Settler attack showcases impunity of Jewish extremists

In all my years as of activism, I have never seen or experienced such hatred as I did last Friday, when masked settlers attacked a group of Ta’ayush volunteers with clubs and stones.

By Guy Hircefeld

Masked settlers attack Ta'ayush activists near al-Auja, West Bank, April 21, 2017. (Screenshot)
Masked settlers attack Ta’ayush activists near al-Auja, West Bank, April 21, 2017. (Screenshot)

It’s been almost 10 years since I became involved in activism, much of it with Ta’ayush. I very quickly understood that my country is governed by a group of messianic, extreme and violent people whose aim is the establishment of a Jewish state — and that the entire “democratic” system is at their service, no questions asked.

Ta’ayush activists have, over the years, been detained, arrested and harassed. We’ve suffered from varying levels of violence. I thought I’d seen it all in terms of the collaboration between the “democratic” establishment and the messianic radical right, until last Friday, when we were attacked by a group of Jewish terrorists from the Baladim outpost.

Palestinian shepherds living in the al-Auja village have taken their herds to graze on the nearby hill for decades. But physical violence and theft of their sheep began almost immediately after the re-establishment around a year ago of the Baladim outpost, next to the Kochav HaShachar settlement. The Israeli police did nothing in response to complaints submitted by Palestinians, while the shepherds were forced to stop taking their herds to graze on the hill.

So the shepherds from al-Auja approached Ta’ayush to see if we could accompany them when they took their cattle out. We had already been in contact with the police to inform them we’d be in the al-Auja area that Friday to escort Palestinian shepherds, because there was no legal reason that they shouldn’t be able to take their herds out to graze. In response, a member of the security forces visited the village to tell the families they shouldn’t work with Ta’ayush. (It’s worth pointing out that if the police and army did their job, there’d be no need for us to accompany Palestinian farmers and shepherds in the West Bank.)

Nonetheless, we took our first trip out with the al-Auja residents two Fridays ago. After we’d been out for a while, we realized at that we were being watched by seven settlers from the Baladim outpost. We notified the police, telling them we feared there would be violence and asking them to come to the area.

About an hour later we spotted 15 masked Jews armed with clubs running towards us. We again contacted the police and stood facing the settlers, who were around 200 meters away. Half an hour later, we heard a shout of “police!” coming from the outpost, and the gang scattered. What happened next is already well-known — the settlers threw stones at the soldiers who had arrived on the scene.

Government cooperation with the attackers

The same sequence repeated itself last Friday, except that this time the settlers — again around 15 of them, masked and armed with clubs and stones — charged at us, yelling, and started attacking us with their weapons. In all my years as an activist I have never seen or experienced such crazed hatred. And to think — these people come from an outpost of the Kochav HaShachar settlement, which is considered mainstream, and is the former home of Israel’s police commissioner, Roni Alsheikh.

It could have ended far worse than it did. No one arrested the attackers. Several activists were injured in the assault, and we called an ambulance before starting to climb back down the hill. One activist needed stitches in his head. Another had a broken hand from trying to protect the head of the former. A third needed stitches in his hand, and several others were injured as well.

Masked settlers attack Ta'ayush activists near al-Auja, West Bank, April 21, 2017. (Screenshot)
Masked settlers attack Ta’ayush activists near al-Auja, West Bank, April 21, 2017. (Screenshot)

But the saga of the police’s failure to intervene didn’t end there. At one point a police officer announced to the injured activists, who didn’t want to immediately go and complain at the police station, that they were being detained. The police eventually backed off, but demanded that we go and submit a complaint straightaway, claiming that they’d made arrests. In spite of the injuries, and despite medics on the scene recommending that the wounded receive treatment before anything else, we all went to the police station.

When we got there we discovered — wonder of wonders — that no one there had any idea what we were talking about. We left without filing a complaint.

There’s nothing I can say about the conduct of the Israeli security forces. They knew what was happening and did nothing, or perhaps were under instructions not to do anything. As for what happens next, we will go back next week, and the week after, and the week after that, until the police do their job and the shepherds can take their cattle out to graze in peace.

This battle is an important part of the struggle over the character of this country, and it’s one we need help with from all who believe in non-violent struggle. The settlers from the Baladim outpost are linked to other acts of violence, vandalism and arson. These are the people who live by and believe in the King’s Torah. It’s regrettable that this weekend the state chose to support and cooperate with this terror group.

Guy Hircefeld is a resident of Jerusalem and an activist with Ta’ayush. This article was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here. Translated by Natasha Roth.