Last Friday an incident occurred at the site of the Bedouin village of Khirbet Al-Makhul, in the occupied West Bank area of Palestine. In violation of Geneva Convention protocols for conduct by occupying forces, an Israeli court ruled early last week that the village should be demolished, as nobody living there had been able to receive building permits for dwellings there. According to locals, the village has been at this location since long before the occupying power, Israel, even existed, let alone had occupied the local area through aggressive war, in June, 1967.
Once demolitions had occurred, the International Committee of the Red Cross attempted to deliver temporary housing to the homeless refugees:
Israeli soldiers stopped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delivering emergency aid on Tuesday and on Wednesday ICRC staff managed to put up some tents but the army forced them to take the shelters down.
Friday, when diplomatic staff from several nations attempted to deliver supplies and shelter, things became violent:
Diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia and the European Union’s political office, turned up on Friday with more supplies. As soon as they arrived, about a dozen Israeli army jeeps converged on them, and soldiers told them not to unload their truck.
Here is the longest video of the event I have been able to locate so far. Please note how many people are documenting the confrontation with cameras, phones and video equipment:
Here is a report that was shown on Iranian TV early Saturday:
A deep gulf has developed between the way this has been portrayed in Europe, as opposed to much of the Israeli press. The growing potential of a major international diplomatic incident surrounds the treatment of French diplomat, Marion Fesneau-Castaing. She is listed at the embassy’s web page directory as “Attachée de coopération humanitaire et sociale” in the section of Service de coopération et d’action culturelle (SCAC). From the photos and videos, it appears she may have been the driver of the large Mercedes truck that was attempting to deliver the humanitarian supplies.
A Reuters reporter saw soldiers throw sound grenades at a group of diplomats, aid workers and locals in the occupied West Bank, and yank a French diplomat out of the truck before driving away with its contents.
‘They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity,’ French diplomat Marion Castaing said.
‘This is how international law is being respected here,’ she said, covered with dust.
Over the weekend, some European countries and the European Union have voiced outrage:
The European Union is demanding that Israel provide a full clarification over the Israeli army’s assault against European diplomats on Friday, especially the manhandling of a French diplomat. The diplomats were trying to deliver a truck full of tents and emergency aid to Palestinians whose homes were demolished last weekend.
Haaretz reported on Sunday that the EU’s Ambassador called Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday evening to express his concern over the army’s assault against the European diplomats.
According to the newspaper, Israel’s Europe official in the Foreign Ministry responded that the existing Palestinian construction at the site had already been declared illegal; therefore, the European diplomats took part in an illegal act as well.
One European official described the Israeli actions as ‘shocking and outrageous.’
A spokesman for the British Consulate General in Jerusalem said it was ‘concerned at reports that the Israeli military authorities have prevented the affected community from receiving humanitarian assistance.’
The spokesman added: ‘We have repeatedly made clear to the Israeli authorities our concerns over such demolitions, which we view as causing unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians; as harmful to the peace process; and as contrary to international humanitarian law.’
UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator James Rawley said the Israeli authorities should ‘live up to their obligations as occupying power to protect those communities under their responsibility.’
The Israelis have built up a story over the weekend that Ms. Fesneau-Castaing created an incident, rather than responded to harsh treatment. Contrary to the diplomat’s statement, the Israelis are alleging she ended up on the ground only after hitting an Israeli soldier. Consequently, they are contemplating action against her:
Israel is considering taking action against one of the participants in an altercation that took place last week between European diplomats and Israeli Border Police officers, and is weighing whether to declare a French diplomat persona non-grata because of what officials say was inappropriate behavior for a diplomat, Haaretz has learned.
National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror is holding discussions to decide whether the French diplomat may be declared a persona non-grata. A decision has not yet been reached, but if such a measure is adopted, the diplomat, Marion Fesneau-Castaing, would no longer be afforded diplomatic immunity and would be banished from Israel.
‘Diplomats are sent by their governments to act as a bridge and not as provocateurs,’ the Foreign Ministry said. ‘The European diplomats and their governments owe an explanation for this blatant violation of diplomatic codes of conduct. Israel has already made it clear that it will not accept this misconduct. Israel’s response will reflect the seriousness of these violations.’
Perhaps the best explanation I’ve seen yet in print, on the progression from being forced out of the truck, and the diplomat’s slap at the soldier, was offered by another French diplomat, Paul Hirschson:
A European diplomatic source said French diplomat Marion Fesneau-Castaing was dragged out of an aid truck by Israeli soldiers who later confiscated the vehicle.
Pictures showed her lying in the dust, but foreign ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson said that she lay down of her own accord as an act of ‘passive resistance’ against enforcement of a court order against unlicensed building by Bedouin in the Israeli-occupied Jordan valley.
‘She was removed from the vehicle… then she dropped herself onto the ground… nobody threw her on the floor,’ he told AFP.
‘There was violence from her side when she stood up and she walked over and she punched the officer in the face,’ Hirschson added.
From the Press TV video, the soldier she struck appears to have been the same coward who stuck his automatic rifle in her face, as she lay in the dirt. Had he done that to me, I would have kicked him in the nuts. Hard.
Monday will most likely see some further statements from the other governments whose diplomats were kept from delivering aid to refugees: Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia.
Meanwhile, what may turn out to have been a very serious incident between these European countries and Israel, has gotten virtually no coverage in U.S. media.