Two nights after Jewish people celebrated the New Year, two violent incidents occurred which made me angrier than usual at the brutal behaviour of Israeli Jewish West Bank settlers, the Israeli police, and the Israeli racial state.
On Friday 30 September, Jewish settlers at the West Bank settlement of Anatot brutally attacked a group of young Jewish Israeli activists who demonstrated in support Palestinian farmer Yassin Rifawi, whose privately owned lands in the village of Anata were illegally fenced by residents of Anatot, limiting his access. In the past few months Rifawi suffered continuous harassment by the settlers, including threats, uprooting of trees and dismantling his property. Despite recurrent appeals by the Israeli legal human rights organisation Yesh Din to the Israeli police, nothing was done to protect Mr Rifawi.
There were two attacks on that day. The settlers’ violence resulted in Rifawi being taken to hospital with an open head wound, together with his wife over whose head the settlers broke a broom handle, after which they abused her sexually. 26 activists were injured, most needing medical treatment, and some with broken limbs and head injuries.
According to the activists, (who videoed the attacks – the films are available on You Tube), police officers present during the two attacks, stood by and looked on instead of defending the attacked activists. None of the attackers was charged or arrested. One reason may be that a large number of the attackers were themselves police officers, who reside in the settlement. Anatot is not religious or extremist but rather a ‘lifestyle’ settlement, whose inhabitants are well educated people, artists, police and army officers.
Activists write about the event in pain and shock. ‘We were surrounded by police officers… they didn’t protect me, they participated. They saw them break bones, threaten to murder and rape, break up cars and cameras; they allowed the settlers to use the police PA system to shout their threats… They saw them drag me by the hair to the fields, and did nothing. Some even looked rather amused. Why am I surprised? They do this to Palestinians all the time…’ (Alma)
‘Outside [the vehicle], settlers are banging on the windows making a sign with their fingers drawn across their throats to show that they would slash my throat. They shriek: ‘Bring her outside [the vehicle]. We’ll deal with her. Give her what she has coming to her, the whore!’ (Hagai)
‘The settlers actually stripped me naked. I tried to calm myself. History will bury them and their evil apartheid in blood’ (Stavit)
Idan Landau writes in his blog: ‘Activists were threatened with rape, sodomy and other physical and verbal acts… It’s primitive, brutal, bestial, but alas all too human. We think we are Jews, that we don’t do such things, that we are civilized, that we have our sacred books and traditions that raise us above such brutality. Alas, violence like this reminds us that we are only those things in our best moments. In our worst, we are no different. And when we are no different, we have betrayed those traditions which we like to think set us apart or above the worst humanity has to offer’.
Quite apart from the injustice done to Rifawi, and from the violence meted to Palestinians on a regular basis, these violent incidents demonstrate that when a state racialises its ‘others’, in this instance Palestinian citizens and occupied subjects, only a thin line separates between them and the state’s ‘own’ people, in this instance Israeli Jewish citizens who dare to challenge the racial state and protest against its unjust acts.