Portuguese / Spanish / English

Living in a state of fear: The rising spectre of vengeance attacks on the Palestinian population

The East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Shufat lays in rubble, its residents still in a state of shock after the murder of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, and the clashes that followed in its wake between residents and Israeli forces. Decorative lights strung up as part of the Ramadan celebrations in Shufat remain intact, however the group of friends who put them up before the beginning of the holy month are not complete anymore.

"The last time I saw him we were putting the lights up together" a friend of Abu Khdeir, Mahmoud, told Middle East Monitor, "Now he is gone. He was the nicest person, everyone liked Mohammed."

Abu Khdeir was kidnapped, beaten and burned alive before a strike to the head finally killed him. The murder of the teen has become the most well-known and shocking example of a revenge attack launched on the Palestinian population since the discovery of three dead Israeli teens on June 30th, but it doesn't stand alone.

Residents of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem now report living in a constant state of fear and worry. Children, who are normally free to roam the streets of their neighbours are kept close to home, their whereabouts monitored. People say they now avoid walking alone at night, and keep tabs on one another.

"We have always worried about the settlers here [in Hebron], but we used to worry about them destroying our cars or smashing a window or spray paint. Now this is something else. They are hurting people, they want to hurt us, our children aren't even safe to play outside anymore," Ala, a resident of the Southern West Bank district of Hebron told Middle East Monitor.

In Jub'a, near Bethlehem, a nine-year-old-girl was run over by a settler's car in an alleged revenge attack on 1st July. In the village of Husan the following day, a young Palestinian boy escaped an attempted kidnapping and strangling attempt, hiding in a forest for hours before members of his village found him. There has also been an attempted kidnap attempt in the Christian community of Beit Sahour, and several lynching attempts in Jerusalem, which has left half a dozen Palestinians in hospital.

For Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the fear of being attacked by settlers is more intense than ever before. Although Palestinians often report suffering greatly at the hands of Israeli soldiers, many Palestinian residents told MEMO that they would rather the presence of soldier to settlers, as soldiers are expected to follow protocol. The illegal Israeli settler population however, has a long history of not being held accountable for their actions against the local Palestinian population.

"The settlers do what they want, and the soldiers let them." Ala said, "At least the soldiers have someone who tells them what they can and can't do, the settlers don't have that, they are unpredictable."

Such revenge attacks are based on a foundation that has been a problem for years: price tag attacks. Price tags attacks are assaults on Palestinians by Israeli extremists, usually by settlers, which can incorporate vandalism such as destroying buildings and cars as well as race hate graffiti. However within the past two weeks, such attacks appear to have manifested into serious violent attacks on Palestinians–with the purpose of exerting some form of revenge–such as the murder of Abu Khdeir.

Earlier this year the U.S State Department included price tag attacks in its document, Country Reports on Terrorism 2013, an annual report published in spring detailing terrorist acts from the previous year. While Israel has previously set up a designated unit in 2013 within the national police department that was charged specifically with investigating and reducing such attacks.

Price tags have been fuelled by an atmosphere of vengeance and revenge. An atmosphere that has recently been encouraged by mainstream political rhetoric in the wake of the discovery of the three Israeli teens, which prompted United Nations human rights spokeswoman, Ravia Shamdasani, to urge Israeli society to "refrain from punishing individuals for offenses they have not personally committed".

However over the past two weeks, at least three hate-rallies were held in West Jerusalem by Jewish-Israelis, which highlighted the fanatical ideology of the far right. While in social media circles anti-Palestinian Facebook pages, pictures and logos have become increasingly popular. One prominent lawmaker in Israel, who is a leading figure in the Jewish Home Party, part of the current ruling coalition in the Knesset, appeared to call for a genocide of Palestinians on her personal Facebook page and received nearly 5000 'likes' in response.

At the first of the recent hate rallies, around 200 protesters gathered at the end of Jaffa Street, attempting to march down to Damascus Gate, the Palestinian neighbourhood outside of the old city. During the march protesters chanted the slogan, "Death to Arabs" while wearing stickers emblazoned with the words "Demand Revenge" and raising signs with anti-Arab phrases.

"We are marching because we can't take this anymore, we won't live with them," One protestor at the rally yelled when asked by MEMO what the march was about. "We want them out, our children won't be safe until they are out."

While Israeli police blocked off their entrance to the Palestinian neighbourhood, later that evening the march made its way into a McDonald's restaurant near Jaffa street specifically to hunt out a lynching victim, after identifying the outlet as a place with potential Palestinian workers. The areas around Jaffa street now have an increased security presence patrolling the popular shopping area. But there is a noticeable decrease in the amount of Palestinians walking those streets.

These public marches and acts of vigilante vengeance have prompted the mother of Naftali Fraenkel, one of the three murdered Israelis to come out condemning revenge attacks, particularly in the case of the murdered Abu Khdeir.

"If the Arab youth was murdered because of nationalistic motives then this is a horrible and horrendous act," Rachelle Fraenkel said. "There is no difference between blood and blood. Murder is murder. There is no forgiveness or justification for any murder."

Despite this, violent attacks have seemingly become the norm, whereas previously, graffiti and similar forms of vandalism were the most common occurrence.

From the murder of Abu Khdeir and other violent acts, to increased hate graffiti and property damage, price tags attacks are becoming more prevalent than before, leaving many West Bank Palestinians fearing more than ever, the violence of their illegal settlement neighbours.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

ArticleIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestine
Show Comments
The JNF/KKL A Charity Complicit With Ethnic Cleansing book launch
Show Comments