Rattling the Cage: Shimshon Cytryn and other 'innocents'

The portrayal of Cytryn as the innocent victim of a political frame-up is simply inaccurate.

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
I don't like to take issue in print with other Jerusalem Post journalists, but I have to make an exception now for the column "Our World: Shimshon Cytryn and Aharon Barak," written by Caroline Glick on Monday. The column gives the impression that Cytryn, 19, a religious settler on trial for the attempted murder of a Palestinian teenager in Gaza during the summer of last year, is the innocent victim of a political frame-up by the media and Barak's Supreme Court. In Glick's telling, all that took place at Gaza's Moassi beach in late June 2005 was an extended rock fight between two groups of teenagers, yet the media "manufactured" the tale of a near-fatal lynching of a Palestinian boy by a group of young settlers, when the boy spent only two hours in the hospital and emerged "the picture of health." The media's motive, the column indicates, was to make the Gush Katif settler movement look bad and thereby buck up public support for the impending disengagement. Cytryn's case is now before the Supreme Court, which Glick accuses of having a leftist political agenda just like the media's, so she concludes that "there is every chance that Shimshon Cytryn will be tried and convicted of a crime that was never committed." I'm writing about this because I was one of the reporters on the Moassi beachfront on that June 28 that the column describes, and the behavior of the young settlers there that day wasn't innocent at all, which is what readers of Glick's column would conclude. One of those settlers did in fact try to murder that Palestinian teenager, and he had help. I don't know if it was Cytryn who hit the Palestinian boy in the head with a rock thrown full force from a few feet away, but I know that one of those Jewish marauders did, and others tried to join in the attack. And while this was the worst violent crime they committed during those three days on the Gaza beachfront, it was by no means the only one. The media, Aharon Barak and the Supreme Court are not the villains in this story. The villains were those 25 or so radical settler thugs at Moassi, including Cytryn. Glick's column doesn't mention how the rock fight began. Yet it was big news at the time: Those young settlers, who were among the many right-wing youth pouring into Gush Katif to try to stop the disengagement, invaded a three-story beachfront house owned by a Palestinian family, chased the family out and took it over. They went up on the roof and wrote the words "Muhammad is a pig" in huge letters on the wall facing the house next door where the Palestinian evictees were gathered with their neighbors. For three days, the settlers and Palestinians threw rocks at each other while Israeli soldiers did little but watch. WHO WERE these young settlers? Glick quotes the media's characterization of them as "right-wing extremists," her implication being that this is the sort of knee-jerk, settler-bashing terminology that can be expected from the media. But from what I saw of those young people on the roof, I'd say "right-wing extremists" was too polite a term. I'd call them "Judeo-fascists" instead. They were a bunch of Kahanists, they were flying banners of Kach and the like-minded messianic wing of Chabad. A graffito on the stairway wall read "We'll murder Sharon, too." I recognized one boy on the roof from the recent Purimspiel-cum-yahrzeit for Baruch Goldstein at Goldstein's grave in Kiryat Arba. The boy, a West Bank settler named Pinhasi Bar-On, then 15, had been one of the most high-spirited revelers that Purim, singing songs of praise to Yigal Amir and shouting gleefully for Sharon's death. On the rooftop in Gaza, I asked him how he thought the battle over disengagement would play out. "In the end," he said, "Sharon will either be sitting home or lying in his grave." I got to the beachfront a little after the incident for which Cytryn is standing trial, so I didn't see it with my own eyes. But a TV cameraman showed me the raw footage he'd shot, and I watched it a few times. The images still in my memory are fleeting, but I remember seeing an IDF soldier with a rifle standing with a Palestinian boy - Halil Mejeida, 18 - in his custody behind a wall. I remember seeing a boy hoisting himself atop the wall and hurling a rock at Mejeida, and another boy trying to get at Mejeida, who was lying on the ground as the soldier tried to protect him. To fill in the lapses in my memory, here is the relevant excerpt from the news story written by the Chicago Tribune's Joel Greenberg: "One Palestinian youth was wounded in the head by a rock, and as he lay senseless on the ground, young settlers ran up and stoned him at close range while an Israeli soldier tried to shield him. 'Don't touch him, let him die,' shouted one settler in footage of the assault shown on Israeli television." "Manufactured"? I don't know how long Mejeida stayed in the hospital, and I don't know what kind of condition he was in when he got out, but was the media account of that incident a "fabrication" of "a crime that was never committed," as Glick's column has it? No, it was an attempted lynch of a Palestinian in IDF custody by a handful of young settlers. The standoff ended at sundown when Israeli soldiers stormed the house, dragging out the squatters who, in their parting gesture, had set the place on fire. That was Shimshon Cytryn and his friends. Remember them the next time you read or hear about how the Israeli justice system is victimizing some purely innocent Jew who - wouldn't you know it? - has been branded by the media as a "right-wing extremist."