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Were you ever at a lynching? Were you ever someplace where an unbridled mob was beating you and your friends and then chasing you to beat you again? Were you ever the victim of wild violence before the blind eyes of policemen who ignored your desperate calls for help? Have you ever felt abandoned? The following story begins with with blood, but its point is the abandonment.

What happened Friday afternoon at the entrance to the settlement of Anatot was a pogrom, a lynching. There's no other way to describe an event in which hundreds of large men are wildly beating and pursuing a nonviolent group of male and female activists for an extended period of time. There's no way to convey to those who weren't there the threatening sense of the approaching dark - not in words, not in pictures, not even in video.

They came to destroy, to break, perhaps even to kill. They used their hands, their fists and their teeth, along with stones, pipes and knives. They aimed for the photographers, the women, for the young and the old alike. They brought individuals down to the ground and assaulted them as they lay there, surrounded. They pounced on the hindmost of those trying to flee as they pursued their battered victims.

And all this was taking place before the very eyes of the police, who didn't do a thing to prevent people from being hurt. It all passed, as usual, in a thunderous silence.

Those who abandoned the Palestinian family that had come to work its land that Friday afternoon were not the rioters who sent the family to the hospital. Those who allowed the mob to wreak havoc on the Ta'ayush and Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity activists who were present at the site that evening stood outside the circle of assailants. They did their bit, but they personally are just one rib of a multilayered structure.

How can one explain the blind eye turned by the policemen present at the site? How can one explain why they didn't know, or didn't think, that their job was to stop the pogrom?

Perhaps the fact that Anatot's residents aren't radicals like Baruch Marzel played a role. Anatot residents aren't "hilltop youth" or "wild weeds." They are ordinary Israelis, former Jerusalemites who upgraded themselves to a "quality of life" settlement - including employees of the police, who were given preferential purchasing terms there. There are even suspicions, based on testimony and evidence gathered over the last few days, that a few of the rioters were off-duty policemen themselves.

And perhaps it is the deep-rooted hatred of "Arabs" and "leftists." Perhaps this hatred also made it easier for those on duty at the Shai District police stations, who received our calls for help, not to rush to send forces there. And even when two patrol cars did finally arrive, the policemen devoted most of their energy to informing the battered activists that an order had been issued declaring the site a closed military zone, which they were now violating.

And you should know that these are the same police stations at which the victims are supposed to file their complaints. It was, for instance, to one of them that a friend of mine was referred when he sought to repair his destroyed car. So far, he has refrained from doing so, for fear of meeting his assailants there.

Today, there is no protection for anyone who isn't on the side of the establishment, who isn't in the right-wing camp. And in the absence of such protection on the part of the agencies entrusted with upholding the law, responsibility passes to the media, which gives the public information.

Media outlets that don't see fit to report a pogrom of this magnitude are partners in the policy, or the sins of omission, of abandonment. The same goes for those who term it a "confrontation," or a "clash," or any of those other laundered words that indicate mutuality; and for those who fail to do their job of investigating and checking the facts and make do with "reporting each side's version of events;" and for those who opt to downplay a news story that they know full well would, under other circumstances, immediately become the lead headline.

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor," Desmond Tutu once wrote. This story begins with blood, but its point is the abandonment. For that is what will enable more blood to be shed in the future. And anyone who doesn't cry out against it is a party to it.

 

The writer is an activist in the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement.