CHICAGO: The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee on Monday urged President Joe Biden to launch a criminal investigation into any American who participated in the wave of violent attacks that took place this past week against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank.
The ADC’s call followed an Arab News article detailing how Illinois State Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid found himself in the middle of a wave of violence by Israeli settlers — many of whom are American citizens — last week in the West Bank village of Turmosaya, where his parents and family live.
Armed settlers, supported by Israeli soldiers, have rampaged through Turmosaya, which is located 25 miles north of Jerusalem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
One resident was shot dead and many others wounded as settlers set fire to cars, homes and olive farms.
ADC President Abed Ayoub said the organization “has demanded that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Attorney General Merrick Garland immediately investigate possible criminal involvement of US citizens in the recent violence targeting Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank.”
Since June 21, settler mobs have been terrorizing Palestinian villages in the West Bank daily, Ayoub added.
“They have destroyed homes, burned vehicles, and killed at least one Palestinian. For decades US citizens have moved to Israeli settlements, where they engage in violence against Palestinians, all with impunity.
“Many of these US citizens also take advantage of American non-profit tax laws to fund settlements and violence against Palestinians,” he said.
“We have strong reason to believe that American citizens are among the perpetrators of the most recent brutal and violent attacks. These US citizens are participating in the terrorizing of Palestinians and other US citizens.
“They must be held accountable for their actions, and the US must take measures to ensure that these individuals are brought to justice for what they have done.”
Rashid told Arab News: “I had to have the conversation with my kids that every Palestinian parent has — that the Israeli government doesn’t believe we deserve equal rights, that we have to be especially careful because we can be hurt or even killed with no accountability or consequences.”
The violence has been taking place for several months throughout the West Bank, resulting in the killing of nearly 200 Palestinians and some 40 Israelis.
Ayoub said ADC officials are seeking a meeting with the Department of State and Department of Justice to discuss what steps the US government is taking to protect its citizens.
“It is unconscionable that American families and elected officials are under attack by Israeli settler gangs that are given cover and outright protection by the Israeli government and its armed forces,” he added.
“The ADC expresses concern for the safety of Arab, Palestinian and Muslim Americans … and seeks assurances from the federal government that our communities would be protected.”
Ayoub told Arab News that the ADC has attorneys on the ground in the West Bank seeking to document evidence of settler violence.
Rashid sent a letter to his colleagues in the Illinois State General Assembly urging them to take action and be aware of what is happening on the ground.
“I was in the nearby city of Ramallah on Wednesday, June 21 running errands when I got a frantic call from my mom,” he wrote.
“She said the village was under attack by a mob of armed Israeli settlers. As we spoke, my phone was inundated with videos and pictures of the live attack.
“I got off the phone and began contacting the US embassy, the State Department and others. I felt incredibly guilty that I could not be there to help protect my parents.
“It soon became clear that hundreds of Israeli settlers invaded the village, torched dozens of homes and cars, burned agricultural land, and injured many villagers.
“One young man, Omar Quttain, was killed. His wife is an American citizen and they have two children.”
Rashid added: “The next day, Thursday, I’ll never forget the feeling I got when I saw a text message saying settlers were back — this time in my neighborhood.
“Within moments, I saw people running in the streets. One man was sprinting to each house yelling, ‘flee your homes!’
“Then the gunshots started and we knew we needed to stay inside. I ran outside yelling for my family to get inside.”
Rashid said he and his family “barricaded doors, closed windows, and started making a safety plan” as the settler violence escalated.
“My seven-year-old daughter held on to me tight and asked, crying: ‘What do we do if we get shot?’ I truly did not know during this period whether we would be killed.
“My eleven-year-old nephew was playing with his cousins down the street. My sister-in-law was hysterical. We had to stop her from running in that direction because she could be in the line of fire.”
State Department officials declined to respond to Arab News requests for comment.