|• Also spelled||Bayta (official)|
|• Type||Municipality (from 1996)|
|• Head of Municipality||Arab ash-Shurafa|
|• Jurisdiction||76,000 dunams (76.0 km2 or 29.3 sq mi)|
|Name meaning||Beit, "a house"|
Beita (Arabic: بيتا, translation: "Home") is a Palestinian town in the Nablus Governorate in the northern West Bank located 13 kilometers (8.1 mi) southeast of Nablus. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the town had a population of 9,709 in 2007. It consists of five clans which branch out to thirty families. There are many houses dating back to the Roman era. The current mayor, elected in 2004 is Arab ash-Shurafa.
There are two historical centres in Beita; Beita el-Fauqa ("The upper Beita") to the North-East and Beita et-Tatha ("The lower Beita") to the South-West. In Beita el-Fauqa, pottery sherds from the Iron Age II/Persian, Persian and Mamluk era have been found, while at Beita et-Tatha sherds from the Iron Age II, Persian, Roman/Byzantine, Byzantine, and Mamluk era have been found.
Beita was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517 with all of Palestine, and both in Beita el-Fauqa and Beita et-Tatha sherds from the early Ottoman era have been found. In 1596 Beita appeared in the tax registers as being in the Nahiya of Jabal Qubal of the Liwa of Nablus. It had a population of 50 households, all Muslim. The villagers paid taxes on wheat, barley, summer crops, olive trees, occasional revenues, goats and/or beehives, and a press for olives or grapes.
In 1838, Edward Robinson noted Beita as a "large village", while in 1882, the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine described it as "A large village, with a kind of suburb to the south, near which are ancient tombs. It is supplied by wells, and surrounded by olives. It stands upon the hills east of the Mukhnah plain, and is the capital of the district named from it."
British Mandate era
In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Beita had a population of 883, all Muslims, increasing at the time of the 1931 census to 1,194, still all Muslim, in 286 houses.
In 1945 Beita had a population of 1,580, all Arabs, with 17,542 dunams of land, according to an official land and population survey. Of this, 5,666 dunams were plantations and irrigable land, 6,916 used for cereals, while 76 dunams were built-up land.
In 1952, Beita opened an elementary school (before, most teaching was done in mosques), which served the town and surrounding villages. In 1954, an elementary school for girls only was established and since then, four other schools have been built - including two secondary schools.
The town was considered a Fatah stronghold, however Arab ash-Shurafa, a member of Hamas was elected mayor in 2005. Shurafa was arrested by the IDF, along with Nablus mayor Adly Yaish and Education Minister of the Palestinian National Authority Nasser al-Shaer in 2006 for their membership in Hamas.
In January 1988, 20 men from Beita and Huwara, identified by a GSS report after clashes with Israeli troops to have been involved in stone throwing, were assembled, bound, without their resisting, with plastic handcuffs and had their bones broken by soldiers, and then were abandoned at night in a muddy field. The International Red Cross made a formal complaint, after local press reports had been ignored. The army did not prosecute the matter initially. Lieutenant-colonel Yehuda Meir was reprimanded, and forced into retirement, with his officer's rank and pension rights intact. He was prosecuted only after the Association for Civil Rights in Israel made an issue of the matter by appealing to the Supreme Court which ruled that he had to stand trial, which then took place in April 1991. Meir was the local Nablus district commander overseeing the operation, and testified that he had acted under orders directly coming from Yitzhak Rabin and that when he had objected to bone-smashing, Rabin had replied: "You do the work, I'll take care of the media." His superiors testified that orders were only to use force in pursuit and arrests. The court believed the latter and found that the orders were legal, but that Meir had deviated from instructions.
On April 6, 1988, 16-20 teenage hikers from Elon Moreh, an Israeli settlement 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) north of Beita, set out for a trek. Nature-hiking among settlers was a symbolic means of demonstrating their control of the land. They were accompanied by two guards, both with a reputation for being aggressive Zionists: Roman Aldubi, a 26-year-old known extremist and religious militant banned by the IDF from entering Nablus for 6 months, after he had been convicted of obstruction of justice for hiding a gun used by another settler to kill an 11 year old Palestinian child, ‘Aysha Bahash, in her father’s bakery, during a stone-throwing incident. and Menahem Ilan (55), the organizer, who according to Noam Chomsky also had a criminal record, were crossing village land in a show of strength, "to show them that we are the masters of the country", as one of the hikers later told ABC correspondent Barrie Dunsmore. When the settler group sat down to make breakfast near a spring, or a local well, local farmers sowing their spring crops became alarmed at the presence under armed guard, and one of them went to the village, a kilometre away, and the villagers were notified over the mosque’s louspeaker. The village lands were under military closure at the time, and, according to their accounts, they feared, based on other precedents in the area, that the local well might be poisoned. On such walks permission was never asked of villagers, furthermore, to trek through their fields, and Menachem Ilan the leader had not alerted the IDF of his hiking plans in a remote Arab area. Several dozen farmers, among them some teenagers, gathered in proximity of the hikers. What took place was contested at that time.
At first, according to one version Aldubi fired warning shots from his Uzi at the farmers, some of whom threw stones. One of these shots is said, in one account, to have killed Mousa Saleh Bani Shamseh. In the IDF investigation, it was determined that Abdubi shot Mussa Saleh in the back at a distance of about 10 yards while the latter was fleeing. In another version, Ilan reprimanded him, and led the hikers away down a riverbed, where one girl was hit in the thigh by a stone and then Aldubi opened fire with Ilan's M-16 killing Mousa Saleh in the head, and wounding another farmer. Aldubi later said the man had tried to grab his rifle., a claim the IDF investigation later stated was unsustantiated by any evidence. In one version, the hikers continued on and walked into the village, despite the incident. In the other, the villagers surrounded them, and led them to Beita.
When the Israelis entered Beita they were met by a crowd of villagers who had learned of the killing. The villagers were frightened by the sight of guns: the teenagers, in their account, by furious villagers reportedly brandishing knives, pickaxes and clubs. The army investigation found that the villagers had no firearms. As they moved in a tight group through the village, the car carrying Mousa Saleh's corpse arrived, stones were thrown. At one point, while her husband Taysir was burying his brother-in-law, his wife, the deceased's sister, Munira Daoud hit Aldubi in the head with a rock. Several villagers pushed through the crowd to save the teenagers. According to one report, Aldubi while falling sprayed his Uzi machin e gun and killed Hatem Fayez Ahmad Al-Jaber and severely wounded several other villagers. The IDF investigation found that instead Aldubi squeezed off several shots as he turned around after being hit by a rock, and then fired again when one of the villagers tried to wrest his rifle from him.
As he fired Tirza Porat, a 15-year-old member of his own group, was killed by a shot to the back of the head. He and Menchem were disarmed by the villagers, who destroyed his gun. He received a serious head wound, and several others youths were hurt in the clash. One villager,Azzam Bani Shemseh, tried to revive Tirza by heart massage. The same family brought water to the teenagers, and another family gave refuge to three Israeli girls in their home. The villagers called for ambulances and guided the rest to the main road where they flagged down cars.
Initial reports in the Israel media Tirza Porat had been killed in an incident by bloodthirsty Arabs throwing stones. The Gush Emunim teenagers said Porat had been killed by a rooftop sniper. An official statement spoke of the group falling "into the hands of pogromists and murderers". Ariel Sharon called for the village to be emptied and for more settlements to be built. Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir attended her funeral where cries of revenge were uttered and where Knesset member Haim Druckman declared that "the village of Beita must be wiped off the face of the earth," a remark that was met with "amens" from the crowd. The following day the Israel Defense Forces revealed that she been shot in the head by a M16 carbine belonging to Aldubi. It was also revealed that "the young settlers, instructed by their elders, had rendered untruthful accounts." Despite knowing from the start who was responsible, the Israeli first bulldozed six homes and then, after the report indicated Porat had not been killed by Palestinians, destroyed another eight in Beita, "giving people ample time to leave". Noam Chomsky states this was "a total lie", counting double the number of buildings destroyed including all their contents. On his own visit to Beita, 30 houses were either 'totally demolished or virtually destroyed.' They also killed a sixteen-year-old boy, Issam Abdul Halim Mohammad Said, and arrested all male adult residents, six of whom were deported on April 19.
Aftermath and Punishment
As soon as the Israeli army intervened, they shot dead a villager who they said was trying to run away. Within 48 hours of the incident, Major General Amram Mitzna, who had cordoned off the village he said to protect the residents and who declared no reprisals would be taken, interrogated all males between 16 and 60, and made hundreds of the villagers stand handcuffed and blindfolded all night. They said later they had been kicked, beaten and menaced until satisfactory testimonies had been given. IDF bulldozers uprooted dozens of olive trees and an almond grove nearby, which actually belonged to another Palestinian village. The army withheld the autopsy results, showing the girl had been killed by Aldubi's M-16 until the funeral was over. He then ordered the demolition of 14 homes in Beita, one of which had sheltered one of the Israeli hikers, after the army had established that Tirza Porat had not been shot by a Palestinian. The demolitions were ordered while the owners of 13 of the homes had not been charged with any crime. Over 60 members of the village were arrested, and 6 were expelled to Lebanon. Hamad Ben ishams, whose house had been demolished, was imprisoned for seven months despite repeated evidence by his Israeli employer that Hamad had been at work with him in Israel at the time. The military judge preferred the testimony of one of the hikers Rami Hoffman who identified him as an assailant.
The official IDF investigation found that Ilan and Aldubi, the two escorts had 'escalat(ed) the crisis' by lack of caution and "hastiness in pulling the trigger," but the major cause for the incident was Palestinian aggressiveness and "readiness to harm Jewish hikers", and that they had a general plan to lure the hikers in their village.
Aldubi was still hospitalized a year later, confined to a wheelchair. According to Noam Chomsky, who visited the village, the military commander told the New York Times that Aldubi would not be incriminated because "the tragic incidents were already penalty enough." The incident radicalized the village. One local some months later was reported as saying:
"Beita is different now because the people are revengeful... Now we know how the Israelis treat Palestinians, the way a wild animal treats a victim."
In May 1989, a Jaffa military court handed down stiff sentences to five of the members of the village of Beita suspected of throweing stones at Jewish hikers. The person convicted of the most serious crime got an eight-year sentence, of which 3 were to be served. Two others sentenced to five-year terms were to serve 21 months, a fourth 18 months and the fifth two years. A further 11 Beitans were slated to stand trial later on the same charges.
- Palmer, 1881, p. 226
- 2007 PCBS Census. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. p.110.
- Beita Municipality: Beita Town
- Beita Municipality: Municipality
- Beita Municipality: Public Foundations Beita Municipality.
- Finkelstein and Lederman, 1997, pp. 703-4
- Finkelstein and Lederman, 1997, p. 704
- Finkelstein and Lederman, 1997, p. 703
- Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 134
- Robinson and Smith, 1841, vol 2, p. 93
- Conder and Kitchener, 1882, SWP II, p. 288
- Barron, 1923, Table IX, Sub-district of Nablus, p. 25
- Mills, 1932, p. 60
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 59
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- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 155
- Beita Municipality: Education Beita Municipality.
- Lockman and Beinin, 1989, pp. 81
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- Conroy, 2000, pp. 138-156, 191-224.
- Barzilai, 2002, pp. 176-177
- Frankel, 1996, pp. 94-96
- Joseph C. Harsch, 'Fundamentalism and the West Bank's Beita affair,' Christian Science Monitor
- Lockman and Beinin, 1989, p. 84
- "even among the militant settlers, he has consistently stood out for his provocative conduct, which has gained him the dubious honour of being the only Jew ever subjected to a military exclusion order (whereby he is banned from entering Nablus)." Peretz Kidron, Middle East International No323, 16 April 1988.
- Noam Chomsky. 'Scenes from the Uprising,' Z Magazine July, 1988
- Chomsky, 1999, p. 495
- Joel Brinkley, 'Beita Journal; Where the Hot Rage of April Is Now Cold Fury,' New York Times 23 August 1988.:' Apparently he had an expansive view of what constituted a warning, because one shot killed a farmer working in a nearby field.'
- Stephen Franklin,'Israeli Army Admits Escort Shot Teenager,' Chicago Tribune 28 April 1988.
- Conroy, 2000, p. 217
- "Girl killed by errant bullet, Israeli army inquiry says". Tri-City Herald. April 28, 1988. p. A8.
- "5 Sentenced In West Bank Incident". The Philadelphia Inquirer. May 25, 1989. p. A20.
- Daoud Kuttab, Middle East International. No 323, 16 April 1988: 'the party approached a youth working his land to ask where there was a well. The Palestinian replied "not here" and asked the settlers what they were doing on the village land. One report said that the youth told the Israeli settlers to get out of "our country". Apparently this reply angered the extremist armed guard who shot him in the stomach.'
- Robert Ruby, 'Resentment Still Smoldering After `88 Clash In West Bank,' Baltimore Sun, 7 April 1989.
- Kelly and Maghan, 1998, p. 94
- Thomas L. Friedman 'In Separate Gestures, a Mosaic of Intentions,' New York Times 17 April 1988
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- Noam Chomsky, Power and Terror - Post-9/11 Talks and Interviews. Seven Stories Press, New York. Little More, Tokyo. 2003. ISBN 1-58322-590-0. page 93.
- Journal of Palestine Studies, vol XVII, No.4 #68 Summer 1988, page 230: Palestine Chronology, 8 April. "Israeli army reports 15-year-old Israeli killed 4/6 died when bullet from M-16 rifle carried by Israeli guard struck her in head. Investigation has also shown guard, who was banned by the army from Nablus, killed 1 Palestinian and wounded another before Israeli group reached Bayta village. Some villagers reacted to news of killing by attacking Israelis with stones. Guard was wounded by rock thrown at head. Villagers took guards' guns and broke them. Other Palestinians tried to hide Israeli youths. Soldiers later broke into Beita hospital, beating patients in search for those suspected of involvement in clash.[NYT 4/9]. (New York Times)
- Cockburn, 1988, p. 496
- 'Five from Village of Beita Sentenced for 1988 Tragedy,' Jewish Telegraphic Agency 25 May 1989.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Beita, Nablus.|
- Barron, J. B., ed. (1923). Palestine: Report and General Abstracts of the Census of 1922. Government of Palestine.
- Barzilai, Gad (2002). Wars, Internal Conflicts, and Political Order: A Jewish Democracy in the Middle East. SUNY Press. ISBN 0791495906.
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- Conroy, John (2001). Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture. California: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23039-6.
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