Haaaretz journalists Gideon Levy and Alex Levac reported on a West Bank burglary case in 2020 in which a small Palestinian business was repeatedly burglarized by Jewish settlers. Was this burglary motivated by racism?
Mohammed Mahmadi, 29, left his restaurant job in Jaffa when his son was born with a respiratory disease that required him to stay close to home. He borrowed 80,000 shekels ($22,000 USD) from his police officer brother to open a small plant nursery and kiosk that served both Palestinian and Jewish customers in the West Bank. In his first year of operating the business, his store was burglarized 5 times.
Jewish Settlers Burglurize Palestinian-Owned Nursery
The first burglary occurred only two months after the nursery was opened. Since then, a break-in occurred on average every two months.
Mahmadi always suspected the thieves were settlers; he and neighbors witnessed the burglars at different times. The fifth burglary was filmed with security cameras, which showed three young men wearing the tzitzit, a Jewish prayer garment. The burglars also left and returned to continue their burglary less than half an hour later, implying that they unloaded the loot in nearby Rehelim before returning to continue their theft.
“I do not sell to Rehelim. They are racists,” Mahmadi told Levy and Levac. He shared that he is happy selling to settlers from Eli and Ma’aleh Levona. “You know who is a good person in Tel Aviv and who is not, which neighborhood is good and which is bad. It’s the same with me here. If something bad happens, who comes to mind? The bad neighborhood. Rehelim is a bad neighborhood.”
Rising Settler Violence Motivated by Racism
Settler violence has been on the rise in the West Bank. Non-profit non-governmental organization Première Urgence Internationale Palestine has found a 170% increase in settler violence between 2017 to 2022, which includes attacks, vandalisms, and thefts.
Jewish American writer Benjamin Moser witnessed similar violence in Hebron. He shared: “I saw a racial tyranny that was not only not over: it was actively getting worse. […It] felt worse… than anything I’d read about Jim Crow.”
Mahmadi described the police showing up after the burglary, however they showed no interest. “If a Jew were to call and say, there’s an Arab who’s just holding a stone—not even throwing, just holding one—they would shut down the whole area.” Israeli attorney Eitay Mack described the police’s handling of these repeated thefts as negligent and politically motivated: “The behavior of the Shai District police helps settlers involved in nationalistic crimes to evade justice.”
Contradicting Jewish Values
The United Nations Office for Coordination of Human Affairs counted at least 570 violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank between January and mid-June of 2023. This averages to 95 monthly attacks, while 2022’s average was 71 violent assaults against Palestinians per month.
Commanders for Israel’s Security, a group of retired Israeli military officials, delivered a letter to the Knesset in 2021 which denounced the violence: “Groups of settlers have been perpetrating deadly acts of violence against Palestinians—for the most part helpless villagers—in areas under our control. This is completely unacceptable from an ethical and humanitarian perspective, and it stands in contradiction to Israel’s Jewish values.”
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