Horror and Heroism at Homesh - opinion

We can all agree that a passive protester exercising his democratic right to protest government policy doesn't deserve to be pounced upon.

 Visitors walk by the water tower on the ruins of the evacuated settlement of Homesh on August 27, 2019. Homesh was one of four West Bank settlements that Israel evacuated during the disengagement. (photo credit: HILLEL MAEIR/FLASH90)
Visitors walk by the water tower on the ruins of the evacuated settlement of Homesh on August 27, 2019. Homesh was one of four West Bank settlements that Israel evacuated during the disengagement.
(photo credit: HILLEL MAEIR/FLASH90)

It is a short clip, barely 24 seconds long, that was neither filmed professionally nor with a steady hand. But perhaps because the footage is so raw and so shocking, and the reality that it reveals is so brutal, is what makes it essential viewing for every Israeli.

The video was taken on January 10, when Border Police officers and soldiers once again returned to Homesh, the Jewish community that was needlessly destroyed as part of Ariel Sharon’s 2005 expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and northern Samaria.

A yeshiva student, Yehuda Smotrich, can be seen lying down passively, as officers kick, punch and scream at him before lustily and violently wrenching him upward off the ground.

Back on December 16, when Palestinian terrorists opened fire on an Israeli car near Homesh, murdering 25-year-old Yehuda Dimentman and leaving his nine-month-old baby an orphan, Smotrich sat alongside the victim, his friend, and cradled him in his arms as he lay dying.

Earlier this week, Smotrich found himself cradling on the ground as he was senselessly beaten by fellow Jews for daring to study Torah at Homesh.

So even as Palestinian Arabs are busy erecting thousands of illegal structures throughout Judea and Samaria in a brazen attempt to seize large swathes of Area C, which is controlled by Israel, the government chose to focus its efforts this past week on trying to eliminate the Jewish presence at Homesh.

It marked the third time in the past month that Israeli forces were deployed to Homesh to wreak havoc on the yeshiva, which has operated at the site daily for the past 15 years.

We know about this incident because Yehuda Smotrich just happens to be the nephew of Religious Zionist MK Bezalel Smotrich, who retweeted the video. Otherwise, it might never have come to light.

“This is my righteous nephew who was miraculously saved during the terror attack in Homesh,” MK Smotrich wrote, adding, “He was in the car when Yehuda Dimentman, may the Lord avenge him, returned his soul to its Maker in his arms.”

The tweet further noted that, “after his soul was wounded in the terror attack, today his entire body was wounded when he received kicks, beatings and punches from the police sent by the Government of Israel merely because he lied down on the ground of Homesh.”

This is nothing less than an absolute outrage and it should shock the consciences of us all.

Whatever one thinks of the right of Jews to live in northern Samaria, we can all agree that a passive protester exercising his democratic right to protest government policy does not deserve to be pounced upon, battered and maltreated.

Some observers on the Left were quick to point out that Israel’s Disengagement Law forbids Jews from being at Homesh, as though that somehow justifies the gratuitous violence that was inflicted on Smotrich.

Others noted that there were clashes that took place that day at the site between Homesh activists and police in which the former allegedly assaulted some of the men in uniform.

There is of course no excuse for such behavior. But how does that in any way justify the assault on Smotrich that was caught on video?

Sadly, this latest episode follows an act of unprecedented verbal violence directed against the yeshiva students at Homesh by no less a figure than Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan of Meretz.

In an interview with the Knesset TV channel on January 6, Golan denounced the Jews who have been trying to revive Homesh, saying, “These are not people, these are sub-humans. They are despicable.”

Aside from the fact that declaring one’s political opponents to be “sub-human” is loathsome and obscene, for anyone with even a modicum of historical consciousness, Golan’s use of the phrase resonates with some of the darkest periods in our nation’s history.

After all, it was precisely the term “sub-human”, or Untermensch in German, which the Nazis used throughout the 1930s and 1940s to demean and dehumanize Jews, Roma and others.

While Golan subsequently muttered a few words resembling a half-hearted apology after being widely condemned across the political spectrum, his remarks revealed the true extent of the intolerance and contempt the enlightened Left has for proud Jews imbued with the Zionist ideal of settling the Land of Israel.

It saddens me greatly to see Jews speaking about one another in such terms and it saddens me even more that Jewish soldiers and policemen would raise their arms in violence against a fellow Jew.

More worrisome yet, however, is our society’s willingness to put up with such outlandish behavior.

After all, restoring the Jewish presence at Homesh is a Zionist challenge of utmost importance. It is essential that we reassert the Jewish people’s basic and fundamental right to settle every inch of this land.

Instead of hurling calumny and abuse at the brave pioneers who have taken upon themselves this Herculean task, we should be doing everything in our power to make their dream – which is ours too! – a reality. ■

The writer served as deputy communications director under former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term of office.