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Testimony: Israeli activist blindfolded, mugged, beaten by settlers

Protected by an Israeli soldier, a masked settler threatens activists with a stick in front of the Maon settlement during a solidarity march in the South Hebron Hills, September 22, 2012. (photo: Activestills.org)

An Israeli activist decided to spend his Yom Kippur in the South Hebron Hills, providing humanitarian and political support to Palestinian residents there who suffer daily from military occupation and settler violence, and who have also come under threat of being uprooted from their homes to make way for an IDF firing zone.

As he told me, the morning after the holiest day of atonement (September 27), he found himself laying on the ground, after being blindfolded, mugged, beaten and threatened by three Israeli settlers outside the illegal outpost called “Avigail.” While he was pinned down and being beaten, they said they would make an example out of him for all the ‘leftists.’

As has become all too prevalent to those familiar with these parts, the IDF and police rarely if ever arrest or take any action against settlers who commit crimes. Almost exactly one year ago on September 30, 2012, 23 Palestinians and Israelis were attacked by a mob of settlers in Anatot, near Jerusalem. To my knowledge, none of those assailants were ever arrested or questioned. Similarly, in this case, it is hard to believe the assailants will be brought to justice.

Here is an abridged version of his testimony that I translated:

I was accompanying a Palestinian shepherd near the settler outpost of Avigail. During the night the settlers positioned a bulldozer in the area, but had not started any construction work yet. According to Israeli law, the outpost is illegal, so any construction work in this area is of course illegal. But the authorities in the area do nothing about it.

I decided to get closer to the outpost to document what was going on and make my presence known. A police officer in uniform showed up in a civilian car – I thought he was coming to address the illegal construction being done, but then he disappeared into the outpost and I didn’t see him again. I only learned later on that he lives there and had just returned from a night shift.

A settler emerged from the area of the construction work and came right up to me and started heckling me, telling me to go back to Tel Aviv and that I am endangering the settlement by filming. He proceeded to push me, kick me in the leg and repeatedly tried to shut off my camera. I told him to stop attacking me, that I am filming to document and protect myself, that I am not being violent. He returns to the car and pulls two Palestinians who were apparently working for him – the whole time accompanied by a settlement security guard and an IDF soldier guarding the entrance to the outpost, who just stood by.

The soldier then made a call to report that there is an Israeli present filming but that I do not present a security threat, so there’s nothing he can do. Then he disappeared and I remained suddenly all alone for a few minutes in front of the outpost’s gate.  A man whose face was covered started walking closer to me, all the while I was still watching over the shepherd down in the valley to make sure he was OK. Suddenly this man started walking right up to me, so I quickly made a call to a fellow activist to let him know what was going on and that I felt threatened.

The settler started shouting at me, “turn off the camera!” and I said “first take off your face cover.” Then I head a noise and turned around. I saw two more people with their faces covered, running towards me. All three jumped on me, pushed me to the ground, kicked me and pulled my keffiyeh off my head that was protecting me from the sun and used it to blindfold me tightly. They also started choking me like crazy, I had no air, I tried to pull their hands off my throat to gasp some air. I screamed and they covered my mouth, twisted my arm, hit me on my head. Then they pinned me down with my back to the ground and held my arms in order to search my pockets, pulling out my keys and personal belongings while stepping on my hands. They picked up stones and threw them at my hands.

Fearing the worst, I tuck in my legs and try to protect my stomach and groin area. They took my I.D. from me and read aloud my personal information and said they would make an example out of me for all leftists. They threatened to come to Tel Aviv and harass my family. Then they discussed what they should do with me – one suggesting they tie me by the hands and feet and make me run on the street. Suddenly they just walk away and leave me there. They ultimately took all my belongings, including a video camera, my personal camera, my mobile phone and I.D.

I see an army jeep and wave at the soldiers to come over, though they doesn’t seem to be in any rush to reach me. I explain I had just been attacked. I started pointing and walking towards where where the assailants escaped to, with the army following me. I see what looks like the guys who just attacked me, pretending to suddenly be in the middle of construction work. I tell the soldiers that they must be the people who just attacked me (though their faces were covered) and to search them, since my belongings must be somewhere on them. The soldiers then responded by telling me I was being detained!

After half an hour the police finally got there. They did not go to question he perpetrators, who were left to walk around freely inside the outpost with my stolen belongings. Instead they told me to file a report, which I eventually did. However, the entire time while being questioned about what happened, I was treated as if I was the one that did something wrong. The guy seemed more interested in getting home quickly and I did not believe I would get justice anyway. I just wanted to get out of there.

*I will be sure to write follow-up reports should there be developments to the story.


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    1. Bob

      This is what happens in a failed state.

      Reply to Comment
    2. “Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a law-breaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”

      Justice Louis Brandeis dissent, “Olmstead v. United States,” 277 U.S. 438, 485 (1928)

      Assault and conspiracy to assault, the latter covering at least one IDF soldier. Never go anywhere in these regions without three Israeli citizens, all with videos. Three. Too easy to tackle two videos. And that is what they are afraid of–the videos.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ziggy

      Nice fabricated tale. Religious Jews on Yom Kippur attack a non-religious Jew on the holiest day of th eyear. Of course, the story is fabricated. But nice try. If it’s true furnish his name and contact info. All baloney.

      Reply to Comment
      • Carl

        Have you got any thoughts you’d like to share about the moon landings Ziggy?

        Reply to Comment
      • John

        Haredi throw stones on cars during shabat. You are a fake.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Vitus

      Talk like fascist, act like fascists, I guess they are such.

      Reply to Comment
    5. XYZ

      Yet another in the endless stream of stories of “evil settlers make unprovoked attack on Arabs and their supporters”, none of which ever ends up being investigated by the police nor prosecuted in the courts. This in spite of the fact that the heads of the security services, including the police are vetted by the Left before they are appointed, the fact that the Defense Minister is from the old Labor Party and who has shown on more than one occassion that he is quite willing to send the army and police to beat up settlers and destroy their homes without warning, the fact that the State Prosecutors Office is dominated by supporters of the Left and the so-called ‘peace camp’ and that the soldiers who are often present are representative of the whole of Israeli society and thus includes supporters of the “peace camp” as well. I have repeatedly asked, here at 972, for there to be follow-up reports on these cases, yet I have never seen any. The only conclusion that I can come to is that the reason there is no follow-up and there is no prosecution is because THERE IS NO CASE, just as Ziggy indicates.

      Reply to Comment
      • A month before Farid Nasasreh was shot dead during the harvest, one of the settlers accused of killing him (arrested, but released after five days due to difficulty formulating an indictment) gave an interview with the organisation Keshev:

        “On Saturday, for example, Arabs came to pick figs in the field bordering ours. Of course, we threw them off. We annihilated them. They are not allowed to come up here. If they come nevertheless, we immediately call the army or the police. When the army’s out of the picture, our men take care of them. On Saturdays, we chase them by foot with hoes and axes.”

        I’ve often wondered how religious settlers who take part in this sport manage to reconcile their Shabbat and holiday observance with carrying the knives and the metal poles and sometimes the guns outdoors, but I’ve never felt quite comfortable approaching masked armed men to pose technical questions about their eruv. You could do it. I mean that seriously – you’re orthodox and rightist, they’re more likely to listen to you.

        Reply to Comment
      • Maairav, I know I am a butt-in on this site with no reason to be so, but I do hope that follow up posts of this incident are possible. I greatly doubt XYZ’s revelation that the “left” vets police and prosecution services, largely because I have seen no evidence of a “left” in the government for years. Still, follow up will silence him/them quickly. And perhaps give courage to others.

        Reply to Comment
        • Piotr Berman

          By standards of Tea Party, Israeli government is Stalinist — for starters, they practice socialized medicine, then they allow gays in the military, and they do not give the people the most important of freedoms — the right to carry a concealed weapon.

          Clearly, in Israel right wing is quite a bit different than in USA. And quite often police comes short the exacting standards of the right wing. For example, some police do not approve beating up fellow Jews, however Leftist (perhaps the rotten influence of some gray beard Old Leftist still in the force). This could prompt the operation described in Ynetnews (and motivate the judge to “throw the book”).

          Reply to Comment
    6. Piotr Berman

      Astonishing story in ynetnews: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4289452,00.html

      Three young Jewish settlers are suspected of attacking undercover police officers who were posing as Palestinian shepherds. One officer was injured in the incident.

      According to police, the suspects punched the officers and attacked them with clubs because they assumed they were Arabs approaching the farm they were staying in. The Mount Sinai farm is located in the south Mount Hebron area.

      On Sunday the Jerusalem District Court extended the suspects’ remand until Tuesday. An indictment is expected to be filed in the coming days. A fourth suspect is still at large.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Piotr Berman

      I wanted to post a witty reply to Ziggy, but upon careful reading, I did not see any indications that the settlers were religious.

      I would not go as far as concluding that they were not, but it does not seem to me that they were Haredi, given threats to pester the narrator in Tel Aviv were non-tzniut girls could distract and distress them.

      Reply to Comment