Settler Attacks Near Bethlehem University

As a threatened U.N. showdown over Palestinian statehood approaches, are tensions on the rise between settlers and Palestinians on the West Bank? Recent Israeli approval of hundreds of new housing units for settlers has needless to say irritated Palestinians who remain committed to the two-state option, and other controversial efforts by Israelis to clear Palestinian land for more housing was suspended to allow the matter to be resolved in court. Meanwhile UN and humanitarian groups report that attacks on Palestinians by settlers has been on the rise recently.

We received the following report from LaSalle Brother Jack Curran at the Bethlehem University:

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In the early morning hours of Monday, 5 September 2011, while travelling in the West Bank between the Palestinian villages of Al-Lubban and Turmos Aya and near the Israeli settlements of Ofarim and Bet Ariye along the Nablus-Ramallah, Dr. Adwan Adwan, a faculty member in the Arabic Department at Bethlehem University, was the victim of a violent attack by some 20 Israeli settlers who threw rocks in his face, injuring his head, shoulder, and stomach. His car was blocked by a pile of burning tires when he quickly came under what he said felt like a well-orchestrated ambush. Dr. Adwan eventually was able to speed away from the scene and get himself to a hospital for treatment. "I felt lucky to escape with my life," he says.

On the same day and further along the same road, near the settlement of Shiloh in the Palestinian Territories, Miss Yara Odeh, a Bethlehem University masters degree student, was the victim of a violent attack by some Israeli settlers. Yara found herself stuck in what appeared to be a traffic jam caused by Israeli settlers pelting cars with rocks. With the road blocked, she escaped from her car through the passenger door and ran toward nearby Israeli soldiers, calling for help. She reports being refused help and being told to return to her car. "The settlers seemed not so much interested in damaging the car as they were in harming me," she says of the incident.

The Bethlehem University administration is extremely disturbed by these attacks on members of the academic community. "We value the lives of our faculty and students," says Dr. Michael Sansur, Executive Vice President at Bethlehem University. "Each and every day our faculty engage our students in promoting democracy, peace, and justice. We are fortunate to have a campus atmosphere that is known to be an oasis of peace. These violent and aggressive attacks on our students and faculty from Israeli settlers in the Palestinian territories are horrifying and unjust. We are grateful for the well-being of Dr. Adwan and Yara in surviving these traumatic events and pledge to continue in our efforts to prepare our graduates to take their place as ethical leaders in fostering shared values, moral principles and dedication to serving the common good."

As reported in the media and by the United Nations, there appears to be an increase in the number of Palestinians who are being attacked by groups of Israeli settlers. The United Nations and other international human rights and aid organizations report that more than 500,000 Israeli settlers, many of whom are armed, occupy the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Please continue to keep us in your prayers.

Blessings to you,

Brother Jack Curran, FSC, PhD

Vice President for Development

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