The High Holiday liturgy includes a moving prayer called Eyleh Ezkerah (“These I will remember”), which portrays the martyrdom of rabbis at the hands of the Romans in their struggle to suppress the practice of Judaism during Jewish revolts against Roman rule.
Today, we have our own litany of Jewish pogroms in the West Bank to memorialize: two weeks ago it was Anatot, this week it’s Jalud. In Anatot, settlers, a number of whom were Israeli police and residents, beat the living daylights out of peace activists. This included broken limbs, sexual assaults and an attempted stabbing. This week’s latest involved a brutal assault on a 61 year-old Israeli peace activist, A, who joined with fellow activists of Combatants for Peace. He suffered broken ribs and fingers, and a trip to the hospital. He is still quite tender and recuperating at home. Here are excerpts of his testimony:
Last Friday, we arrived at the Palestinian village of Jalud to participate in an olive harvest with a group of Palestinian farmers from the village. Joining us were a group of international peace activists and members of a Palestinian agricultural cooperative from the Hebron area. We climbed a hill in order to begin with the harvest…
No more than five minutes passed from the time of our arrival, when four or five masked Jewish settlers arrived on the scene, accompanied by an armed security guard in civilian clothes. Except for the guard, they all covered their faces with white cloths – except one who covered his face with a black cloth. Seeing the direction that they came from, I assumed that they came from the illegal Jewish outpost of Esh Kodesh (“Holy fire”).
Upon their arrival, I immediately started filming them. They started arguing with the Palestinian farmers and shouted: “Get out of here! This is our land!”, “You haven’t been here for 10 years, haven’t farmed the lands, now they belong to us”. A shouting match developed, but at that point it did not become anything more than that.
…[Then] suddenly I saw the armed guard and one of the masked men approaching me. I heard a sudden, loud explosion and I realized that one of them threw a shock grenade to where the people were harvesting. Immediately after the explosion I heard a round of shooting.
…At this point three or four of the masked men approached me quickly. I was convinced that when they would realize I was an older man and that if I would identify myself as Israeli, nothing would happen. When they approached me, they initially thought I was Arab and told me: “Jib al-hawiya” (“Give your I.D”). I tried to tell them: “Calm down, guys, I’m Israeli, no need for violence.” At this point the man with the black cloth pulled my camera and tried to take it. I argued with him: “Aren’t you ashamed? Why do you act violently? I’m old enough to be your father!” As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I felt a blow to my head, followed by the feeling of blood gushing out of the wound. I fell to the ground and they continued to beat me with clubs. I yelled at the top of my voice: “Help! Someone stop this!”, but no one heard me.
…On the way I met A. and M., who was also covered in blood, and I realized that she had been beaten by the masked men at the beginning, right after the shock grenade exploded. After we met, we started walking down the hill, towards the village, while tear gas grenades were falling all around us, shot from a military jeep which was parked under the hill. I believe a second jeep was firing at us from the left side of the hill;
The masked men managed to grab the still camera from my hand, and took my backpack which had the video camera, cassettes and my glasses in it. When I tried to fight back to take my camera, I was again beaten, this time on my wrist. At this point they ran away with my belongings, while I was left bleeding and beaten, but with full consciousness and completely aware of my situation and of what had just happened. The truth is that at this point the actual beatings didn’t hurt as badly, and I was more worried about the amount of bleeding. In addition, I was completely in shock, and was in disbelief that this had just happened to me.
…Somehow, between the falling grenades, we managed to get of the hill and we stopped about 50 meters from the military jeep. A…kept yelling at the IDF soldiers to stop firing at us and that people were wounded – but they just kept firing. When we arrived at the edge of the field, close to the road which leads to the village, the second military jeep approached. It was a border police jeep with the word “Police” on it, and it stopped about 20 meters from us. E’ or A’ yelled: “Come help us, there are wounded people here!”. A soldier emerged from the jeep, I was sure he was coming to help us. But instead, he walked to the back of the jeep, extracted a tear gas grenade and shot it at us. The grenade fell about five meters from us, but the wind was blowing in the other direction and the Palestinians told us to stay where we were and let the gas blow in the other direction. At this point I was continuing to bleed from the wound in my head and one of the Palestinians tied his kaffiyah (head cloth) around my head in order to stop the bleeding. M’, who was standing next to us, was also bleeding profusely.
…When we arrived at the Tapuach junction, we waited for some time before the military ambulance arrived. An Israeli police car arrived with it and the policeman started to ask questions about what happened. The military paramedic tried to speed up the questioning, so the policeman came on to the ambulance with us in order to continue with the questioning until we arrived to the Ariel junction. The policeman, accompanied by an officer, followed us in a car to the Ariel junction and informed us that an investigator had already been sent to the area of Esh Kodesh to investigate. One of the policemen said that after we receive medical treatment, they will contact us to continue collecting our testimonies. From there we were evacuated to Belinson hospital in the Madah ambulance.
A formal complaint has been registered by the activists with the Israeli police, who are more likely to charge them with disturbing the peace than they are to prosecute the Judeonazis who perpetrated this pogrom. All of A’s personal property was stolen including still and video cameras, film, and glasses. Similar thefts and vandalism occurred in Anatot, none of which will be prosecuted.
One of my readers posted a comment in which he wrote that there were over 500 political killings in 1920 and 30s Weimar Germany. Only 60 resulted in any charges being filed and even fewer were convicted and served jail time. This, in a country so afflicted by economic, social and political chaos that even if the authorities had wanted to maintain order, they couldn’t. That’s not the case in Israel. In Israel, the authorities clearly approve of the pogromists and in many cases the authorities ARE the pogromists (as in the case of Anatot in which policemen were the worst perpetrators of violence). They exercise control when they choose to and they choose not to regarding the settlers.
Israel is entering a new, more bloody, ugly and more repressive phase. It retreats ever farther from any Jewish or Zionist values I’ve ever known. It is as if Israel were doppelgänger twins–the good and the evil. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Today’s Israel is increasingly becoming the evil twin, the monster.
There may be those who seek to distinguish between the mass of Israelis who do not support such brutalism and the radical settlers. But I think this is increasingly becoming a meaningless distinction. In a society infected by evil, when the majority ignores it and even colludes with it, all are guilty. Israeli authorities have every opportunity to maintain order and the rule of law in the Territories and choose not to do so. They’ve made their choice. Now the world must make its own. Does the world let this horror continue indefinitely or does it step in before slaughter happens on a massive scale as happened in places like Rwanda, Bosnia, and now in Arab nations shaking off the shackles of repressive rule?
This article first appeared at Tikun Olam