Neighbors at war | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Neighbors at war


WORLD Radio - Neighbors at war

Tensions between Israeli settlers and Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank became violent in the weeks following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack

Mustafa Abu Kabeyta’s homestead in the West Bank’s South Hebron Hills Photo by Jill Nelson

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, February 7th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

REICHARD: Coming next on The World and Everything in It: A different sort of casualty of war. Israel is understandably preoccupied with a war against Hamas and missile attacks on multiple fronts.

At the same time, the country is dealing with another set of problems in the West Bank: settler violence against Palestinians.

EICHER: WORLD’s Jill Nelson visited Israel in December. She brings us this story of Palestinian Bedouins in the West Bank trying to be good neighbors.

JILL NELSON, REPORTER: The Abu Kabeyta family lives in the West Bank’s South Hebron Hills. It’s a rural community with farms and livestock, where Jews and Palestinians live together.

But this Palestinian Bedouin family distrusts their neighbors. And now they fear for their lives.

Mustafa Abu Kabyeta is one of seven brothers who lives on this homestead. He points down the hill and across the road to where the trouble began. He tells the family’s story in Hebrew and one of his friends agrees to interpret.

ABU KABEYTA: There’s a farm there, Talia Farms, we always have trouble with them because of these lands. The Israeli state tells them this is their land, don't touch their land. But they are criminals.

According to Israeli courts, this land belongs to the Abu Kabyeta family. They’ve lived here for generations. But Abu Kabeyta said the Jewish owners of Talia Farms don’t accept the court’s decision.

Talia Farms is a settler outpost. It’s one of more than 100 Jewish settlements that are not approved by the Israeli government and violate international law.

Most settlers want to prevent a future Palestinian state in the West Bank. They believe the land should only belong to Jews, so they are slowly taking over Palestinian property. Close to one-third of the settlers are ultra-Orthodox.

Some settlers turn to violence. Abu Kabeyta says his family usually relies on the Israeli army for protection when they cross border checkpoints to go to work.

ABU KABEYTA: When we go to the checkpoint, we need to have the army go together with us. Even officers come and they go together with us to protect us from the settlers.

But since the Oct. 7th Hamas massacre, some settlers have become far more aggressive. They want Palestinians, including nomadic Bedouins, to leave. They show up at their property with weapons, and their tactics are working. More than 1,000 Palestinians have fled their homes since October.

The recent escalation with Abu Kabeyta’s neighbors began with a sad story. Hamas killed one of the women from Talia Farms on Oct. 7th. Her two adult sons became angry and visited the Abu Kabeyta family one day in late October.

They damaged some of their property. Abu Kabeyta says they pushed one of his older brothers who is in his 60s and threatened the women.

ABU KABEYTA: This is their opportunity. Because of the war, there’s no law. There’s no courts, so they just do whatever they want. They just take over.

Three of the Bedouin brothers pushed back. The settlers called local authorities who placed the brothers under administrative arrest in early November. Then released them seven weeks later.

Jacob Paz says this isn’t an isolated case. He’s the friend who was the interpreter for Abu Kabeyta. He’s also a Jewish Israeli Christian and a human rights lawyer. WORLD agreed not to use his real name because of the escalating violence.

PAZ: There are those that are taking the law into their own hands. People acting out of maybe anger, revenge, of things that Hamas has done against Jews, but now people are acting privately against the Arab population here in the area.

More than half a million Israeli settlers live among 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank. Israel governs 60 percent of the territory. The Palestinian Authority governs the rest.

Paz and Abu Kabeyta live in the area governed by Israel. And Paz said it’s increasingly becoming the “wild west.”

PAZ: Many times they will put coverings on their face so they’re not recognized and they will act violently and destroy property against the really innocent Arab population.

This has created a climate of fear and loneliness. One Christian said she’s experienced an increase in phone calls from Palestinian neighbors since the Hamas attacks. WORLD agreed not to use her name to keep her and her neighbors safe.

She said her neighbors have a simple request.

WOMAN: They called us one day and said, “Can you come over as friends because we miss being in touch with people. And a settler came to destroy us. Just come over. That’s what we need. We need your friendship.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done little to curb settler violence and stop the expansion of settlements.

The five Christians I spoke to in the West Bank said the army is too preoccupied with the war to address the violence. And Paz said local authorities are looking the other way.

PAZ: The officials, the army and the police will, more than before, turn sort of a blind eye and there’s sort of a complacency towards maybe violence of Jewish extremists.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration imposed sanctions on settlers charged with violence. Now the U.S. government can impose financial penalties and visa bans on those responsible. The visa ban also includes Palestinians who have attacked Israelis.

Israeli forces say Palestinian terrorist activity has also increased in the West Bank.

Abu Kabeyta said he does not support any terrorist groups and just wants to live in peace. And that’s challenging with closed borders, limited work, and threats from neighbors.

ABU KABEYTA: He says we are against all violence. We pray that everything will be calm again, that we can continue working like we did before together. When we see soldiers we bring them coffee. We are all neighbors here together.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jill Nelson in the West Bank’s South Hebron Hills.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


Please wait while we load the latest comments...