Racist violence has erupted following terrorist attacks in the past, but this time it seems that the Jewish mob which took to the streets was accepted by Jerusalemites with understanding, if not downright approval.
By Nir Hasson | Oct. 4, 2015 | 6:16 PM |
|Israeli police stop Israeli extreme far-right supporters during a demonstration in downtown Jerusalem, on October 3,|
Just like after every other terror attack in recent years, young Jews vented their anger with racist violence for several hours, attacking Arab passersby in Jerusalem on Saturday night.
However, in contrast to previous incidents, this time it looked like a very big group and that Jewish residents of Jerusalem accepted their behavior with understanding, as part of the terror routine.
Shortly after the terror attack, in which a Palestinian stabbed to death two Jews, hundreds of people, mostly youths, gathered at Zion Square, answering a call to demonstrate and demand revenge. Bentzi Gopstein, head of Lehava, and right-wing extremists Itamar Ben Gvir and Baruch Marzel were prominent, but they only seemed to be leading the event. In practice, this crowd had no leader but was fueled by a feeling of hate and the desire to take revenge.
Among the demonstrators were Lehava activists, wearing black shirts, young ultra-Orthodox Jews, well-known local right-wing activists and many foreigners, speaking English and French, who joined the mob, and at least one Evangelist preacher, who called on the people of Israel to awaken. In contrast to the past, it looked like women took a significant part in inflaming passions.
"We have to kill them all, including the Arab Druze in the army," explained one woman to her girlfriend.
It started as a kind of protest of rage, with the familiar calls of "death to terrorists," "revenge" and "the people demand security." However, it quickly switched to the no-less familiar calls of "death to Arabs," "an Arab is a bastard, a Jew is a good soul" and other songs from the fairly limited racist repertoire of the far right in Jerusalem. Some of the organizers sought to lead the mob through Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter in the Old City to the site of the terror attack. The police was not about to let that happen and blocked their way between Zion Square and Jaffa Road.
From there, gangs of youths ran amok looking for Arab victims. But Arab workers in central Jerusalem are used to such events, and the vast majority of them fled home before the rioting. Even on the light rail cars, that often serve the Arab population, there were no Arabs. The Jewish youths blocked the rail in the square and "interviewed" passengers to determine their identity.
"Are you an Arab? Are you an Arab?" they called out to a passenger who was probably wise enough to smile without answering.
"Leave him alone. He's a Jew," said one of the attackers, and they moved on to look for the next victim. The rest of the passengers responded apathetically and tried to look the other way. There were many drivers who honked in solidarity and vocally supported them. The cafes and restaurants along Jaffa Road were full of people watching the march of hatred passing back and forth.
They found one victim in Mamila Mall, a kitchen worker at the Roladin café who had stepped out for a cigarette. They sprayed teargas in his face. A Palestinian taxi driver was attacked, and when he tried to flee he hit and lightly injured a pedestrian. Dozens of Jewish youths stormed the central Ben Yehuda Street looking for Arab workers. On Jaffa Road, policemen were forced to accompany a vehicle of municipal sanitation workers. At Zion Square, they massed around a circle of people participating in the "Medabrim Bakikar" dialogue group and threatened to assault a Palestinian woman.
But these random victims did not sate their urge and after midnight there was a mass run toward Damascus Gate. They were stopped before the gate by police and pushed back with clubs toward the Musrara neighborhood.
"Let the people of Israel enter the gates and kill Arabs," one of the youths shouted at the police. "Where were you at seven in the evening? Go beat up Arabs," a female demonstrator cried, referring to the terror attack earlier that night. Meanwhile, they ran back and forth, following false rumors of Arab passersby and undercover agents hiding among them with calls of death to Arabs.
At 4 A.M., Fadi Alon, a 19-year-old resident of Isawiyya, arrived at the scene. According to the police, he was armed with a weapon and was planning to make an attack. He managed to stab one youth and injure him moderately before he fled and was shot to death by police, who were being egged on by the demonstrators.
Alon's family asserts that he was caught up in the place by accident, when he went out for a jog and was only seeking to defend himself. His death has set off fears of violence in Isawiyya. There have been over 20 wounded in clashes between police and youths from the village. His father and uncle have been arrested by police.