Cassandra Dixon of Mary House of Hospitality was seriously harmed by an Israeli settler on March 7 while she and an Italian observer were in the hills outside of Hebron near a village called Tuba. Both were volunteers with Operazione Colomba (Operation Dove), the “nonviolent Peace Corps” of the Pope John XXIII community based in Italy, She issued the following statement, which has been lightly edited for punctuation, spelling, and the addition of headings.
I am a citizen of the US currently visiting Palestine. I’m 64 years old. On March 7, I and another international were attacked by Israeli settlers while standing on the outskirts of the Palestinian village of Tuba in Masafer Yatta. I was hit from behind, hard, with a large stick, and my companion was chased and threatened by a settler with an iron bar. The settler who hit me fractured my skull and caused a bleed in my brain.
This is what the colonialism of Israeli settlers looks like for Palestinian families living in Masafer Yatta in the southernmost end of the West Bank. Supported by Israeli military and Police, settlers from the many settlements and illegal outposts in Masafer Yatta are systematically stealing Palestinian land and violently forcing people from their land. To be here now in these 15 villages is to witness ethnic cleansing in real time.
In addition to daily settler threats, attacks, land theft, property destruction and violence, the area’s 1300 residents, more than half of them children, are facing imminent forced removal from their homes to make way for the use of their lands by the Israeli military as a firing zone.
An Israeli high court decision in May of 2022 ended a years-long legal battle by residents for the right to remain, and now the largest forced relocation of Palestinians since 1967 could happen at any moment. Israeli forces have already demolished schools, homes, roads, wells, olive trees and agricultural buildings, and delivered demolition orders to every single structure.
As US taxpayers we contribute more than 8 million US dollars a day to the state of Israel. This is what we are buying. The strangulation of villages that are pinned down between illegal outposts. The shepherds forced to sell sheep to buy feed because they cannot access the land they planted a month ago. Women who face settler attacks while trying to reach a hospital in labor. Children who watched as their classrooms were demolished by Israeli forces with their desks and papers still inside. Families waking to the sight of entire olive groves burned or uprooted in the night by settlers. A young man about to be married shot and paralyzed by Israeli soldiers while attempting to save his village’s only generator from confiscation. The death of a beloved elderly man run over and dragged by a heavy equipment trailer during a police raid to confiscate cars in his village.
The humans living in Masafer Yatta desperately need the world to witness the bitterness of colonialism in their fields and olive groves. They desperately need for us to pay attention.
Statement from Operation Dove
Here is more or less what we sent out from Operation Dove
Israeli settlers from the Illegal Israeli outpost of Havat Ma’on attacked two Internationals on March 7 near the Palestinian village of Tuba in Masafer Yatta in the southern West Bank, fracturing the skull of one and chasing the other with an Iron pipe.
The victims of the attack, an Italian and a US citizen, were in the area to monitor recent and persistent human rights violations by settlers from the illegal outpost of Ma’on against the Palestinian residents of Tuba village, and are volunteers working with Operation Dove, the nonviolent Peace Corps of the Pope John XXIII Community, based in Italy.
“We were near the village of Tuba to monitor the ongoing theft of crops and illegal seizure of Palestinian grazing land by Israeli settlers,” said S, the Italian volunteer who was chased and threatened during the attack.
“Suddenly three settlers, with masked faces, came out of the outpost of Havat Ma’on – also illegal under Israeli law – running towards me with iron clubs and throwing stones at me. As I was running away, another settler who was grazing nearby, accompanied by a young girl, caught up with my colleague, a 64-year-old woman from the US, and hit her on the head. Eventually they left.”
The US citizen was taken to the hospital with a skull fracture, bleeding in the brain and a head wound requiring stitches.
The Masafer Yatta area, in the southern part of the West Bank, is under Israeli military and administrative control and includes about fifteen Palestinian villages, surrounded by numerous Israeli settlements and illegal outposts.
Palestinian residents are subject to daily acts of aggression from Israeli settlers and Israeli armed forces including violent attacks and threats, theft, injury and the killing of livestock, destruction of crops, demolitions of homes, agricultural buildings and wells, and threats and intimidation aimed at preventing Palestinian shepherds from accessing their grazing lands or traveling safely to and from their villages. Settlers are often accompanied and supported in acts of aggression by Israeli soldiers and police, and when residents call police to report crimes against them they are often threatened with arrest themselves.
Residents of Masafer Yatta are also living under imminent threat of mass eviction from their villages to make way for an Israeli firing zone. A May 4, 2022 decision by the Israeli high court ended years of appeals by the residents to remain on their lands and cleared the way for demolition by Israeli forces of all structures and the eviction of more than 1300 residents, more than half of whom are children. The forced expulsion would be the largest since 1967.
Operation Dove has been present in Masafer Yatta for almost twenty years. Their volunteers monitor human rights violations by Israeli settlers and armed forces and accompany Palestinian schoolchildren, shepherds and farmers whose daily activities put them in spaces where they are vulnerable to attack and harassment.
Operation Dove is committed to supporting nonviolent Palestinian resistance to the occupation by standing with families and nonviolent activists as they struggle to remain on their lands.
Operation Dove is the nonviolent Peace Corps of the Pope John XXIII Community and is based in Italy.
Their purpose in the area is the protection of the Palestinian civilian population from the violence of Israeli settlers and armed forces.
Letter to Embassy
Here is what I sent the embassy:
At about 11:00 am on March 7, 2023, my friend Seba and I were near the Palestinian village of Tuba. We were there visiting friends and because settlers have been bringing flocks very near the village onto land where the children have to walk to school and we were worried for them.
There was one settler with a flock grazing close to the village and he had a child with him.
He began to move up the hill with his flock. At the same time we saw 4 settlers running in that direction and all of them disappeared behind the hill. Earlier we had seen 2 young Palestinians from a distance on that edge of Tuba and we were concerned.
We walked a short way towards the hill. The settlers appeared at the top of the hill and we saw they were holding stones, bars and sticks and were wearing masks, and they began to move towards us. We started to move to Tuba as quickly as we could. One of the settlers immediately began to chase Seba and was waving an iron bar and screaming at him. I was also moving towards Tuba slightly behind them and was hit very hard on the right side of my head from behind. I could hear a footstep and then the incredibly loud sound of the stick hitting my head. It made my feet leave the ground and I fell on my left side. When I woke up there was blood coming from my nose and left ear and I could not hear anything and also could only see light so I did not know if the settler was still there. In a few moments when I could see again I saw that Seba was still standing and I no longer saw the settler who had been chasing him. I was able to get up and he came to help me walk back to Tuba where the women cleaned the blood and found that I had a large cut on my head from the stick. Someone from Tuba drove us to the clinic in Bierke, where they said it required a ct scan. We then went to the hospital in Yatta and then to Hebron. The CT scans showed that I had a small bleed in the brain and a subdural hemorrhage from the blow.
Here is some background on the firing zone and impending evictions from Masafer Yatta
Ethnic Cleansing; Brought to Palestine by US Tax Dollars
Imagine being one of 569 children living under military occupation in the area of Palestine claimed by Israel as “Firing Zone 918.”
Soldiers conduct war games around you. Tanks crush your family’s crops and helicopters terrorize your sheep and goats.
Your home and school, your water well, barns and animal pens can be demolished at any time.
This is life in Masafer-Yatta, a group of villages in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank where 1150 Palestinians live in 215 households.
This nightmare began in the l980’s when Israeli settlers began seizing land for illegal settlements. Israeli authorities obligingly declared part of Masafer-Yatta “Firing Zone 918”, one of many that occupy 20 % of the West Bank.
This had nothing to do with security and everything to do with grabbing land. Ariel Sharon himself explained at a 1979 meeting of the World Zionist Organization, “As the person who initiated the military fire zones in 1967, they were all intended for one purpose: to provide an opportunity for Jewish settlement in the area.”
In 1999, Israel forcibly removed about 700 people, demolishing homes, stealing property and razing two villages. A temporary court order allowed residents to return pending a final ruling. Still, the war games continued, repeatedly destroying roads accessing schools, medical facilities and commerce, even seizing the only source of water.
Now their situation is even more dire. On May 4th theIsraeli High Court approved eviction of everyone living in Firing Zone 918. This would be the largest mass expulsion of Palestinians from their lands since 1967.
Since then, Israeli authorities have demolished the homes and structures of dozens of families, issued 30 new demolition orders including for entire villages, and appropriated grazing and agricultural land for a militaryroad. Escalating military exercises are placing targets next to homes and schools. Humanitarian aid is blocked, freedom of movement restricted, residents and their documents photographed.
Nonviolent resistance by Palestinians and international & Israeli allies has been met with arrests, detentions, confiscation of cars, and persistent harassment including the use of sound grenades, rubber bullets, teargas, live ammunition and night raids on the villages and families of activists.
Palestinians are pleading with the world to halt this ethnic cleansing.
On July 7 Representatives of the EU and the UN visitingMasafer-Yatta labeled Israel’s actions a “clear violation of international law and basic human rights.”
Twenty US Senate and 63 House Democrats wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the administration to “engage with the Israeli government to prevent these evictions and seek a solution that will keep people in their homes and prevent further conflict.” However, the Biden administration has failed to act.
Israel gets approximately $8 million in our taxes daily. Each of us is therefore responsible for the use of that military aid against a civilian population. We must move our elected representatives to do more, and condition appropriations to Israel on their human rights record—including treatment, as an occupying power, of the families of Masafer-Yatta.
Cassandra Dixon volunteers regularly in the Masafer-Yattaarea of Palestine with Operation Dove, a humanitarian accompaniment project based in Italy. She works as a carpenter in Madison, WI.
To follow events in Masafer-Yatta:
Informational video with background by Breaking the Silence:
Update (March 20)
Since I was attacked by an Israeli settler on March 7 Senator Tammy Baldwin’s office has been surprisingly helpful in contacting the state department and I hope that they will continue to push them to communicate with the Israeli police and insist on legal consequences for the settler, as they may have some impact on the safety of Tuba Village.
If you would like to help, please consider contacting her office through this link and asking for the following:
1) Thank them for their attention to the attack.
2) Ask that they continue to monitor the complaint in Israel and let the Israeli police know that we expect legal consequences for the settlers involved in the attack.
3) Request that the US consulate make a visit to Tuba in order to understand the threat of violence and human rights abuses caused by expansion of the illegal Israeli outpost of Havat Ma’on.
4) Ask them to continue to request updates and a written report from the state department.
5) Express your appreciation for their attention to this matter and add that you hope this will lead to greater attention by the Senator in the future to the reality of life on the ground under what is increasingly becoming an Apartheid regime that the US needs to start holding accountable, especially given out current level of aid to Israel.
Contacts to the state department from other congressional representatives would also be very helpful, however, with Tammy Baldwin you can mention that I am a constituent of hers.
Here is a link to look up contact information for your senator and representative.