Commentary Magazine


A “Pogrom”?

Last night Israelis were shocked to see two Israeli youths captured on film as they open fire on unarmed Palestinians in Hebron, in what is certainly the climax of over a week’s worth of Jewish rioting in the city of the patriarchs. Today the incident was called a “pogrom” by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The film is much more complicated than that. Here is the lengthy version as it appears on YouTube; on TV it was much shorter. The “unarmed” Palestinians are shown hurling rocks at the Israelis. And they greatly outnumber the two Israelis on the scene at the time of the shooting. Most of what they are doing is screaming at each other, when one of the Israelis pulls out a handgun, keeps screaming, and when three much larger Arabs get too close, he shoots two of them. The third one hurls him to the ground and starts beating the daylights out of him. End of clip as shown on TV. As for the YouTube edition, the rest of the clip is understandable bedlam, in which I for one lose the ability to tell who is shooting, who is throwing rocks.

My settler friends will pardon my asking the question, but still it must be asked. This scene takes place on a patch of ground beneath an Arab home, and begins with the Israelis brandishing their weapons. What exactly are the Israelis doing there with guns? What exactly did they expect would happen next? In this kind of theater, all the plays have one act only: Guns are used very soon after they appear. The whole thing seems really idiotic.

Of course, I am leaving out the context, which is that a small number of Israelis live beseiged among a very large number of Palestinians. Some would say this is proof that the Israelis shouldn’t be there in the first place. Others will say that the failure of Israelis to live in and settle the second holiest city in Jewish tradition is the real crime. Either way, the violence is unpardonable, and the IDF has a crucial role to play in restoring calm and putting a stop to it. But to call it a “pogrom” is really to do what Israel’s enemies always do: To use the tems of Jewish history in the service of whatever political opinion seems fashionable. Another desperate move from a politician on his last legs.