab guys driving the car, but I was also worried that they might be from the Israeli military. The military sometimes uses private cars to raid towns and villages in the area. To find out who they were, I went up to the second floor and looked out through the western window, because I assumed they’d pass under it. I didn’t see them, so I went to the other room and saw the front part of my Opel going up in flames. I also saw three people – the driver and two others, in civilian clothes – running towards the car that was parked at the junction. I caught a glimpse of them for just a second or two. They were wearing dark clothes and were tall. They seemed young, in their twenties more or less. They may have been carrying something on their backs that looked like a bag or rifles, but I can’t be sure. I only caught a very brief glimpse of them. They got into the car and drove onto the main road that connects the settlements of Ateret and Halamish.

Wasim Bader’s Opel car, which was torched by settlers at Um Safa. Photography: Iyad Hadad, B’tselem . 9.8.17
Wasim Bader’s Opel car, which was torched by settlers at Um Safa. Photography: Iyad Hadad, B’tselem . 9.8.17

The car of ‘Omar Tanatrah, a neighbour of Bader’s, was also torched. Bader and his neighbors ran out to the street and called for help. Several residents came with pails of water to put out the fire and others summoned the Bir Zeit Fire Squad, which arrived about 15 minutes later. By the time they arrived, the residents had put out most of the flames.

Both cars were almost entirely incinerated. The residents also discovered that graffiti had been sprayed in Hebrew on one of Bader’s walls, reading: “Revenge Administrative Solomon”.

‘Omar Tanatrah, 43, a married father of three, whose car was also torched, told B’Tselem that soldiers arrived around 3:30 A.M. They inspected the scene, including the torched cars and the graffiti, and told the residents that police would come in the morning. At 7:00 A.M., police officers arrived with forensic experts who inspected the scene, took fingerprint samples from the cars and collected testimonies from the owners and from eye witnesses who had seen the assailants’ car driving away.

In a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad later that day, Tanatrah described the implications of the torching:

The car is gone. It’s an old model that’s worth less than 1,000 dollars, but to me it’s worth hundreds of thousands because I need it for my work. I don’t earn much and can’t afford to buy a new car. God only knows what will become of me now that I’ve lost the vehicle.

‘Omar Tanatrah next to his car, which was torched by settlers at Um Safa. Photography: Iyad Hadad, B’tselem . 9.8.17
‘Omar Tanatrah next to his car, which was torched by settlers at Um Safa. Photography: Iyad Hadad, B’tselem . 9.8.17

Based on past experience, the chances that Israeli authorities will take action against the perpetrators are extremely low and yet again, no one will be held accountable. The consistent failure to protect the lives, wellbeing and property of Palestinians from settler violence demonstrates to what degree Israeli authorities have abandoned their duty to safeguard them.