Eyal Raz writes:
Were you ever at a lynching? Were you ever someplace where an unbridled mob was beating you and your friends and then chasing you to beat you again? Were you ever the victim of wild violence before the blind eyes of policemen who ignored your desperate calls for help? Have you ever felt abandoned? The following story begins with blood, but its point is the abandonment.
What happened Friday afternoon at the entrance to the settlement of Anatot was a pogrom, a lynching. There’s no other way to describe an event in which hundreds of large men are wildly beating and pursuing a nonviolent group of male and female activists for an extended period of time. There’s no way to convey to those who weren’t there the threatening sense of the approaching dark – not in words, not in pictures, not even in video.
They came to destroy, to break, perhaps even to kill. They used their hands, their fists and their teeth, along with stones, pipes and knives. They aimed for the photographers, the women, for the young and the old alike. They brought individuals down to the ground and assaulted them as they lay there, surrounded. They pounced on the hindmost of those trying to flee as they pursued their battered victims.
And all this was taking place before the very eyes of the police, who didn’t do a thing to prevent people from being hurt. It all passed, as usual, in a thunderous silence.
Assaf Sharon, from Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity, provides more background.
For decades, the Israeli government and police force have passively allowed settlers to act violently against Palestinians and Israelis who protest the occupation. Last Friday, when a mob of settlers attacked a group of Palestinian farmers and Israeli solidarity activists outside the settlement of Anatot, a new level of collusion was reached: not only did the police not act to stop the mob of settlers, but indeed many of the settlers in the mob were themselves out-of-uniform policemen and state employees. The press was silent. The occupation has found a new way to silence non-violent resistance and dissent.
At first glance, Anatot is a pastoral gated community close to Jerusalem, inhabited by law-abiding citizens, many of whom are employed by the Civil Administration and the police.
But despite its benign appearance, Anatot is a settlement, located in Palestinian territory occupied in 1967. Anatot was built in 1982 on land allocated by the Israeli government, and inexpensive housing was offered to police officers and other government employees in order to encourage them to live and work in the otherwise unattractive area known by the Israeli government and settlers as “Judea and Samaria,” and by the rest of the world as the West Bank.
Like many other settlements, Anatot is surrounded by a separation fence that envelops acres of privately-owned Palestinian land. Six years ago, the residents of Anatot decided to expand their settlement southward. They neither requested nor received government permits to expand. They simply rerouted the settlement’s fence to encompass additional private Palestinian land, including land owned by a farmer named Yassin el-Rafa’i and his family, who are citizens of Israel.
For years, settlers from Anatot have regularly harassed el-Rafa’i. On multiple occasions, settlers have uprooted el-Rafa’i’s trees and otherwise damaged his property, including poisoning his well with animal carcasses. El-Rafa’i has filed numerous complaints with the local police, but to no avail. The police have consistently refused to address el-Rafa’i’s complaints, or to take any action whatsoever to restrain the settlers’ continued harassment.
Last Friday (9/30/2011), a group of a dozen Israeli activists from The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, Ta’ayush, and other groups, went to visit Yassin el-Rafa’i and his wife Iman, in order to hear their story and to express friendship and solidarity. While the activists were getting ready to go home, a crowd of nearly a hundred settlers from Anatot surrounded the el-Rafa’i family and the Israeli activists. The mob of settlers quickly grew violent, and began to attack Iman, Yassin and the Israeli activists with fists, rocks and clubs. Three people were hospitalized, including Yassin and Iman, and several activists were detained for interrogation.
During the entire incident, uniformed police officers were present, and did nothing to stop or restrain the mob, despite the activists’ repeated pleas for intervention. Not a single settler was detained or arrested. No journalists were present, and the majority of the evidence was destroyed by the attackers, who specifically targeted cameras, breaking or stealing them and beating the photographers.
That evening, a group of about 40 Israeli activists returned to Anatot, to protest the brutalities committed earlier that day. The activists held a nonviolent demonstration in front of the settlement’s locked gate, while hundreds of settlers amassed on the other side. Some had participated in the afternoon’s violent attack, and some were soldiers and police officers in civilian dress: a horde of men seething with hatred and hungry for violence.
The settlers demanded that the gates be opened, and charged at the activists, again with fists, rocks, and clubs. The police officers in uniform that were present did nothing to restrain the crowd. One of the attackers tried a number of times to stab activists with a knife. When we tried to get away from the place, the attackers chased us, chanting “Death to Arabs!” and “Death to leftists!” They were accompanied by a group of uniformed police officers. About 10 demonstrators were injured, three of whom were evacuated for medical treatment. Six cars were seriously damaged or destroyed. On one of them a Jewish star, a Magen David, was incised.
Despite the attack, which was caught in stills and in video, the police did not arrest a single rioter.