In the immediate aftermath of the attack on Rabbi Arik Ascherman, police said in a statement that a group of “anarchists” had “provoked” a clash with West Bank Jewish settlers, and police appear to have done nothing to investigate further – until video shot by Rabbis for Human Rights that showed cops had lied went viral on social media.
The Jerusalem Post reports:
…The [teenage] suspect was arrested at his family home in the West Bank settlement of Itamar [at about 2:00 am Israel Time Sunday], where Judea and Samaria District Police said they also found stun grenades, an assault rifle clip filled with bullets, a slingshot, and the ski mask and knife that police believe were used in the attack. Authorities said the youth confessed to the attack and reenacted it.…
Just before the attack, Ascherman and other activists had been helping Palestinians harvest olives near Itamar, part of a harvest outing that was coordinated with Israeli security forces [who left just before the settlers allegedly began setting olive trees on fire and stealing Palestinian property].
In the video, Ascherman can be seen on a hillside grappling with a man wearing a ski mask and holding a rock and pushing him down a hill. At one point he pulls a knife out of his back pocket and begins threatening Ascherman and slashing at him with the knife, forcing him down the hill. Though he did not stab Ascherman, he kicked him several times, put him in a headlock and threw a rock at him before fleeing.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post after the incident, Ascherman said that after the security forces left, people whom he presumed to be settlers entered the Palestinian groves and began to steal olives and equipment and set trees alight. He said that when he then went to try to put out one of the fires, the masked man attacked him and a Belgian journalist.
At the time, the Judea and Samaria police said in a statement that a group of “anarchists” had “provoked” a clash with settlers, but after the footage emerged they termed it a “very serious” incident, and said they would show zero tolerance for such actions.
Without that video going viral, there would have been no police investigation and no arrest, not because a crime was not committed but because police, as is all to frequently the case, consciously chose not to do their jobs. Instead, they were all too willing to allow a Jewish thug to walk free.
This is what the Israel Police really is, and this is in part why such a large percentage of the Palestinian population hates Israelis so much, they will endorse or at least tolerate random violence against Israeli Jews.
This behavior is not hidden from police commanders just as similar IDF bad behavior is not hidden from IDF commanders. But it is rarely punished.
35 years ago, I fought very hard to combat the Zionism equals Racism canard and the Zionism is Apartheid canard. But 35 years, the increased flow of information from cellphone videos and social media, the onetime secrets that are now so easily public, has convinced me that Israel's critics are now closer to the truth than I was. The stories I occasionally heard back then from former IDF soldiers about random beatings of Palestinians and other thuggish behavior by the IDF, police and settlers I wrote off as aberrations. But were they?
The issue is not whether Jews have the right to live in Hebron or Shechem (Nablus) or anywhere else in the West Bank. We do.
The issue is whether it is smart to do so, whether it is moral to do so. And I think for the most part the past 48 years has proved it isn't and has instead proved the occupation as it has been carried out creates Jews who behave like brown shirts and police and soldiers who habitually lie to protect them.
I don't think it had to be this way. I think it became this way because Israel's leaders, especially Shamir and Netanyahu, turned lying and cheating to get what they wanted for Israel – and in Netanyahu's case, lying and cheating primarily to get what he wants for himself – into a high art form. Amoral leaders breed amoral followers and amoral soldiers and police, and water the noxious weeds that grow on those arid West Bank hilltops.
None of this excuses Palestinian terrorism. None of it excuses Palestinian leadership which is itself often amoral.
But nothing has been worse for Israel's soul than the idea of a Greater Israel, the idea of the "shleimut" (unity, completeness) of the entire biblical land of Israel. Masked settlers with stun grenades and knives burning down olive groves and attacking a liberal rabbi and a reporter is proof of that, just as all the other olive tree arsons and attacks on Palestinian property and homes are that proof, just as the hate crime attacks on mosques and churches are that proof – and just as police lying and cheating to cover for violent settlers is that proof.
The common thread that runs through all this is an extreme form of secular Jewish nationalism that has been blended with and supported by an extreme form of Orthodox Jewish nationalism created by the late Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook and made more extreme and much more violent through the influence of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane and his students and by Chabad Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh and his students. And yes, the late Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe had a direct role in all this, as well.
If Israel implodes, which it may very well do sometime in the next few decades, they're the men who caused it. But by then, it will be too late for pointing fingers to mean anything, too late to help, too late to change. It may even be too late now.