Israeli Soldiers Haul Palestinians Out Of Pool At Gunpoint So Jewish Settlers Can Swim ‘Undisturbed’ (IMAGES)

In a story echoing scenes from McKinney, Texas last weekend, Israeli security forces descended upon a swimming pool in a West Bank town and hauled non-Jews from the pool at gunpoint. All so Jewish-Israeli settlers from the nearby illegal settlements could swim in a Muslim-free environment.

In video footage recorded by a teenage witness, we saw Cpl. Eric Casebolt barrel roll into a pool party in McKinney, Texas. He grabbed a bikini-clad teen girl, threw her to the ground, sat on her while she screamed in apparent pain and confusion, and cuffed her. When her friends approach him, also in swim suits, he pulled his gun on them. The video went viral, and Casebolt was has since been forced to resign in disgrace. If it’s wrong in McKinney, it’s wrong in Israel-Palestine.

Map of the West Bank zones

Map of the West Bank zones

The Birkat al-Karmil natural pool and park sits in the Hebron Hills, in a section of the Occupied West Bank (Area A) over which Israel has agreed to relinquish military and civil control to the Palestinian Authority. But as this case and others attest, none of the West Bank is truly free from Israel’s Occupation Forces.

The resort is funded and maintained the Palestine’s Yatta Municipality for the enjoyment of all, and often settlers swim alongside local Palestinians. Until April 7 this year, when the settlers decided that this was another piece of Palestine in need of reclaiming for Jewish-Israelis alone.

Israeli soldiers chat with settlers after ordering Palestinians out of the pool at gunpoint.

Israeli soldiers chat with settlers after ordering Palestinians out of the pool at gunpoint.

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem conducted an investigation into April’s events and found the following:

At about 2:00 P.M., hundreds of settlers arrived at the pool accompanied by dozens of soldiers, Border Police, and representatives of the Civil Administration (CA). The security forces ordered the Palestinian bathers to leave the pool and remain on the edge of the park. They allowed the settlers, however, free and exclusive use of the rest of the park. At about 5:30 P.M., the settlers and the security forces left the area.

Around 200 Palestinians were reportedly removed from the park – some bathing, some relaxing in the park – to make way for the settlers’ Passover festivities. In testimony provided to B’Tselem, 20-year-old Muhammad Mahaniyah, a resident of Yatta who was bathing in the pool with friends, stated:

A Border Police officer ordered me to get out of the water quickly. At first I refused and told him that I wanted to be in the pool and had a right to be there. I said that I had no problem with the settlers swimming along with me. He threatened to use force if I didn’t get out of the water quickly, so my friends and I had no choice but to get out. The soldiers ordered the Palestinians who were around the pool to move back to the edge of the park, to stay there, and not to approach the settlers.

15-year-old Ibrahim Abu Tabikh, from the village of al-Karmil, stated that:

At about two o’clock I went to swim in the pool, which is about 500 meters from my home. When I got there, I saw groups of settlers moving towards the pool. There were dozens of soldiers and Border Police officers with them. The settlers began to undress and jump into the water. I also jumped in with my brother Muhammad, 16, and we began to swim. The settlers complained about our being in the pool and three young settlers started swimming towards us. Some soldiers intervened and asked them to move away from us. After they swam away, one of the soldiers ordered us to get out of the water. I refused and stood by the edge of the pool. Another soldier came up to me, pointed his gun at me, and shouted at me to get out of the water quickly. Muhammad and I got out of the water because I was afraid of the soldiers. As I got out, dozens of Palestinian residents around the pool shouted slogans against the settlers being there. The soldiers moved the residents away from the pool to the northern section of the park and prevented them from wandering around the park. In the meantime the settlers continued to swim while the soldiers guarded them. I stayed in the park until the settlers left at about half past five.

Settlers at Birket al-Karmel. Photo: Nasser Nawaj’ah, B’Tselem, 7 April 2015

Settlers at Birket al-Karmel. Photo: Nasser Nawaj’ah, B’Tselem, 7 April 2015

This is yet another example of the lawlessness with which Israeli Occupation Forces and illegal Jewish-Israeli settlers operate across the West Bank. If proof were needed that even the most petulant request of settlers is enforced by the Israeli military – this is it. As B’Tselem point out:

“The military used its force and authority solely in order to allow settlers the pleasure of bathing at that particular location.”

The military routinely closes Palestinian roads, orders Palestinians to evacuate their homes so they can conduct military exercises, demolish whole towns and villages to claim land for new settlements, fails to prosecute settlers for routinely murdering Palestinians, and brutalizes the Palestinian population who live in terror of nightly raids in which men, women and even children are hauled away for interminable jail sentences and torture without any criminal charges against them.

All of this is in breach of international and human rights law, and none of it is being prosecuted because the U.S. and other Western governments use their economic and military advantage to protect their ally from these consequences. It is America’s domestic failure to indict against police brutality writ large, on the world stage.

When the U.S, Israel and the United Kingdom governments refused to take action against Apartheid South Africa, a people-led boycott movement saw global citizenry hold that rogue state to account. So too, a modern Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement is moving in on Apartheid Israel. It was right then, and it is right now.

Featured Image via B’Tselem