This amateur video shows armed settlers attacking a Palestinian village with stones and guns on Saturday after an Israeli boy had been stabbed and injured earlier in the day. The shocking video is another result of a citizen-media drive to reveal evidence of violent attacks in the area.
The images show Israelis from the far-right Yitzhar settlement coming towards the West Bank village of Asira al-Kabaliya and throwing rocks. The attackers were responding to an incident on Saturday afternoon when an intruder burnt down a mobile home and stabbed a nine-year-old boy in the area. The footage was shot by a local resident who then sent it to B’Tselem, an NGO that hands out recording equipment to Palestinians to capture footage of violence in the Israeli and Palestinian Territories (see other posts about the group).
The footage has caused outrage because The Israel Defense Forces appear not to intervene in the attacks. After the video was shot the attackers continued into the village, when six Palestinians were shot and injured. Stars of David were painted on the buildings. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the attack a “pogrom against non-Jews”, and said that it would not be tolerated.
My comments for France 24’s The Observers:
This is yet another video exposing the lucid and raw injustice of the occupation. Everything about this footage – the mob violence, the soldiers’ impotence, and the Star of David looking ever as ugly as a Swastika – makes me sick to the stomach. Sadly, what you see in this video is not an anomaly. It has been happening for years, and recently it has been escalating.
Prime Minister Olmert has called this disturbance a ‘pogrom’ and has said, ‘There will not be pogroms against non-Jews in the state of Israel’. His words are interesting in two respects:
Firstly, by using the word ‘pogrom’ (a word usually reserved for when speaking of anti-Semitic riots against Jews), Olmert joins those who at times see a moral and historical equivalence between violence committed against Jews in the Diaspora, and violence committed by Jews in Israel and the occupied territories. This may seem like a non-issue, but in reality it is an unusual choice of words for a prime minister to use. Perhaps a political leader who is about to resign from office can afford to have on his lips what another politician will only have on his mind.
Secondly, by stating that there will be no pogroms against non-Jews in the state of Israel, Olmert is making a well-intentioned but irrelevant point. Yes, in the state of Israel such actions will not be tolerated. But we are not in the state of Israel. We are in the occupied territories – a place where rights and rule of law do not apply to everyone equally. In the ‘territories’ such actions are not an exception to the rule. If Olmert means to say that the territories are in fact part of the State of Israel then this is the biggest story of the year. What he should have said is that the state of Israel will not tolerate such behavior within its borders or outside of them. The difference between the two statements is quite significant.
The date of this attack – Saturday, 13 September 2008 – is also significant. To begin with, for Jews the Sabbath is a holy day of rest and spiritual rejuvenation. Terrorizing and spilling the blood of the innocent is the very last thing that would be permitted on such a day (it is of course never permitted). These Jews who committed the attack are a disgrace to everything that is sacred in Judaism. They have profaned their religion. I point this out not because I have a preference for mob violence on Sunday as opposed to Saturday, rather because it shows you how far these folks have strayed from the essence of their faith.
The date is also telling because it falls on the anniversary of the signing of the Oslo accords. It was on 13 September 1993 that the Israeli government and the PLO officially began a historic peace-process. Of course this could be just a coincidence (one the press has yet to pick up on), yet I suspect it is not. Every year around this time the settler community laments the “tragedy” of the peace process and gets aggressively riled up on how the present government is failing to learn the lessons of Oslo. While it is clear that this particular act of mob violence was triggered by a heinous Palestinian attack, it does not stretch the imagination to see how the people in question were primed and poised to see all Arabs as enemies. After all, the two-state solution, the objective of the Oslo peace process, is a death-knell to the settlers’ dream of a greater Israel.
The settler movement is the blight of Israeli democracy. One can only hope that this type of videos can further awake us from our ethical and political slumber.”