A museum to denounce the occupation

Published at CTXT magazine.

The last milk bottle -still half full- a school book along with a change of sweater and pants is practically the only thing that can be recognized amid the remains of objects burned in the Duma attack, the offensive perpetrated by Israeli extremists on July 31, 2015 on the Dawabsha family in the Palestinian village of Duma, which ended the life of the mother, father and young son Ali, only 18-month-old. Only the other son, Ahmad -4 years old- was saved, who still now, a year and a half after the death of his parents, recovers from the deep burns he sustains throughout his body.

On the night of the crime, the attackers threw a Molotov cocktail into the bedroom while the family slept. The main assailant, Amiram Ben-Uliel, a 21-year-old Israeli resident in a nearby settlement, was appointed in early 2016 by the Israeli security agency Shin Bet as a planner and executor of the attack along with another minor of reserved identity, who would have helped him to plan the crime. The reason, according to the Shin Bet, was revenge for the murder of young Israeli Malachi Rosenfeld in a car shootout at the hands of Palestinians a month earlier. The security agency accuses these Israelis of being part of The Revolt, an extreme right-wing group founded in 2013 that calls for the collapse of the State of Israel and replace it for a Jewish monarchy based on the Torah.

At present, the scorched walls of the Duma house pick up some messages of condemnation from other Palestinians or from international activists who have wanted to know the situation closely. Apart from that, almost everything remains intact as it was after the attack, since the will from the beginning has been to turn the house burned into a museum to denounce the consequences of violence against Palestinians exercised by Israeli settlers living a few kilometers. Duma, a village of 3,000 inhabitants in the northern West Bank near Nablus, has been the target of numerous intentional attacks by settlers. A few kilometers from this town raise the settlements Ma’ale Efraim and Shilo, considered illegal by the international community. It was precisely on 23 December that the United Nations Security Council condemned Israel’s settlement policy and demanded its “immediate” and “complete” cessation.

Now, finally, the construction of this memorial museum, which will be annexed to the house where the family lived, is about to become a reality. “The function of the museum will be to show the face of the occupation to the visitors, so that they can see with their own eyes the massacres against the Palestinians and the danger of the settlements”, explains Nasser Dawabsha, uncle of Ahmad. To this end, the Palestinian Authority has deposited $1.2 million in housing accommodation as a museum. Currently the family is waiting for the imminent confirmation of the Palestinian Prime Minister’s office to begin work on the construction of the museum, which will have free entrance to gather the maximum number of visitors. As for the interior of the burnt-out house, it will remain practically intact, “with the exception of some cosmetic small arrangements of objects in order to allow visitors to enter the rooms”, says Nasser Dawabsha.

Increased violence by settlers

Humanitarian, legal and political messages will fill the museum with the aim of not forgetting on July 31, 2015, which was a turning point for both Palestinians, who saw it as the most visible sign of the attacks perpetrated by settlers, as well as by Israeli extremists, who conceived it as a cry that spurred them to increase aggression against Palestinians. One of the most mediated cases of the aftermath of the attack took place in December 2015, when it was leaked to the press and social networks the video of a Jewish wedding in Jerusalem, where several guests are celebrating the attack on Duma: The scenes show a young man lifting a photograph of Ali Dawabsheh, the 18-month-old baby killed in the attack, along with other assistants displaying firearms and knives.

Meanwhile, according to data from the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, 85 percent of investigations into ideologically motivated crimes against Palestinians are closed by police “because of their failure to locate suspects or find evidence”. From the beginning of 2015 until the time of the attack, the United Nations documented 120 settler attacks throughout the West Bank. Following further attacks by Israeli extremists on Palestinian homes in Duma, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, reiterated in the summer of 2016 the urgency that “Israel as an occupying power should ensure that the vulnerable Palestinian communities of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are protected in accordance with their obligations under international law”. The violent attitude of the settlers has repeatedly led the Palestinian Authority to ask the United Nations for international protection for the Palestinians.