RAMALLAH, Saturday, August 06, 2022 (WAFA) – Stijn Ledegen, a member of a Belgian delegation which was assaulted by Israeli settlers near Ramallah last month, has said that the Israeli settlers are deliberately targeting international humanitarian workers because they are afraid that the human right crimes which they commit will be exposed by journalists and foreign people outside Palestine.
On July 05, Ledegen was among a delegation of Belgian experts, humanitarian workers and journalists en route to a project of Enabel, the Belgian agency for development cooperation, when they were detained for hours and held at gunpoint by an armed Israeli settler near the village of Kafr Ni’ma in the West Bank province of Ramallah.
“I think that Israeli settlers have violent behavior because they are afraid that the human right crimes they are committing will be exposed by journalists and foreign people outside Palestine,” Ledegen told WAFA. “I think the main reason why they are violent is that they want to hide their human rights crimes, they don’t want this to be shown outside Palestine because otherwise there will be international sanctions.”
Ledegen added that the Israeli military actually provides the settlers with protection. “This guy [settler] who was threatening us and doing very dangerous things to us was protected by the Israeli military, and the Israeli government even encourages him to live in an illegal settlement in the West Bank.”
“Look where many Israeli officials live, they live in Israeli settlements and this is their tactic to colonize more and more territory so that they would say ‘look guys we’ve been living here for years then it’s ours,” he continued.
Asked whether the Israeli occupation forces provide a culture of impunity for the Israeli settlers, he said, “Yes, the settlers can do whatever they want, and they still feel protected by law because they [Israeli government] make them feel like they are in danger. Palestinians don’t have weapons while the settlers are walking like you can see in the video with three different machine guns. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are even just accused and can be taken to prison, even if they are elderly or children, while the settlers don’t see the prison even if they kill Palestinian people.”
The Belgian development worker pointed out that “Israeli settlers deliberately target international humanitarian workers, and this is clear. Israeli settlers are very aggressive, hateful and suspicious about humanitarian workers, they see them as a kind of threat. In their eyes, the situation of the Palestinian people shouldn’t be improved... So they hope that the Palestinian people will suffer more.”
“This is why they bully the Palestinian people in their villages around their illegal settlements. So, when there are humanitarian workers coming then they are for Israeli settlers the worst because they would improve the situation and make the Palestinian people stronger, which will make their illegal settlements not having the same power as before,” Ledegen said.
He continued, “Settlers attack international workers to intimidate them no to come back, because when humanitarian workers go to Palestine and experience the situation, and when they go back home to their countries and we start advocating for the Palestinian case. This is something that the Israeli government hates and of course the Israeli settlers don’t want.”
“The Palestinian people deserve better protection and their human rights should be respected because they are left in injustice. What I saw in my eyes is insane. The Palestinian people deserve the humanitarian aid as any other kind of people in the world, and above all they deserve justice.”
Ledegen concluded by saying that “the reality of life in the West Bank reminded me of the apartheid regime in South Africa. When I saw the images from South Africa and I compared it with Palestine with my own eyes. When I say a university being built in Ariel my mind went crazy that in 2022 this injustice still exists, when the Palestinian people are left behind, their homes being destroyed.”