Unnamed Eritrean Refugee – Murdered by Israeli Lynch Mob in Beer Sheva
Now that the lynching
of an Eritrean refugee has gone viral, the same people who were denounced as a ‘cancer’
by the ‘Culture’ Minister Miri Regev not so long ago, (though she did apologise
to cancer patients for comparing them with refugees!) Netanyahu speaks up. Before the news spread, the main story was
the shooting of an Israeli soldier. The
death of a refugee, or ‘an infiltrator’ to use the term used by the Zionist right
(Palestinian refugees used to be called infiltrators when they sought to return
to their lands secretively) was just a footnote.
Regev’s attitude to culture is to cut off funding for anything that isn’t supportive of the settlements and the far-Right. Clearly her feelings about culture resemble those of Goebbels who remarked that when he heard the word ‘culture’ he reached for his gun.
Now Netanyahu has
condemned the lynching and the Police are conducting an investigation, don’t hold your
breath. Like the firebombing of the
Dawabsheh family, and the murder of Abu Khedeir they will make a fuss about how much they are doing for the first
day and then – nothing. The investigation
will peter out. Naftali Bennett, the
leader of HaBayit Hayehudi has already described it on Facebook as ‘friendly
fire’ though one look at the video suggests what happened was anything but
friendly. Badly injured after being
shot, the crowd finished him off with kicks and objects whilst the security
looked on. Such are the ways of the
State that was supposed to be a ‘light unto the nations’.
When I learned that Arab maintenance workers were being banned
from schools in Tel Aviv, I thought I was about as angry as I could get for
a third party problem. Yes, technically the order applies to both Jewish and
Arab cleaning staff, but as everyone knows, as with most manual labor in this
country, the positions are overwhelmingly filled by Arab laborers. I spent the
afternoon questioning how telling 20 percent of the country that despite having
done nothing wrong, they were liable to find themselves facing unemployment
because of the actions of less than one percent of their fellows. I even
asked my friends who supported the measure if it should also apply to Arabs who
had fought in the Army or who were publicly defending Israel, like Muhammad
Refugees in Holot concentration camp
Having lived for several years in a village past the Green Line, I was
saddened, but not exactly surprised when several of my friends said that Arabs
had earned the ban because of the violence of their extremists. It was too much
of an effort, they argued, to simply search all of the school employees, and
besides, why put guards in danger of an attack?
I had some reservations regarding whether the ban was the best solution,
especially considering that most Israelis already face multiple searches every
day. A school guard, charged with defending the precious lives of our youth,
couldn’t be expected to check for weapons, but weren’t guards at the mall, bus
stations, and train stations – where not incidentally, there have already been
actual incidents – supposed to risk life and limb to keep us safe? But then I
heard about the terrorist attack on the bus station at Beersheba, and decided I
had had enough of anger for one day and went to bed.
And so it was not until this morning that I learned that despite the
headlines saying ‘one killed and eleven injured’, there were, in fact, two
people killed last night in the Beersheba Central Bus Station. But since only
one of them, a soldier named Omri Levy, was killed by an Arab, only he is
recognized as the victim of a terror attack.
The other man, an Eritrean asylum seeker named Haftom Zarhum, died of
wounds he received during the attack, where he was shot in the leg by a soldier
who mistook him for a terrorist. After the shooting, in an act which should
shock us out of our collective feelings of cultural superiority,
Haftom was then savagely lynched by the crowd. While a medical crew tried
to evacuate him for treatment, upstanding citizens decided he was a terrorist,
and that he deserved to be beaten, spat upon, and cursed, all while chanting
anti-Arab slogans. So, they basically acted the same way that Palestinians are
denounced for acting when they riot.
And what has the response to this news been so far? Well, first, to respond,
people have to hear about it. The death seems to have racial undertones so
strong that, in America, Al Sharpton would already be sharpening his pencil and
throwing on some hair gel. And yet, it is appended to the stories surrounding
the terrorist attack as some sort of throwaway news item – “It’s crazy… but
what can you do?!”
If he had been Palestinian, it would have been even worse, because the media
would have spun it that he was somehow at fault, or if not him, then the
Palestinian people, for making us so scared that we shoot first and ask
questions later. But this isn’t the fault of the Palestinians, or the
Eritreans, or even the IDF, although I am interested in finding out the results
of the investigation regarding the events that led up to the shooting of
someone who doesn’t fit the vaunted “profile” that the Army leans on so heavily
when performing security screenings.
No, the fault rest squarely on the shoulders of Israeli society. If Israeli
Arabs lose their jobs or their lives, it’s painted as an unfortunate but
acceptable casualty, even as we brag about the “fact” that they are
citizens with as many rights as Jewish citizens have. And the refugees should
just be glad for the chance to be here until we figure out how to get them
the hell back to where they came from.
We demean Arabs and refugees as being violent, and when it comes down to it,
we don’t think their lives matter as much as ours do. And by saying “ours”
I’m being generous, because as a Black convert, sometimes I wonder just how
much my fellow Israelis count me as being “part of the family,” so to speak.
Thank God I speak English, right? I better add learning how to say “Black lives
matter” to my Hebrew lessons.
I bet more than a few refugees are wondering if they should get some pepper
spray right now. And my favorite rationalization I’ve heard so far about the
incident? It isn’t fair to demonize us as a nation for the barbaric acts of a
few. Yah. Ain’t that the truth. I wonder how Israeli Arabs feel about that statement.
Can someone tell me how to say irony in Arabic?
Warning: This article contains video and images of extreme violence.
A gunman opened fire at the central bus station in Bir al-Saba (Beer
Sheva), a city in the south of present-day Israel, on Sunday evening, killing
an Israeli soldier and wounding up to 11 other people.
The assailant shot and killed a soldier and then “snatched his M-16 rifle”
before opening fire on the others, most of whom were “members of Israel’s
security forces,” Israel’s Ynet reported. Walla!
News reported that
four of the injured were soldiers.
Israeli police shot and killed the assailant.
Israeli media named
the dead soldier as 19-year-old Sergeant Omri Levi. He was a member of the Israeli army’s Golani brigade.
There has been confusion and contradictory reports regarding the identity of
and Ynet, citing
Palestinian media, claimed he was Isam al-Araj from Shuafat, a neighborhood
in occupied East Jerusalem whose Palestinian residents have frequently been
targeted with violence by Israeli occupation forces and settlers. This
information had not been confirmed by any official source. It was also not
apparent which Palestinian media had reported the claim.
The Jerusalem Post later claimed
that the Israeli army had named the attacker as Muhannad Al-Okabi, from the
Bedouin town of Hura in the southern Naqab (Negev) region of present-day
Israel. The same name was reported in other Israeli media, including Maariv.
During the incident, a security guard shot 29-year-old Haftom
Zarhum, an Eritrean refugee who was “misidentified” as a “terrorist,” according to Haaretz.
Zarhum later died of his
Zarhum came to Beer Sheva on Sunday to procure a visa.
Video captured by bystanders and posted to social media shows a mob of
onlookers, including Israeli soldiers and police, kicking Zarhum in the
head, pinning him under a chair and throwing a bench at him as he writhes on
the floor, clearly in pain and bleeding severely.
Voices from the crowd can be heard chanting for Zarhum’s death,
shouting “mehabel” (terrorist), “Kill him!” and “Break his head! Break
his head! Son of a prostitute!”
Ynet reported that medics trying to evacuate Zarhum “ran into
objection from the crowds at the scene, who blocked their way and called out
‘Death to Arabs,”Arabs out!’ and ‘Am Israel Chai’ (‘The people of Israel still
Haaretz correspondent Chaim Levinson tweeted a statement from an
Israeli police spokesperson implying Zarhum might have been shot
because of his race.
“I haven’t touched a word. The Police spokesman’s (Negev region) statement:
One of the wounded persons, who was shot by security forces, is a foreign
citizen; at the moment it is not clear if he is involved with the event or if
he was shot due to his exterior appearance,” Levinson wrote.
from African states regularly experience extreme racism and
hostility in Israel.
Israeli leaders have labeled them a “demographic threat” to Israel’s
Jewish majority, as they have Palestinians. They are at constant risk of
indefinite detention and deportation.
During preliminary questioning, the security guard who shot Zarhum was
quoted by the Israeli news site Maariv, stating: “I was
sure he was the terrorist, he wasn’t hiding like everyone else.”
“I saw him running toward me and not hiding like the others, so I shot him,” added the security guard.
However, another video of the incident, widely shared on social media,
appears to show the shooting of Zarhum. It flatly contradicts the security
In the video, a man can be seen crawling on all fours, clearly posing
no threat to anyone and likely trying to escape to safety, when a man with a
handgun approaches and shoots him.
The shooting victim is then seen writhing on the floor in a similar position
to the video showing Zarhum being attacked by the mob.
In both videos, the shooting victim is lying near the set of orange chairs
used to attack Zarhum and near a dark line on the floor.
No one offers him medical assistance.
There have been other recent examples of such lynch mob behavior, including
before and after the summary execution of Fadi Alloun,
a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem, on 4 October. These mob killings come
amid a growing chorus of incitement by Israeli
leaders, who have openly
encouraged vigilante revenge against Palestinians following stabbing
attacks that have left seven Israelis dead.
Last week, a video captured
Israelis screaming “Die you son of a prostitute!” at Ahmad Manasra as the
Palestinian 13-year-old lay covered in blood and gasping on the ground. The boy
and his cousin Khalid Manasra who was killed, were accused of involvement
in a stabbing that injured two Israelis in the settlement of Pisgat Zeev.
The Israeli government has placed a gag order on all aspects of the
police investigation into the bus station attack until 18 November.
The gag order, which was leaked on social media, prohibits media from
sharing “any detail about the investigation,” “any detail that could
identify the suspects,” and “the fact of the existence of the