Originally posted in Hebrew on 15.11.2010.
About two years ago I witnessed the assault of Mikhael Menkin of “Breaking the Silence” by Noam Federman (a Kahane activist), whilst on a peaceful tour in a public place. The tour was part of an important project of Israeli veterans who served in Hebron. They take Israelis and others and show them the reality that soldiers face in Hebron, a reality that is supported by public resorces. The tour guides, however, are repeatedly and violently targeted by the Hebron settlers, who are doing their outmost to prevent the tours from taking place. They are terrified of the prospect that Israelis and human rights activists alike may actually gain an understanding of what they are doing to innocent Palestinians. They go to great lengths to conceal the fact that most of their Arab neighbors are subjected to cruel, continuous violence, to the point where their everyday lives become so unbearable, that many eventually decide to leave their homes “out of their own will”, thus creating a virtual ghost town [in Hebron]. The settlers show little mercy for anyone attempting to reveal their secret.
While violence towards the Jewish tour guides is negligible in comparison to the violence exerted on the Palestinians, as the tour gives testament to (it includes the sight of children with broken teeth, broken windows, graffiti, garbage, and atrocious videos). The attacks are nonetheless a clear case of violence, and at that a case that one may confidently assume that the authorities would not remain indifferent to. Remarkably enough though, complaints against settlers in Hebron seldom lead to investigation. In fact, the police do not even collect evidence upon complaint. At one instance the police even deleted a video, before our very own eyes, that we had handed over as evidence of violent misconduct. It seems like the police are plainly afraid to confront the terrorist-settler-bullies, as they have at times even cooperated with the settlers pursuit to limit and cancel the political tours to Hebron conducted by the left (while the settlers’ own tours continue without any disruption).
Consequently, when Mikhael was assaulted, he already knew that there would be little use in reporting the event to the police. This time however, both the bullying settlers who were denying any misconduct, and the lazy incompetent police, had gained knowledge of the assault being recorded on tape:
So, Mikhael filed a complaint to the police and also submitted the evidence recorded on tape. However, this was apparently not sufficient to convict a Kahanist in an Israeli court. The very same judge who had very recently sentenced Sheikh Salah for 9 months in prison for spitting, now acquitted Federman, as he claimed that “it is a minor incident, which did no harm”, and added that: “The circumstances and location of the incident, as well as the public interest, do not justify the conviction of Federman”.
To those curious of where this assault took place, you may note that it was by the tomb of Baruch Goldstein, a Hebron settler that killed 29 Muslims and injured 125 by shooting them in their backs while they were praying in the Ibrahimi Mosque/Tomb of Patriarchs, in 1994. In the days following the incident, the Israeli army proceeded to kill nine Palestinian protestors, and injured over 200, in addition to imposing a curfew over the Palestinians of Hebron (while the Jewish settlers continued to enjoy free movement). The local settlers built a monument on top of Goldstein’s tomb, which has since became a popular tourist location.
The Jewish terrorist attack in 1994 also had long-term implications to our lives in Israel proper. As soon as the ritual of 40 days of mourning ended, oppositional Palestinian organizations carried out a lethal bombing, the first of its kind orchestrated by Palestinians, which initiated the notorious chain of bomb-attacks of the 90’s, which we all remember.
Now you tell me, what could the public interest possibly have been, in the view of the judge? Was it that we should be free to push one another around in a threatening manner? Is it that Goldstein’s tomb should continue to serve the purpose of pilgrimage, as part of a culture of encouraging the killing of Arabs? Or is it simply to allow violent settlers to be above the law?
While you are thinking about it, let us not forget that this is not the first time that right-wing Jewish terrorists get away lightly in the Israeli (in)justice system. In fact, there is evidence of complete incompetence in law enforcement. Indeed, it is impossible to find even one case of sincere penalizing of Jewish terrorists, which has been completed without pardon. Even the report issued by The Shamgar National Committee of Inquiry, which was summoned to investigate the massacre in Hebron, has quoted in length several other previous reports, by other official committees, ruling that settlers’ violence and criminality has been met with placation and a blind eye, for dozens of years. Thus, it is not by chance, but with intention, that those who murder Arabs are glorified in Israel, and that violent settlers are walking free.
Nevertheless, despite the success of fear-activism by people of hate, there are a minority of activists working on the ground for coexistence, particularly in Hebron and the South Hebron Hills. Settlers, and often the army and government officials as well, portray them as “threatening” and as “provocateurs”. You may however, be your own judges in the matter. Take a tour with “Breaking the Silence” to Hebron or the South Hebron Hills, to see with your own eyes, or watch this fascinating short movie about activism in the south Hebron Hills. Unfortunately, it does not have English subtitles, but I am pretty sure you will get the point anyway.