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Only a short time later—Another elder Palestinian dies at the hands of Occupying forces—this time as he protects his right to his little patch of ground from the Settlers

posted on: Jan 26, 2022

Only a short time later—Another elder Palestinian dies at the hands of Occupying forces—this time as he protects his right to his little patch of ground from the Settlers
MSNBC’s Ali Velshi brought to light the story of Haj Suleiman Photo MSNBC

By: John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer

MSNBC’s Ali Velshi reported a story about an elder Palestinian, a shepherd and prominent activist, who valiantly resisted Israeli occupation through civil disobedience. Before the Velshi clip had been put back in the can, a pro-Israel media advocacy group in Boston picked up on his story, castigating him and the story. A brief review of international law on foreign occupation suggests that Israel is contravening fundamental rules of international humanitarian law.

MSNBC’s Ali Velshi reporting: “A Palestinian shepherd peacefully resisted the Israeli occupation. And now he’s dead.”

Last Saturday, MSNBC’s Ali Velshi reported a story about an elder Palestinian he had met earlier during a 2019 West Bank-Israel trip. Titled “A Shepherd’s Resistance,” the story is about Haj Suleiman al-Hathaleen, a shepherd and prominent activist. Per Velshi’s broadcast, “Suleiman was a small man with no weapons. He resisted the occupation through civil disobedience. While Israeli bulldozers destroyed the homes in his neighborhood, he stood in peaceful defiance with a Palestinian flag and his shepherd’s staff.”

As the story goes, Haj Suleiman’s village of Umm al-Khair had been shrinking rapidly, as a new settlement was expanding around it. Settlers had requested Israeli forces to clean up the nearby area, including the confiscation of unregistered Palestinian cars. As was his decades-long practice, Haj Suleiman peacefully resisted the increasing control and confiscation of Palestinian property.

One incident that triggered Haj Suleiman’s demise, recalled from Velshi’s broadcast, was a communal village bread oven whose smoke wafted over into the settlement, disturbing the settlers. They requested that the oven be moved, resulting in Haj Suleiman being run over by a tow truck contracted to the Israeli police. He was apparently in their way. This story, coincidentally or not, shares an ending much like last week’s story on the retired Milwaukee grocer who was left helpless by the IDF soldiers.

According to witnesses, “the tow truck driver and their police escort simply fled the rural village. They did not render aid to Haj Suleiman. They did not even call for an ambulance. Al-Haj Suleiman al-Hathaleen never emerged from his coma and died of his injuries this week.” Velshi reported, “Suleiman was a man with little to his name, except for his land, his village, and his ability to stand up to an illegal occupation. This small man with just his words and his staff, was a thorn in the side of the Israeli occupation because he had become a symbol of the resistance, and an emblem of the Israeli occupation.”

Only a short time later—Another elder Palestinian dies at the hands of Occupying forces—this time as he protects his right to his little patch of ground from the Settlers
Haj Suleiman, a shepherd and noted activist who’s been resisting the occupation for decades, died fighting for his cause Photo Trendsmap.com

It should be noted that Ali Velshi is an unabashed supporter of the Palestinians, though in no way anti-Semitic and, furthermore, he believes Israel has a clear right to exist and defend itself. He also believes the exact same rights apply to the Palestinians. However, Velshi describes Palestinians as “at best, third class citizens in the nation of their birth. The Israeli government, on an ongoing basis, declares parcels of land on which Palestinians live to be either of military or archeological importance, causing residents to be evicted.”

An opposing view: “Ali Velshi’s parody”—by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA)

A pro-Israel media advocacy group in Boston, CAMERA, picked up on Velshi’s story immediately. Not holding back, it characterized ‘A Shepherd’s Resistance’ as “a grotesque propaganda roadshow which abandons any vestige of professional, objective journalism, both regarding the particular case of Al-Haj Suleiman al-Hathaleen and the larger issue of Israel’s presence in the West Bank.”

CAMERA claims that the police operation to remove unregistered vehicles was “not an embodiment of Israel’s alleged nefarious population replacement plan, but was an effort to protect both populations, Palestinian and Israeli alike.” This news media advocacy group did not agree with Velshi’s view that the removal was part of a population transfer scheme, namely moving in more settlers to displace Palestinians. What is the scheme, then, other than for settlers to populate more and more of the occupied West Bank?

Only a short time later—Another elder Palestinian dies at the hands of Occupying forces—this time as he protects his right to his little patch of ground from the Settlers
Settlements have been shrinking Palestinian villages for decades now Photo Daily Sabah

That CAMERA makes the point that the Palestinian villagers resisted the tow truck is not disputed They are and have been angry for generations at the external control of their community and land. It suggests that the police could not stop to care for Haj Suleiman because they were being threatened by the villagers.

The Israel news advocacy group suggests that Velshi misrepresented who owns the land the settlers live on. It contends, because only some of the land the nearby settlement sits on is privately-owned Palestinian land, makes it acceptable. Even if the Palestinian claim is that more of their privately held land is settled than in fact is, does not let the occupiers off the hook.

A brief look at actual International Law regarding Israeli settlements and their status

First, it is essential to note that the subject of international law and the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank is not only complex but also fraught with tension and disagreement. We will only touch the surface of the subject.

The very first statement in an Amnesty International assessment of Israeli settlements and international law is: “Israel’s policy of settling its civilians in occupied Palestinian territory and displacing the local population contravenes fundamental rules of international humanitarian law.” This judgement is based on Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” It also prohibits the “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory”.

Only a short time later—Another elder Palestinian dies at the hands of Occupying forces—this time as he protects his right to his little patch of ground from the Settlers
“Israel’s policy of settling its civilians in occupied Palestinian territory and displacing the local population contravenes fundamental rules of international humanitarian law”–namely article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention

A second important aspect of international law for the settlements question is that “appropriation of land and or the destruction of property required to build and expand settlements is a breach of rules of international humanitarian law.” This means “that an occupying state is only allowed a very limited use of this property and temporary.” Furthermore, the occupier is supposed to protect and secure the welfare of the people living under occupation.

Yet another aspect of occupation, the treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, which involves many violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. According to a History of Palestine, many aspects of Israeli treatment of Palestinians violate international law, specifically those that contravene that Convention. Many violations have been perpetrated on the Palestinians, too many to enumerate here.

The complexities, including the controversial aspects, of this discussion, go beyond our purpose and space to resolve here. Nevertheless, if we ignore some of the seemingly “small” pieces of news from Palestine, we may regret it later.

Sources:
• “A Shepherd’s Resistance, Ali Velshi, MSNBC, 1/22/2022
• “A Shepherd’s Resistance,’ Ali Velshi’s Parody,” Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), 1/23/2022
• “Israeli Settlement and International Law, Status of Settlement under International Law, Amnesty International, 2019
• “The Occupation-International Law & Israel/Palestine,” History of Palestine, 7/3/2021

John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID, Department of State, and the World Bank in 65 countries.

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