By Richard Silverstein / Richard Silverstein
NOTE: Earlier today, Middle East Eye published my latest piece about the upcoming Israeli elections. Please read it.
Last week, a group of Israeli settlers from the settlement of Nofey Nehemya, just outside Ariel, attempted to steal Palestinian farmland. To secure their ownership claim they set up a tent on the privately owned land. In the cockeyed world of Israeli extremism, that’s all it takes to steal Palestinian land which has been in the family for generatons. When Palestinian villagers from Iskaka witnessed this, they informed the landowners, who proceeded to the tent site. At the sight of the Palestinian group, the young settler “vanguard” (mendaciously called “children” by settlers themselves) withdrew. The embedded video below shows this inital confrontation in which the Palestinians are heard telling the interlopers to “go.” At 00:38 in the video, you see a brief image of the suspected attacker from what appears to be about 20 feet. The actual murder was not captured on video though there is a second video shot immediately afterward.
Within a few minutes, the settlers returned with settlement security guards, police officers and an IDF soldier. The guard shot in the air to intimidate the Palestinians, who were unarmed and had engaged in no hostile behavior.
A unique phenomenon of Israeli settler violence is that in a country under the rule of law, the presence of police would guarantee peace and calm a violence situation. But the opposite happens in situations involving settler provocation. The attackers are constrained when facing Palestinian alone. But feel emboldened when soldiers accompany them, since they know they will protect them if they shoot or attack Palestinians. This is the world of state-enabled terrorism.
One of the settlers approached the small group of Palestinians and flashed a knife at him and tried to attack him. The victim parried the blow and brushed it off. But the assailant attacked another man nearby and plunged the knife into Ali Hassan Harb’s heart. He was a 27-year old electrical engineering graduate, who happened to be at home to help with the agricultural chores. The Palestinian witnesses tried to rush to him and evacuate him to the hospital. But the IDF soldier brandished his weapon and forced them back. As they tell it, for thirty minutes they were forced to watch Harb die, powerless to do anything. By the time the Israelis relented, he was dead. They drove him to a hospital in Ramallah, but it was too late to save him.
In the second video showing the scene after the attack, you can hear an Israeli officer calling out in Hebrew to the Palestinians asking them: “why are you here?”
I consulted a well-informed Israeli source who told me there would be a serious investigation. I was skeptical, given past history of Israeli “investigations” of murders of Palestinians in similar circumstances. But another Israeli source provided an update since my last post. It confirmed much of what I was originally told. The settler-suspect turned himself in to the Ariel police station (the nearest Israeli town to the settlement). Police suggested he file a complaint (!). In it, he claimed the Palestinians viciously attacked a group of Jewish “children” and that he was defending then and himself (read Honenu’s fallacious account below).
I am identifying the suspected murderer for the first time here, since there is a gag order prohibiting Israeli media from doing so. He is Avraham Shemesh, 44, a resident of Nofey Nehemya. The far-right NGO, Honenu described him as: “…In his 40s, has three children, aged 6, 5, and 3, served in the Navy…”
He seems to have no social media trail nor a digital presence. There is a professor at Ariel University by the same name. But it seems highly unlikely he is the suspect. Should anyone have any further information about him, please contact me in confidence.
Honenu: Lawyers for the mob, the Judeo-terrorist mob
Shemesh was arrested by the security services. He has been under Shin Bet interrogation since then. His lawyers were provided by the only Israeli NGO which will represent Jewish terrorists, Honenu. The NGO is like lawyers for the mob. No Jewish terrorist is too homicidal. If Eichmann had been Jewish, they would have defended him too. Its lead lawyer for years was now-MK Itamar Ben Gvir He also holds the distinction of spearheading the Sheikh Jarrah evictions and provoking riots between opposomg settler squatters and Border Police, and Palestinians defending the Al Aqsa mosque.
Honenu protested (of course) that Shemesh has been tortured. In the first hours of detention he was supposedly questioned four (!) times. The defense lawyer even had the chutzpah to describe the alleged treatment as “reminding him of dark places.” As my grandparents might have said in Yiddish-inflected English: he should only know from dark places! Torture is a perpetual geshrey one hears from the Jewish terrorist right. They never make a peep about the routine and far more abusive torture of Palestinian suspects, because they favor such treatment. While they vehemently oppose torturing Jews. Well, I should say–their kind of Jews. Jews like me are hefker (something of no value nor status). For them, Jews are chosen. Palestinians are untermenschen.
Shemesh had two court appearances in Ashkelon and Beersheva, where there are Shin Bet interrogation facilities.
Not only blamng the victim, but arresting him for the crime
Police also arrested the victim’s family for questioning. Somehow, when a Palestinian is murdered the authorities attempt to shift blame to the survivors. Imagine in your personal life losing a child and having police arrest YOU as well as the murderer:
…Relatives of the Palestinian…stabbed to death…in the West Bank…were arrested and interrogated by the Shin Bet…over their claims that the Israeli police and military were present at the scene of the attack.
Naim Harb, the uncle of…Ali Hassan Harb, told Haaretz that he and two more relatives…were blindfolded, handcuffed, and arrested in their home.
…Soldiers and Border Police…arrived at his home around 2 A.M. “They banged hard on the metal door… a group of about 20 soldiers. I opened it for them and asked – what are you doing here?” he said. The soldiers then, according to Harb, entered the courtyard of the house, with one firing in the air and another throwing a stun grenade.
“They hit me with their hands, like animals…after about half an hour someone who seemed to be in charge showed up, and I asked him — why are you acting like this? I have a child who has his matriculation exam today, and his finger was broken during the incident…”
The violent kidnapping of the three family members was an attempt to intimidate them into being compliant during subsequent interrogation. During it, the investigator sought to “persuade” the Palestinians they never saw security forces on the scene when the murder were committed. This was the same lie proferred by police just after the killing, despite photos taken at the scene clearly showing two men in uniform (see photo displayed here). The police were surely enraged by being proven to be liars. Not to mention the ‘unpleasantness’–not so much at having police at the scene of a murder–but at having eyewitnesses confirm they were there. That makes the police look bad before the world (not before Israeli Jews, of course). The embarrassment is insufferable.
But these detainees refused to budge. They knew what they saw and no amount of coaxing would budge them from that.
As I’ve said here before, if you are a murdered Palestinian, your name and reputation will be dragged across the floor even before your body is cold in the grave. After settlers burned Mohammed Abu Khdeir to death–forcing him to drink gasoline before they immodated him–the police actually claimed he’d been killed by famly for being gay. What depths of disgust they plumb. You cannot even die in peace.
This is also true of the survivors, the families of the dead. It’s not enough to experience the grief of losing a loved one to homicidal Israeli terrorists. But the suffering is compounded by the cruelty and thuggery of those wielding guns and defending the murderers.
Palestinians seek to keep pressure on the security apparatus not to sweep this under the rug, as it does successfully in most similar cases. A case in point, is the murder of Shireen Abu Aqleh, which Israel has mounted enormous efforts to quash. The Shin Bet understands that it can only manage a single major embarrassing case at a time. That’s probably why Shemesh is receiving intense scrutiny. In some few instances, the Shin Bet must decide to act like a real anti-terror force by “even“ arresting Jews.
But for this to happen, there must also be accompanying documentary evidence (videos, photos, etc) distributed throughout the world. Visual images are critical in this process. They are even more valuable than eyewitness accounts, since Israel excels at disparaging the credibility of Palestinian testimony. Of course, Israel has video of most major killings, as it does in the Abu Aqleh case. But it either pretends there is none; or if there is, and witnesses know there is, it simply suppresses it, saying the video cameras were broken, etc. Then they make the videos “disappear” as if by magic. In a few precious circumstances, the witnesses turn the tables on the security forces and produce video evidence of crimes, which Shabak didn’t know existed and couldn’t suppress. It doesn’t mean the killers will face justice. But it does mean the security forces will be shown as the liars they are.
Strategy of Israel’s Judeo-terrorist lobby
The settler movement, with Honenu as its shofar, is fighting back with its own fantastical version of the case. It turns the stomach at the very reading of it. Note in the account, that it describes the vanguard of the settler youth who pitched the tent to lay claim to the Palestinian land, as “children.” This turns Shemesh into a suffering martyr shielding little boys and girls from the bloodthirsty Palestinain mob. A perversion which satisifes the settler mobocracy:
…More than 500 demonstrators protested the detention of an Ariel resident who defended a group of attacked children last week.
MK Idit Silman, who joined the protest after having abandoned the ruling coalition and hastened its fall, called for a hearing of her Knesset Health Committee to expose the harm poor Avrum is suffering in his cell. He even is reported to have suffered a heart attack! Though no evidence is offered (because there is none).
The so-called ‘chief rabbi’ of Samaria offered yet another fairy tale dripping with suitably touching pathos. Yes, those settler kiddies were like Little Red Riding on their way to grandma’s house, when the Big Bad Wolf pounced and threatened to eat them. That’s why the heroic hunters had to kill the nasty wolf to save the poor Jewish babies:
“Rabbi Elyakim Levanon…reiterated that the children were simply out for a walk when “a group of rioters with knives and axes” attacked them.
To puncture this pathetic balloon, let’s ask an obvious question: if a mob of Palestinians brandishing axes and knives were rampaging through Ariel, do you think the police would let them sleep soundly in their beds at night? Or would they muster hundreds of cops to hunt them down like dogs? And then boast to the world that they’d done it. I think you know the answer to that, so no need to reply.