Story transcripts

Hate Thy Neighbour

Friday, September 18, 2009

Reporter: Liam Bartlett
Producer: Howard Sacre

It was near the top of Barack Obama's "to-do" list. On day one in the White House, the first overseas call he made was to the Middle East, trying to get the Arab and Israeli leaders talking again.

Why the rush? Well, hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers are moving into the West Bank, building new towns on Palestinian land. And if there's ever going to peace in the Middle East, this is one problem that has to be fixed.

The settlers will have to move out.

But try telling them that. They're obstinate and refuse to budge. And, as Liam Bartlett discovered first hand, when they're cornered, they fight back with teargas and guns.

Read Liam Bartlett's blog on the West Bank

Full transcript:

STORY -

LIAM BARTLETT: This is a day in the life of the West Bank. Where neighbourhood disputes are settled at the point of a gun. An Israeli settler has come to confront a Palestinian family in the city of Hebron. So Hosni, when you were shot, you're standing here, the settler is, what? Standing here with the gun? And he shoots you here? Can I have a look? Will you show me? Palestinian Hosni Matrie despises the Jewish settlers who have moved into his town - and the feeling is mutual. His house is a stone's throw from one of the Jewish settlements springing up all over the West Bank.

HOSNI MATRIE (TRANSLATION): The first bullet hit my nephew, it grazed his face. A few seconds later, he shot me in my chest.

LIAM BARTLETT: A third bullet hit Hosni's father in the arm. Hosni, before they attacked, did anyone from this house provoke them at all?

HOSNI MATRIE (TRANSLATION): We have had trouble with these guys since 1973, since the beginning of the settlement.

LIAM BARTLETT: The West Bank is most disputed piece of land on the planet. This is where Palestinians want to establish their new state.

NADIA MATAR: They have here eight couples and 15 singles.

LIAM BARTLETT: But Israelis, like the feisty Nadia Matar, are doing their level best to prevent that by building houses all over it and simply assuming ownership.

NADIA MATAR: Welcome. Shalom.

LIAM BARTLETT: Thank you. Their settlements are in breach of international law, but try telling Nadia that. This is unlawful, this is unlawful.

NADIA MATAR: No. What is unlawful is for you to come to my house and tell me I'm not allowed to build. How would you feel if I came to your back yard in Sydney and tell you your house there is illegal?

LIAM BARTLETT: The UN says this is disputed territory... ..that you captured.

NADIA MATAR: The UN is biased, uh uh uh, pro-Arab - we know that. Leave it and where should we go? Where should we go? Back to Auschwitz? Where do you want us to go? This is our homeland.

LIAM BARTLETT: Israel won this land from Jordan in a war in 1967. And it's been under strict military occupation ever since. It's called the West Bank because it's on the west bank of the Jordan River. And it's tiny, tiny enough to fit into Tasmania 12 times. And without the question of its ownership ever being resolved, the Israelis are moving in and living on it. They're called settlements, from here I can see at least four. There's one over there, two behind me, and another over here, being established on this hilltop. With sworn enemies living side by side, it's little wonder tempers explode. Zev Broude, the settler who shot Palestinian Hosni Matrie and his family, went to trial in an Israeli court. Remarkably, despite the compelling video evidence all charges were dropped and he walked free. So we went to the settlement next door to ask Zev Broude why he opened fire on his neighbours - what brought on his frenzy with a gun? Hello Mr Broude, hello how are you? 60 Minutes, Australia, sir. Can we just talk for one moment please? The fact is, Israeli settlers like Zev Broude have become a law unto themselves. A man who shot three people and was proud of it. Just ask him why he shot three men at point-blank range... ..without provocation?

TRANSLATOR: He says, "Get out, it's my house, please go away."

LIAM BARTLETT: Palestinians believe that the Israelis settlers have closed the door on peace by moving in and occupying their homeland.

DR MUSTAFA BARGHOUTHI: It's like cancer. If you stop at a certain point, then you can remove its effect. But if you allow it to continue to expand, the patient will die.

LIAM BARTLETT: Palestinian doctor Mustafa Barghouthi says Israel is controlling almost every aspect of Palestinians lives. There are now 300,000 Israeli settlers - they look down on Palestinian towns through barbed wire and boom gates. To protect the settlers, Israel controls the movement of Palestinians. To travel from one town to another, there can be humiliating delays at checkpoints. There are hundreds of them. By contrast, the Israelis use a network of new highways, built for settlers only.

DR MUSTAFA BARGHOUTHI: If I am caught driving on any of these roads, although I am a member of parliament in Palestine, I would be sentenced to six months in jail.

LIAM BARTLETT: Automatically?

DR MUSTAFA BARGHOUTHI: Automatically.

LIAM BARTLETT: The oppression is sometimes very brutal. Some settlers resort to extreme tactics to protect their homes. So Palestinians are fighting back with - of all things - video cameras. The theory being that the camera doesn't lie.

SALPY KERVOKIAN: It gives them power. I mean, the Israeli Army has the guns and the settlers have the guns. This is their own weapon, this is the weapon that they use for the justice that they're hoping to achieve.

LIAM BARTLETT: Salpy Kervokian, an Israeli, is ashamed of what many of her own people are doing. She's part of Bet-Selem, a human rights group putting cameras into the hands of Palestinian families to expose hostile settlers.

SALPY KERVOKIAN: There is a moment of this lady attacking a home, with an Israeli soldier behind her not stopping her, and her verbally attacking the family living in that home.

LIAM BARTLETT: A camera versus a gun, it's a bit one-sided isn't it?

SALPY KERVOKIAN: Whatever comes forward they'll use, if it's a camera, or a rock, they'll use it.

LIAM BARTLETT: It was one of those cameras that captured, so dramatically, the shooting of the Matrie family. Finding a settler to publicly justify crazy behaviour is not easy, but one agreed to a secret meeting in a remote olive grove. Are you familiar with this incident, are you familiar with this?

ELYASHIV KELLER: I see him beating him up.

LIAM BARTLETT: He's seeing a gun and he's trying to defend himself. Settler Elyashiv Keller would have none of it. He said it had been made up, just to make settlers look bad.

ELYASHIV KELLER: You're showing me a fight, between people.

LIAM BARTLETT: No, I'm showing you a...

ELYASHIV KELLER: Listen!

LIAM BARTLETT: ..a settler, shooting at close range...

ELYASHIV KELLER: You are saying that he's a settler, I don't know those people. Listen! You can say, "OK, he's a settler, and he came to interview me from Australia," now, who's going to tell me in the middle of the shoot who's right?

LIAM BARTLETT: Oh, so you're saying...

ELYASHIV KELLER: OK, I'm saying I don't know what's going on here. This can be anything.

LIAM BARTLETT: Another thing settlers don't like talking about is the massive government support they get. Their houses are heavily subsidised, they're protected round the clock by soldiers and they get a lot more water than Palestinians - so settlements are green and Arab areas are not. But Mr Keller says that's fine, because settlers are peaceful, it's the Arabs who are violent. Do you want me to show you some more vision of Jewish settlers attacking people?

ELYASHIV KELLER: Do you see a gun?

LIAM BARTLETT: Do you want me to show you some more movies?

ELYASHIV KELLER: Do you see a gun?

LIAM BARTLETT: Do I see a gun on you? No.

ELYASHIV KELLER: I'm just sitting under a tree... ..in the middle of a beautiful place. That's all.

LIAM BARTLETT: And with that, this settler decided he'd had enough.

ELYASHIV KELLER: I think for us, this conversation is over.

LIAM BARTLETT: But what's far from over is the deep resentment that young Palestinians have for the settlers. We went along to one of their regular protests outside a settlement. Israeli soldiers were waiting for them. Look out - tear gas! This is supposed to be a peaceful demonstration, about what's happening with their land. And if this is peaceful, I'd hate to see violent. The tear gas canisters have just come in and everyone's beating a hasty retreat.

DR MUSTAFA BARGHOUTHI: Every day they are using violence against the Palestinians even when we are trying to protest in the most peaceful, non-violent manner.

LIAM BARTLETT: So when the settlers say you're the trouble-makers, what's your response?

DR MUSTAFA BARGHOUTHI: This is exactly like a man raping a woman and then he complains because she is screaming. That's exactly the attitude of the settlers. They want to attack us, take away our land, sometimes shoot us, and they want us not to protest.

LIAM BARTLETT: Israel is now under urgent pressure from the outside world, led by President Obama, to first freeze the building of settlements and then, somehow, to dismantle them. Winding back the clock will be an almighty challenge, but Dr Barghouthi believes it's now or probably never.

LIAM BARTLETT: How close is it?

DR MUSTAFA BARGHOUTHI: Very close, or almost there. I am so worried because I think if, I mean, we have really very specific two months now. It's about changing the course. If the course doesn't change within these two months then that means the course will not change at all.

LIAM BARTLETT: Settler Nadia Matar says nothing will change, and she's not going anywhere. So when they send in the troops to dismantle all this?

NADIA MATAR: We'll re-build it - not only 1 but 10.

LIAM BARTLETT: You'll keep building?

NADIA MATAR: Of course. They'll come, they'll break it down - not this, I hope not, but if they do, so we'll rebuild here and here and here, you're invited to come.

LIAM BARTLETT: We'd love to.

NADIA MATAR: OK, good.

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