Saturday, December 06, 2008

Hebron settler riots were out and out pogroms

On Thursday I watched a short AlJazeera/english item on Jewish religious settlers in Hebron being evacuated from the so-called "House of Contention" and some of said settlers later on going on a rampage in Area A of Hebron, a predominantly Palestinian area. The item was followed much later by a 'debate' between a young American Israeli Rabbi from Hebron and a Palestinian human rights activist from Ramallah, descending into the ubiquitous shouting to drown each other out. On the BBC ("the Voice of Hamas", according to some extremists) I saw no attention being paid to the incidents of violence directed at Palestinian residents of Hebron. CNN (the "Communist News Networks", dixit same or similar fringenuts) hardly wasted any time on it either.

My computer had been knocked out by a virus for a few days and Internet withdrawal symptoms started plaguing me. Today, with full service restored, I went online to see if more information was available. Ha'aretz's Avi Issacharoff failed to disappoint. I have often refrained from using loaded terms like "pogrom": Issacharoff couldn't; he was there.

By Avi Issacharoff - Ha'aretz


An innocent Palestinian family, numbering close to 20 people. All of
them women and children, save for three men. Surrounding them are a few dozen masked Jews seeking to lynch them. A pogrom. This isn't a play on words or a double meaning. It is a pogrom in the worst sense of the word. First the masked men set fire to their laundry in the front yard and then they tried to set fire to one of the rooms in the house. The women cry for help, "Allahu Akhbar." Yet the neighbors are too scared to approach the house, frightened of the security guards from Kiryat Arba who have sealed off the home and who are cursing the journalists who wish to document the events unfolding there.

The cries rain down, much like the hail of stones the masked men hurled at the Abu Sa'afan family in the house. A few seconds tick by before a group of journalists, long accustomed to witnessing these difficult moments, decide not to stand on the sidelines. They break into the home and save the lives of the people inside. The brain requires a minute or two to digest what is taking place. Women and children crying bitterly, their faces giving off an expression of horror, sensing their imminent deaths, begging the journalists to save their lives. Stones land on the roof of the home, the windows and the doors. Flames engulf the southern entrance to the home. The front yard is littered with stones thrown by the masked men. The windows are shattered and the children are frightened. All around, as if they were watching a rock concert, are hundreds of Jewish witnesses, observing the events with great interest, even offering suggestions to the Jewish wayward youth as to the most effective way to harm the family. And the police are not to be seen. Nor is the army.

Ten minutes prior, while the security forces were preoccupied with dispersing the rioters near the House of Contention, black smoke billowed from the wadi separating Kiryat Arba and Hebron. For some reason, none of the senior officers of the police or the army were particularly disturbed by what was transpiring at the foot of Kiryat Arba. Anyone standing hundreds of meters away could notice the dozens of rioters climbing atop the roof of the Abu Sa'afan family home, hurling stones. Only moments later did it become apparent that there were people inside the home.

I quickly descend to the wadi and accost three soldiers. "What do you want from me? The three of us are responsible for the entire sector here," one said, his hand gesturing towards the entire wadi.

"Use your radio to request help," I said. He replies that he is not equipped with a radio.

A group of journalists approach the house. A dilemma. What to do? There are no security forces in the vicinity and now the Jewish troublemakers decided to put the journalists in their crosshairs. We call for the security guards from Kiryat Arba to intervene and put a halt to the lynch. But they surround the home to prevent the arrival of "Palestinian aid."

The home is destroyed and the fear is palpable on the faces of the children. One of the women, Jihad, is sprawled on the floor, half-unconscious. The son, who is gripping a large stick, prepares for the moment he will be forced to face the rioters. Tahana, one of the daughters, refuses to calm down. "Look at what they did to the house, look."

Tess, the photographer, bursts into tears as the events unfold around her. The tears do not stem from fear. It is shame, shame at the sight of these occurrences, the deeds of youths who call themselves Jews. Shame that we share the same religion. At 5:05 P.M., a little over an hour after the incident commenced, a unit belonging to the Yassam special police forces arrives to disperse the crowd of masked men. The family members refuse to calm down. Leaving the home, one can hear a settler yell at a police officer: "Nazis, shame on you." Indeed. Shame on you.

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