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An Israeli and a Palestinian weigh in on the turmoil in Israel and the West Bank


We are going to hear now from two women who are struggling through a turbulent week in the Middle East. After a series of Israeli military raids in the occupied West Bank, Palestinians killed two Israeli settlers. Then, hundreds of settlers went on a deadly rampage, leaving a Palestinian dead. Meanwhile, Israeli demonstrators stepped up protests against the right-wing government's plan to weaken the courts. Many feel the West Bank is on the verge of chaos and Israel's democracy is in danger of collapse. NPR's Daniel Estrin talked to two people at the center of the storm, starting with an Israeli protester.


DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: One of the people shouting democracy in the middle of the road is 40-year-old Dvora Cohen. Protesters skipped work Wednesday to gather.

DVORA COHEN: Today I'm not working. We're losing work. We're losing our money because we don't want to lose our country. And we know this is the last fight. If we're going to lose now, that's it. It's done.

ESTRIN: Israel's new right-wing government is trying to pass laws giving itself the power to overrule the judiciary. Opponents say it threatens the country's rule of law, undermines its democracy and even its economy. Cohen is a financial adviser.

COHEN: We have a serious crisis of trust in the Israeli government, in the Israeli economic system. Twenty, 30% of my clients are calling me and asking me what to do. They ask me if they should go and open a bank account abroad, if they should withdraw their pensions. My grandfather was born in Austria, and he left because of the Nazis, the Holocaust and everything. And now I am trying to get an Austrian passport in order to protect my kids. Is it not insane?

ESTRIN: This comes as violence increases between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. That's also on her mind. Cohen actually grew up in a West Bank Jewish settlement, but she condemns settlers who rioted in Palestinian areas this week.

COHEN: I'm from there. I'm ashamed. More than ashamed. There is no word that people are behaving like the Ku Ku Klans (ph).

ESTRIN: Ku Klux Klan.

COHEN: This is not human. Of course, the Palestinians has a responsibility for the situation as well. We see a serious increase in terror attacks against Israeli innocent people, citizens, childs, kids just because they're Jewish, just because they're Israel. We are in the middle of a hundred years blood cycle. And I'm just saying to myself, seriously? It's not my fight. I don't want blood, not for land. I want life, good life. And actually, I'm not sure if it's going to be here anymore.

ESTRIN: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed these protesters as anarchists. He compared them to the settlers who set fire to homes and cars in the Palestinian town of Huwara. Today, I went to Huwara and met one Palestinian woman whose new BMW is now a burnt carcass in her driveway.


ESTRIN: Twenty-nine-year-old Hanaa Abu Sarees shows me and my interpreter security camera footage.

HANAA ABU SAREES: (Speaking Arabic).

ESTRIN: OK. 8:53 p.m.

ABU SAREES: (Speaking Arabic).

ESTRIN: We see three people. They're throwing things at the car. Oh, my gosh. Look at that. He just slammed a big stone on the roof.

ABU SAREES: (Speaking Arabic).

ESTRIN: The car has been smashed in.

ABU SAREES: (Through interpreter) He started collecting cartons. And now he's starting to burn it. So he now stands on the side, and he starts dancing and singing. So I went down to the car, and he shot at me.

ESTRIN: He shot at you?

ABU SAREES: (Through interpreter) I went down in my pajamas. And I took with me a bucket of water in order to put down the fire.

ESTRIN: There you are. OK. We see you.

ABU SAREES: (Through interpreter) I immediately escaped when he shot at me.

ESTRIN: She's a parent. Her young son is traumatized. Since the attack, he's been unable to control his bladder.

Where do you feel all of this is going now? What's going to happen?


ABU SAREES: (Through interpreter) I think what will happen in Huwara is that we will be eradicated. We'll be wiped out.

ESTRIN: Far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said after the rampage that he wanted to see the Israeli government wipe the town out. She's aware of the protests inside Israel and believes the protesters support the Palestinians here.

ABU SAREES: (Through interpreter) They are against the settler acts. And they're supporting us.

ESTRIN: As we begin to leave, a lot of things are going on. European diplomats come to see the damage. And then an Israeli settler politician arrives with soldiers separating him from Palestinians.

Soldiers are pushing them away. Oh, oh, oh. There's some tear gas. Tear gas. Running away.

We drive away and see Israeli peace supporters trying to visit the Palestinian town, including some democracy protesters. But the army says the situation is too sensitive, and soldiers will not let them approach.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Huwara. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.