Pogrom

Pogrom

From the LATimes:

“Israel took its strongest action against Jewish settlers in nearly three years Thursday as riot police stormed a disputed building in Hebron, using tear gas and stun grenades to force out 250 young extremists bent on expanded Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

After losing a swift afternoon battle, settlers struck back into the night with gunfire and arson attacks on Palestinians in this troubled city and other parts of the West Bank, raising tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

The subsequent rioting sounds horrific. Here’s a report from a Ha’aretz reporter:

“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. (…)

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.””

Daniel Levy notes the implications for Israel and for us:

“On the Israeli side, the state long ago ceased to uphold its own laws when it comes to the coddled settler community. That community now poses a direct threat to Israel’s survival as a democracy with a Jewish character, in which the rule of law is upheld. And as this week proved, the hard-line settlers have become a clear and present danger to Israel–only drastic measures will suffice. (…)

The U.S. is on paper opposed to settlement expansion. The U.S. narrative, though, has shifted. Initially settlements were characterized by the U.S. as “illegal”–that description was dropped by the Reagan Administration and never returned to. Settlements became no more than “unhelpful” and later on an “obstacle to peace”–a language which the Bush Administration has occasionally used. What the U.S. has not done is to take a firm, consistent, and unrelenting position that Israel uphold its commitment to a settlement freeze–and without such U.S. action, the Israeli cost-benefit calculation on settlement expansion vs. freeze is always skewed in favor of the former.”

We have never seriously asked Israel to stop expanding its settlements. We should have, for the sake of justice, peace, the Palestinians, and Israel. A better friend to Israel, let alone the Palestinians, would have tried to stop this. We should try to stop it now.

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Obligatory disclaimer for Israel/Palestinian threads: No one should draw any conclusions from this post about my general views on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In particular, no one should infer from the fact that I wrote about settlers behaving despicably that I do not believe that any Palestinians have done things that are equally bad. I do. I am not on either the Israeli or the Palestinian side. If I have to choose sides t all, I side with those decent people in both groups who want peace, and against those in both groups who either practice violence or engage in injustice.