Palestinians attacked by Jews in Jerusalem - update 8/19/12

Palestinians attacked by Jews in Jerusalem

by Sheila Musaji

Haaretz reported today on an attack by dozens of Jewish youth on three Arab youth.

One of the Palestinians was seriously wounded and hospitalized in intensive care in Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem. Acting Jerusalem police chief General Menachem Yitzhaki has set up a special team to investigate the incident and detain the suspects.
The three were allegedly attacked by youths shouting “Death to the Arabs” at them, as well as other racial slurs. One of them fell on the floor, and his attackers continued to beat him until he lost consciousness. They subsequently fled from the scene.

Within a short period of time rescue volunteers and Magen David Adom rescue services arrived on the scene and found the victim with no pulse and not breathing. After a lengthy resuscitation attempt, he was transferred to the hospital.

Writing on her Facebook page, one eye witness decribed the attack as a lynch: “It’s late at night, and I can’t sleep. My eyes are full of tears for a good few hours now and my stomach is turning inside out with the question of the loss of humanity, the image of God in mankind, a loss that I am not willing to accept.”

“But today I saw a lynch with my own eyes, in Zion Square, the center of the city of Jerusalem ….. and shouts of ‘A Jew is a soul and Arab is a son of a –,’ were shouted loudly and dozens (!!) of youths ran and gathered and started to really beat to death three Arab youths who were walking quietly in the Ben Yehuda street,” the witness wrote.

“When one of the Palestinian youths fell to the floor, the youths continued to hit him in the head, he lost consciousness, his eyes rolled, his angled head twitched, and then those who were kicking him fled and the rest gathered in a circle around, with some still shouting with hate in their eyes.”

“When two volunteers [from local charities] went into the circle, they tried to perform CPR and the mass of youths standing around started to say resentfully that we are resuscitating an Arab, and when they passed near us and saw that the rest of the volunteers were shocked, they asked why we were so in shock, he is an Arab. When we returned to the area after some time had passed, and the site was marked as a murder scene, and police were there with the cousin of the victim who tried to reenact what happened, two youths stood there who did not understand why we wanted to give a bottle of water to the cousin of the victim who was transferred to hospital in critical condition, he is an Arab, and they don’t need to walk around in the center of the city, and they deserve it, because this way they will finally be afraid,” she added.

“Children aged 15-18 are killing a child their own age with their own hands. Really with their own hands. Children who’s hearts were unmoved when they beat to death a boy their age who lay writhing on the floor,” she wrote.[/url]

Yesterday, Reuters reported that a fire-bomb was thrown at a taxi full of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank setting the car on fire and wounding six people, in an attack a military source and Israeli media blamed on Jewish settlers.

Although such incidents generally get little or no coverage in U.S. media, this is not an isolated incident.  Our article collection Jewish “Ahavah shel achvah” Brotherly Love is Difficult for Some to Attain has many examples of such incidents, and of hateful speech that may lead to a climate of prejudice that makes such an attack seem reasonable.

As I said in that article

I believe that any human being whose heart and mind are not closed by hate, must see the parallels. There is no claim about some particular Imam somewhere saying something extreme or just plain stupid that can’t be matched by a Rabbi or a Reverend doing the same. There is no act of violence carried out by Muslims that can’t be matched by those carried out by Christians and Jews. There is no community that is free of criminals and hateful people. There is no more violence in the Qur’an than in the Torah or the New Testament. There is no religious community that doesn’t have individuals (even individuals who should know better) who attempt to use religion to justify their wrong actions, or who make distorted interpretations of their religion to justify themselves.

Both Jews and Muslims need to step up and be counted, do what they can to marginalize their own extremists, and stop demonizing each other.

In the article Are We the New Jews of Silence?, Remba Gidon points out

“Whoever can stop the members of his household from committing a sin, but does not, is held responsible for the sins of his household. If he can stop the people of his city from sinning, but does not, he is held responsible for the sins of the people of his city. If he can stop the whole world from sinning, and does not, he is held responsible for the sins of the whole world.” (Shabbat 54b)

In Islam, standing up for justice must be done even if it is against ourselves, our parents, our kin, the rich or the poor. This is clearly mentioned in the Quran (4:135).

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.

Zach Beauchamp on Think Progress discussed these two most recent attacks and said

These incidents fit into a disturbing pattern of growing violence committed by radical Israelis, particularly in the West Bank. Last December, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned about “homegrown terror” attacks committed by extremist settlers against Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians. There had been an uptick in “price tag” attacks, referred to as such because the terrorists were intending to exact a price for any moves by the Israeli government towards dismantling illegal settlements or withdrawing from the West Bank.

A new report written by two experts on Israeli counterterrorism at the Brookings Institute, Daniel Byman and Natan Sachs, suggests that the problem may be more serious than some had previously thought. Byman and Sachs, citing UN numbers, find that the number of “price tag” attacks had roughly doubled from 2009 to 2011 with limited response from Israeli authorities: over 90 percent of investigations into incidents of settler violence over the past ten years ended without indictments. The attacks have escalated recently, Byman and Sachs argue, as a consequence of the rise of an extremist subculture among young, religious settlers:

[O]ver the last several years, the evolution of the settler community has also led to the growth of a small but significant fringe of young extremists, known as the “hilltop youth,” who show little, if any, deference to the Israeli government or even to the settler leadership. No matter how strongly Gush Emunim opposed government policy, it always officially avoided vigilante violence. But these young radicals, who largely live in settlements deep in the West Bank and do not affiliate with traditional religious authorities, have embraced it. These settlers — likely no more than a couple thousand, a small but dangerous minority within the broader community — are the ones leading the “price tag” attacks against Palestinian civilians and Israeli soldiers. They have lost faith in the notion that the state, under its current leadership, is key to settling the Land of Israel. Instead, they see it as an obstacle to God’s will.

Indeed, Barak’s December comments were prompted by a hilltop youth raid on an IDF base, which ended in the arrests of five radical settlers and a major public debate in Israel about settler. However, as today’s attacks suggest, the problem has yet to be solved: an EU statement from this May cited settler violence as one of several key factors holding back progress on a two-state solution.

Byman and Sachs recommend several ways Israeli authorities can more effectively address the problem, including coordinating with more moderate settlers as part of a targeted counterterrorism campaign. Both they and Andrew Exum, an expert on irregular warfare at the Center for a New American Security, suggest that stepped-up condemnation from Jewish religious authorities and the United States could limit the hilltop youth’s ability to commit further violence.

Byman’s recommendations in particular draw on his recent study of Israel’s counterterrorism policies, which have quite a long history: Israel has been forced to confront radical Arab nationalist and/or Islamist groups almost since its creation. These groups have not been eliminated: Israel today is still threatened by terrorist organizations, particularly in and around the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

The Israel/Palestine issue and the issue of the status of Jerusalem are significant not only to Israelis and Palestinians, but to the rest of the world as well.  Because this long standing conflict is so intertwined with “religious” meaning for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, it sometimes seems impossible to find any common ground from which to begin looking for a solution that will be acceptable to all.

What can all of us who want to see a peaceful world for all of our children, and to see a solution to this conflict which will provide safety and security for all involved, do to soften the hearts of those on all sides who have chosen violence and hatred as a “solution”? 

I don’t have a solution, but I know that it isn’t going to come from violence, or from a never ending cycle of “retaliation” or “revenge”.  Somehow we need to give voice to those calling for non-violent solutions.  It is also not going to come from voices, like Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who paint the conflict in absolutist terms like “civilized men” versus “savages”. 

As Mustafa Barghouthi pointed out:

No matter where, how or by whom a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is arrived at, it will not only be the result of high-level, closed-door negotiations. While the final signatures and handshakes will be made by leaders on both sides, it will be the “street” and the people that win the peace. I believe that only a peaceful, organized and committed nonviolent movement can change the balance of power in Palestinian favor, from one of military calculation to one based on human rights and the moral high ground.

Accepting nonviolent resistance as a way of ending the occupation is more than a short-term political calculation born of the failure of violence. It is also more than the long-term political understanding that a peace that is forged by peaceful means will be enduring, productive and mutually beneficial. Nonviolence is a way of life and an ideology that extends beyond weekly popular protests against Israel. It is a way of thinking, acting and reflecting that enters into our daily lives, homes, places of work, classrooms and municipalities. Nonviolence, as embodied in our civil society, is not only a means to our liberation from Israel, it is our means of building a civil and democratic Palestinian state that respects and upholds the civil and human rights of its citizens.

UPDATE 8/9/2012

The ADL has issued a condemnation of this action:

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today strongly condemned recent violent attacks against Palestinians, which authorities believe were perpetrated by Israeli Jews. 

“We are horrified by these violent attacks against Palestinians but welcome Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s pledge to Palestinian President Abbas that the victims of this heinous assault will see justice served,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “If the attacks were carried out by Israeli Jewish youth, this violence cannot be seen as isolated incidents. Israeli leadership – political, religious, cultural – must come together to make clear that these manifestations of hate are unacceptable and will not be tolerated, and that country-wide social and educational initiatives must be considered.”

On August 16, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a taxi carrying six Palestinians outside the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin. The passengers suffered severe burns. While investigations are continuing, police suspect extremist Israel Jewish youths. 

During the morning of August 17, according to Israeli media reports, a group of Jewish youths attacked three Palestinians in Jerusalem’s Zion Square and yelled anti-Arab slogans, including “Death to the Arabs.” One of the victims was seriously injured.



The Abraham Federation: A Non-Violent Strategy of Satyagraha for Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land, Dr. Robert D. Crane
International attention must be paid to the Palestinian nonviolent movement, Mustafa Barghouthi
Muslim Voices Promoting Islamic Non Violent Solutions (with an extensive article collection on the topic)
Palestine - An Appeal For a Non-Violent Global Resistance Movement, Tariq Ramadan
The Rise of Settler Terrorism: The West Bank’s Other Violent Extremists, Daniel Byman and Natan Sachs
Romney on Jerusalem: A World of Hurt for America, Juan Cole