Hebron violence

The soldier ran into the crowd, shouting at them to step back and escorted the man away.

The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Video footage of a Golani Brigade soldier defending a Palestinian man being attacked in Hebron by a crowd of Jews on Friday night has gone viral.
The man, Ibrahim Badar, told media he was walking down a street when he was assaulted by settlers. Local Jewish residents claim the man had been involved in a violent incident that was not seen on the video.
The soldier ran into the crowd, shouting at them to step back and escorted the man away.
He continued defending the Palestinian even as the crowd kept up its efforts to continue hitting Badar.
Police are investigating the incident and on Sunday morning made at least one arrest while continuing the search for other suspects.
The IDF issued an initial laconic statement, saying, “During the night there was friction between Israelis and Palestinians in Hebron that included the throwing of rocks and Molotov cocktails. IDF soldiers who arrived at the scene dispersed the violent gathering.”
Violence in Hebron is not new. Since 1997, the city has been divided into separate communities: the Palestinian-controlled H1 area, which comprises around 80% of the city, and the Israeli-controlled H2 neighborhood.
There has been frequent tension and conflict, particularly in the small area where Jewish residents come into close contact with Palestinian residents. The soldiers themselves have often come under attack.
The “Elor Azaria case” of 2016 heightened tensions and divisions when the IDF soldier shot and killed a terrorist in Hebron who had already been neutralized after attacking a soldier.
The case swiftly became politicized and polarizing. One side maintained Azaria had sullied the IDF’s name and tradition of acting as a moral force; others claimed Azaria had acted in self-defense, fearing the suspect was wearing a suicide vest, and that Azaria’s arrest and later conviction for manslaughter undermined soldiers’ ability to fight terrorism.
In Friday’s video, the Golani soldier seen rescuing the Palestinian was acting in line with the high moral standards that the IDF and country expect. This is positive in of itself since such acts portraying the ethos of the IDF help Israel in the battle for world opinion – although this is of secondary importance.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz tweeted on Saturday night that according to reports of the event, the Golani Brigade soldier “behaved as is expected of any soldier” and added: “The IDF is committed to the safety of civilians anywhere it operates.”
And this is exactly the point: the soldier did the right thing when he saw someone being attacked. It is not yet known whether the men who attacked the Palestinian were local residents of Hebron or affiliated with the city in some other way, but there is no excuse for violence and certainly no place for vigilante groups taking the law into their own hands.
Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is representing the Jewish suspects, said that Badar had provoked his clients and was responsible.
“It must be understood that some Hebron Arabs have learned a method, to provoke the Jews and take photos,” he said, according to Israeli media reports.
Whatever the backstory is that led to the incident captured on video, the event raises the dilemmas of having soldiers policing a civilian area – especially one as volatile as Hebron.
With or without the extension of Israeli sovereignty in Hebron, the police should be responsible for public safety of all of the residents of the city – Jewish and Arab – and the suspects in the attack should be immediately detained, questioned and, if needed, held accountable.
We commend the soldier for doing what was right and we call for a thorough investigation into the attack captured on film. And if it turns out that perpetrators assaulted Badar and the soldier who saved him, they should be brought to justice.
In a potentially explosive area like Hebron, authorities must ensure that incidents like this weekend’s don’t get out of control. It must be made clear that provocations and vigilantism will not be tolerated.