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Kristallnacht revisited

By Khaled Amayreh, 12 - 18 October 2000, Issue No. 503
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM (established in 1875)


As the Israeli occupation army continues to use heavy machine-guns and helicopter gunships against unarmed Palestinian protesters and the lightly-armed Palestinian Authority (PA) police, Jewish settlers have gone on a rampage in the West Bank. Settlers have murdered Palestinians, vandalised their property and set their fields on fire.

The obviously wanton campaign of terror seems to carry the tacit approval of the Israeli government and army. It has involved the gruesome murders of at least five Palestinian villagers in the West Bank during the past 10 days.

Palestinian sources said that as of Tuesday, bands of settlers, armed with Uzi sub-machine-guns, clubs, axes and other "torture implements" were still terrorising many parts of the West Bank. These sources noted that settlers were concentrating their efforts in and around Arab hamlets and villages contiguous to Jewish settlements.

Most of these villages fall within "Area C," meaning they are still under full Israeli military control, thus the settlers feel particularly safe attacking and murdering innocent and helpless villagers who could be found harvesting their olive crops, shepherding their herds, or simply walking around.

On 9 October, in a gruesome incident reminiscent of Serbian atrocities in Bosnia and Kosovo, settlers riding a jeep with army camouflage, abducted and brutally murdered Essam Judeh, 36, of the village of Umm Al-Safa near Ramallah as he was driving to his olive farm.

Wearing a type of skullcap worn by followers of the Gush Emunim settler movement, the group of settlers forced Judeh at gunpoint into their jeep and took him to the nearby settlement of Pisgot, which is inhabited primarily by Jewish immigrants from the United States. There the settlers sadistically bludgeoned him with clubs and axes, electrocuted and burned him with a heated iron bar, before shooting him once in the back of the head. Judeh's charred and mutilated body was found in his field a few hours later.

Six hours earlier, settlers similarly abducted, 25-year-old Sayed Sweidan, another Palestinian farmer from the village of Azzoun near Qalqilya in the northern West Bank. They performed virtually the same horrific rituals on him before shooting him in the head. Farmers found his corpse in an olive grove near the village.

On 8 October, settlers murdered Fahd Abu Bakr, 23, of the village of Bidya near Salfit, 15 kilometres north-west of Ramallah, again in much the same manner.

One Israeli source intimated that the settlers had received a religious edict from the rabbinical council of Gush Emunim, exhorting them to kill "Arabs in Eretz Yisrael [Greater Israel], young and old, anywhere and everywhere." Such an edict is by no means new, but its reassertion at this time is very telling.

The settlers have also perpetrated acts of sabotage and vandalism against Arab property throughout the West Bank.

In East Jerusalem, Palestinian homes, cars and businesses were all vandalised. Likewise, settlers destroyed Palestinian property in Shufat refugee camp, the village of the same name, Hizma, Anata, Al-Isawiya, Al-Ram, Dahiyat Al-Barid and Harat Al-Akaba.

In the northern parts of the West Bank, and also in the environs of Ramallah, the settlers have been busy setting Palestinian olive groves on fire. Palestinian sources said hundreds of dunums of olive farms were torched by the settlers, causing heavy losses to the mostly impoverished Palestinian farmers who depend to a large extent on their olive crops for their livelihood.

And as everywhere, the settlers were constantly under the watchful eyes of Israeli soldiers to ensure their security and safety.

More to the point, settlers continued to erect abrupt roadblocks on the main roads in the West Bank, stoning and firing at Arab cars, rendering travel between Palestinian towns in the West Bank extremely hazardous.

In Hebron, where the Israeli army is still in full control of half of the Arab city, Jewish settlers, considered among the most fanatic and trigger-happy of settlers anywhere, carried out several "Kristallnachts" in Hebron during the past few days. Most of these incidents occurred in parts of Hebron which are still under full Israeli occupation such as Tel Rumeida, the vicinity of the Ibrahimi Mosque and several other neighbourhoods adjacent to the settlement of Kiryat Arba.

The settlers, armed with automatic rifles, axes and clubs continued to make their destructive way through these neighbourhoods, almost on a nightly basis, smashing car windshields and often firing heavily, especially at night, on the windows and verandahs of Arab homes.

"It is a crystal night," said Taysir Zahdeh, a gynaecologist, who had more than his share of smashed glass and broken windows. "It is not only the smashed glass, there is also the terror that accompanies the bullets piercing the windows. I am especially worried about the kids."

Kristallnacht, or the night of broken glass, took place in November 1938, when Nazi youths in Germany and Austria mounted a concerted attack on Jewish businesses and property. But Zahdeh had much more to worry about than just settlers smashing the windows of his home.

Last week, Israeli border police snipers, using sledge-hammers and crowbars, forced open the outer steel door of Zahdeh's home to get to the strategic rooftops of the premises to hunt down Palestinian protesters in the streets at Bab Al-Zawiya, the main thoroughfare in downtown Hebron, which also marks the line between PA-administered areas and Israeli-controlled parts of the town.

"I told them I would open the door for them, but they refused to wait and began bashing the door with the sledge-hammer until it fell down," said Zahdeh in an embittered tone.

The settlers are viewed in Hebron as particularly nefarious because, in the words of Hebron mayor Mustafa Natshe "The evil they are capable of doing has no limits and we must remember that they produced [Barouch] Goldstein, not the other way around."

Goldstein is the American-Jewish settler who on 25 February 1994, murdered 29 Palestinian worshipers at the dawn prayers at the Ibrahami Mosque in downtown Hebron.

"Those people are extremely fanatic and trigger-happy. They think that killing a non-Jew, especially an Arab, is a charitable and gracious act," Natshe said.


(c) Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

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