The silence over apartheid

The Australian Jewish community may think that Israel is worth celebrating, but they conveniently ignore the realities of the West Bank occupation. Israel writer Bernard Avishai publishes a colleague’s report on Jewish extremism:

Pogroms: it’s something the Jews know about. I grew up on those stories—Cossack raids on the shtetl, the torture and killings and wanton destruction. My grandmother had a brother. They lived in Mikhalayev, in the Ukraine. One day the Cossacks came, and everyone panicked, and the seventeen-year-old brother tried to hide in a pond, and he drowned. She mourned that young death all her life; the dead don’t age, and some wounds never heal.

And now it turns out—who would believe it?—that there are Jews who also know how to carry out pogroms. For the last ten days or so, settlers from Bat ‘Ayin in the so-called Etzion Bloc have been paying violent daily visits to their Palestinian neighbors in Um Safa, perched high on the edge of the western ridge that overlooks the coastal plain all the way to the sea. A terrorist from Um Safa entered Bat ‘Ayin two weeks ago, murdered a settler boy with an axe, and wounded another. The police caught him soon thereafter. But that hasn’t stopped the Bat ‘Ayin settlers from repeated rampages to wreak revenge on Um Safa. They’ve already killed four innocents, and another eleven or twelve have been wounded by gunfire. As if that weren’t bad enough, the soldiers have apparently been making common cause with these settlers, opening fire readily at the villagers. Life in this most beautiful of the mountain villages has become a nightmare; not that it was easy before.

We get the emergency call around 5:00 after a long day that started off in Susya, in South Hebron. At first it looked as though we’d never get through the barriers and the roadblocks; like last week, we had police and army on our tail from the moment we left Jerusalem. Two full buses and several private cars headed south by the long route twisting over the dry hills. A grey, sultry day, summer approaching: in the endless battle in the wadis and terraces between green and brown, green seems to be losing ground. Every once in a while the soldiers would stop one of the cars and threaten to stop the buses. But, happily, by midday we had rendezvoused at Susya with a van of Palestinian activists from all over the West Bank. All in all, some 150 Combatants for Peace—former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian members of the armed resistance organizations who have given up all forms of violence—had come to meet each other and to see the reality of South Hebron.

Text and images ©2023 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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