Friday, December 05, 2008

Klansmen who wear kipot

ETHIOPIAN Jews serving in the Israeli armed forces have tasted the real character of the Zionist settlers on the West Bank and their supporters this week. It was not very pleasant.

"Niggers don't expel Jews! This isn't what we brought you to Israel for!" was just one of things shouted at them by masked settlers resisting an order to move out of disputed houses.

During violent clashes in Hebron on Tuesday "a bunch of veiled people started yelling at us: Who are you to expel us from our home? An Ethiopian does not expel a Jew! A nigger does not expel a Jew!" one Border Guard officer of Ethiopian descent recounted.

"I just didn't know what to do with myself," he said.

Another officer reported that while arriving to make an arrest about a week and-a-half ago, a group of youths verbally attacked him saying, "Who told you to come and evacuate us? You Ethiopians. What are you, this State's niggers? Olmert's niggers?"

The officers said they were deeply offended by these remarks, but stressed that those making them were youths coming from outside the area. Border Guard sources reported that racist remarks were also made against Druze soldiers. "We knew that this would happen so we instructed our officers in advance," said a source.,2506,L-3633163,00.html

The Ethiopians faced discrimination from Israel's religious authorities when they first came, and prejudice from some mayors who did not want them sent to their town. They still suffer in the jobs market and for housing. So it is perhaps not surprising to find them serving in the Border Guard, which though an option for conscript soldiers is also a professional, career force.

As an armed police force the Border Guard's main job has been suppressing Palestinian people in the occupied territories and occasionally within Israel's bounds, a task in which they have been more trigger-happy than the IDF itself; and guarding the very settlers from whom they are now taking abuse.

What has been happening in the Hebron area for some time has been violent harassment of Palestinians by the armed settlers, while Israeli forces only intervened if the Palestinians fought back. International observers and Israelis opposed to the occupation have also been attacked, or kept out by the military. On British TV we have had just a glimpse of soldiers having to remove some settlers from a house. But what has been happening just recently prompted the Israeli daily Ha'aretz correspondent Avi Issacharoff to state:

"Hebron settler riots were out and out pogroms".

"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."

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".

The only people behaving like Nazis that I can see from this account were the right-wing settlers. They and the youth sent to stir things, most likely from the Kach movement started by American-born Rabbi Meir Kahane. Even their racist epithets against the Border Guards who normally protect them are the language of the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

Another commentator on recent West Bank settler violence poses some qusestions.
"First, since some of the pogrom apparently is in Area A, why aren't Palestinian officers arresting settlers? Second, why was the area declared a closed military zone so late? Third, why are the IDF and the police so ineffectual in preventing the settler rampage? Fourth, why aren't the police using the same tactics against the settlers that the IDF uses against the protestors in Bil'in. After all, the settlers are much more violent than the Bil'in protestors".

This is from a blogger evoking the name of Dr.Yehudah Magnes, first president of the Hebrew University, who sought a humane version of Zionism, and a binational state in Palestine.

I would say that the idea of another kind of Zionism, liberal and progressive, has been left behind by history, although some way of sharing the land between two peoples must be found. The right-wing settler movements regard even Israel's present democracy with open contempt, though they have been happy enough to take subsidies from its governments, resources diverted from the poor in Israel's cities and amusingly named "development towns". From people like the Ethiopians.

But arguments about 'Zionism' in theory must take second place to the need for unity in action against the fascist settlers, the militarists, and the klansmen in kipot who are the current manifestation of Zionism in practice. Against them and against their backers, whether in Israel or the West. This is the struggle for peace. And no, it will not be peaceful - how could it be? They killed an Israeli prime minister, remember?

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