Palestinian men sweep rocks from the front steps of their house after Jewish settlers rampaged in the area following the evacuation of a disputed house in the West Bank city of Hebron, Friday, Dec. 5, 2008. After the eviction of a disputed house in Hebron Thursday, settler youth rampaged in the town, attacking Palestinians and setting fire to property. Israeli defense officials say the military has been placed on alert in the West Bank to head off settler violence in wake of the evacuation of the building. Hebrew graffiti reads 'revenge.' (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
With tension in Hebron still high, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert delivered a surprisingly blunt attack on the violent settlers who went on a "Price Tag" rampage after the IDF cleared a disputed building of Jewish activists last Thursday.
Radical settlers were videotaped and photographed as they opened fire on Palestinians, attacked Israeli soldiers, torched Palestinian olive trees and, according to Israeli reporters who intervened, appeared poised to lynch one terrified Palestinian family.
"As a Jew, I'm ashamed of the sights of Jews firing at Arabs in Hebron," Olmert said today at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting. "I have no other definition for what we saw but a pogrom. We are the sons of a nation which knows what a pogrom is, and I'm saying this after much thought. I have no other way to put it."
"We are the children of a people whose historic ethos is built on the memory of pogroms," Olmert said, according to an official translation from his office. "The sight of Jews firing at innocent Palestinians has no other name than pogrom. Even when Jews do this, it is a pogrom. As a Jew, I am ashamed that Jews could do such a thing."
Olmert's words echoed those of Haaretz journalist Avi Issacharoff who called the attacks a "pogrom" last week after personally stepping in, along with other Israeli reporters at the scene, to protect a Palestinian family under attack.
For Olmert to describe the attacks as a pogrom is no small step.
Throughout history, the term has become synonymous with brutal attacks on Jews around the world, including Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass in 1938 in Nazi Germany during which 91 Jews were killed and upwards of 30,000 more were taken to concentration camps.
Ironically, last month, Israel commemorated the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
"We have no doubt that this was the turning point towards the inevitable destruction of a greater portion of the Jewish People in Europe between 1939-1945," Olmert said at a cabinet meeting last month on the anniversary of Kristallnacht. "This phenomenon of a population being led through the streets, beaten and humiliated, while the German public looked on as if it were a given, as if it was an inseparable part of the daily routine that needed to characterize their country, is both unforgivable and unforgettable, and we will never forgive or forget. The consolation that we have is that in the historic perspective of time is that we are building the ability and the strength so that such a phenomenon never recurs. Our attempts to understand the rage and the hatred that led people to smash store windows, to burn synagogues and loot homes - will never succeed and it is for the best. One need not understand this. One need only to remember and be outraged, to remember and say: Never again. Jews - wherever they are - will never feel frightened or defenseless... Seventy years have passed since the dreams of European Jews to be accepted as equals were smashed along with the windows. Seventy years, and we are here to remind and to recall.”
Amid the recriminations, two Israeli settlers caught on tape firing at Palestinians turned themselves in to authorities. And Hebron settlers accused the IDF of standing by and letting Palestinians attack settlers.
Last week while covering the events, Issacharoff was hit in the head by a stone thrown by a settler. Then, over the weekend, while covering the ongoing tensions, a female Haaretz photographer was hit in the face by an IDF soldier.
Photog Tess Scheflan was taken away in an ambulance after she said an Israeli soldier punched her in a face and then hit her with with his rifle-butt while she was covering events.
The IDF quickly apologized, said it was looking into the events and claimed that there were stickers of the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem on the cameras, though it is not clear why having stickers on the cameras would justify the assault.
Haaretz said there was no excuse for hitting a photographer.