Last week, on the holiday of Simhat Torah, a group of Jewish Israelis descended a hill south of Hebron and raided the Palestinian village of Khirbat al-Mufaqarah.
During the raid, which in its description sounded more like a pogrom, dozens of settler youth, many shirtless with T-shirts wrapped around their faces like masks, allegedly threw stones at the villagers, their homes and cars, uprooted tree saplings and stabbed sheep.
Why? There was no reason. They did so because that it was these violent criminal youth often do in the area of the Southern Hebron Hills where there is anarchy, lawlessness and violence.
About a dozen Palestinians were injured including a couple of young children who sustained injuries requiring hospitalization.
Police arrested six Israelis. One of the suspects was released with restrictions, and all the others remained over the weekend in custody. Three of the suspects are scheduled to be released this coming week.
In one of the more disturbing images from the scene, an IDF soldier is seen standing among the group of masked Jewish attackers as they hurl stones toward the village residents. The soldier doesn’t do anything.
According to the left-wing group B’Tselem, the attackers “invaded Palestinian homes, smashed windows, and caused massive damage to equipment, including many vehicles.”
When Border Police and IDF soldiers finally decided to intervene, it seemed from the footage and eyewitness accounts that their actions were mostly directed against the Palestinians who were being attacked, and not against the Jewish settler youth who were attacking.
The world was quick to condemn the incident but less so Israeli politicians.
“The US government strongly condemns the acts of settler violence that took place against Palestinians in villages near Hebron in the West Bank on September 28,” a US Embassy spokesperson said on Friday.
In his briefing to the council, UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland also condemned settler violence.
“I am deeply concerned by the continued settler-related violence,” Wennesland said, explaining that Israel “has an obligation to ensure the safety and security of the Palestinian population and to investigate such attacks.”
He added that there were reports of “armed settlers carrying out attacks against Palestinians in proximity to Israel security forces.”
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was the exception among top Israeli politicians in condemning the assault. “This violent incident is horrific and it is terror,” Lapid said in a tweet. “This isn’t the Israeli way and it isn’t the Jewish way. This is a violent and dangerous fringe and we have a responsibility to bring them to justice.”
Lapid is right. The attackers have to be brought to justice. He is also right that they are a fringe group. What he neglects to confront though, is the government’s blind eye which consistently is turned toward these incidents. Violent clashes have long plagued the Southern Hebron Hills. Many of them originate in illegal outposts built over the years by people who must assume that if they can build homes illegally and get away with it, then they can probably attack Palestinians and get away with it.
This has to stop. For that to happen though the government has to take serious action and stop being afraid to confront radical Jewish extremists. What the government ministers need to understand, is that doing so has nothing to do with Right or Left, it has to do with what type of society exists in Israel and the values which serve as its foundation.
We need to recognize what these Jewish attackers are. They are not random hooligans but are more like terrorists, willing to violently attack children in the name of some ideological cause and a racist upbringing they received at home and in their schools. They seek to terrorize those residents and do so without paying a price.
The army needs to take a tough stand against these attackers. A visit by OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yehuda Fox to Khirbat al-Mufaqarah on Friday was important but more action is needed. We are used to seeing the IDF protect Jews in the West Bank. Unfortunately, it seems that in this village soldiers need to protect the Palestinians. They cannot stand by and let this continue.