Israel’s ‘mistaken identity’ embarrassments

Israel/Palestine
on 23 Comments

Saturday night, an Israeli driver had a heart attack and lost control of his vehicle on busy Ben Yehuda street in Tel Aviv, ending up crashing into a restaurant and badly injuring two diners, who died shortly after from their wounds.

According to the wife of one of the restaurant owners, Shoshana San, who was an eyewitness, the driver was believed by restaurant-goers and others to be a terrorist. “They thought that the driver was not a good person, they beat him. He was unconscious”, she is quoted saying in the Jerusalem Online article. 

Let me translate this coded Israeli language for everyone. “Not a good person” means a Palestinian terrorist. The witnesses thought that the car ramming was an intentional Palestinian terror attack, so although the driver was already unconscious, they “pulled him out of the car” as Israeli NRG noted (Hebrew) and lynched him whilst he was unconscious.

Quite little seems to be said about this lynching. It is very toned down and mostly omitted in Israeli media coverage that I managed to glean in my search. Haaretz and Times of Israel, for example, reported about the accident on the day, stating that it wasn’t terror, and not mentioning the beating. “Six wounded; driver among the fatalities in incident unrelated to terrorism,” said Haaretz. .

We can be sure, that if this case had been a case of Palestinian terror, we would hear about this with great detail. But the drama has been dispelled: it is not terror.

But let us look at the Israeli violence in response to such “suspicions” of terror, where it is “mistaken identity”:

On October 18th, an Eritrean refugee, Habtom Zerhom, was mistakenly thought to have been a terrorist after a shooting at the Beersheba main bus station. He was lynched and died from his wounds shortly after. A video of the incident is to be found in this article, and I warn of extremely graphic content. Zerhom, after being shot, is held down under a chair, as a person smashes a whole row of chairs on his head, to the cheering of a crowd. I have probably not seen a more violent video in my life. The crowd shouts “mehabel” (terrorist), “Kill him!” and “Break his head! Break his head! Son of a prostitute!”

Ynet reported that medics trying to evacuate Zerhom “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 live’).”

Yet it turned out that this was “mistaken identity”. The Israeli police spokesman said shortly after that it was “not clear if he is involved with the event or if he was shot due to his exterior appearance.”

Whilst it was still “unclear”, Channel 2 was reporting from the scene, where members of the mob were interviewed boasting about the lynch, saying how Zerhom was “dripping with blood” and how “fun it was to see”. That coverage by Channel 2 is embedded in this Hebrew Haaretz article. The mob can be seen around minute 30. In the Hebrew opinion article, Rogel Alper sends scorching critique at Channel Two and the news anchor Yonit Levy [my translation]:

“Yesterday (Monday) Channel 2 did not voice a word of apology or dissent concerning its behavior two days ago. No remorse. Yonit Levy reported on the lynching with her tiresome righteousness and ridiculous detachment. Is there no limit to the naiveté? Why do you act as if this has nothing to do with you? Only 24 hours earlier the murderers were celebrating on a channel that you are an emblem of. No soul searching? Habtom Zerhom’s employer at the greenhouses of Ein Habsor said that it’s a pity that a “minority” gives a bad name to the Nation of Israel. Which minority? Channel 2, with its million viewers, the speaking channel of Israeli mainstream, stood firmly two days ago with all of its might behind this minority, hugged it and united its flesh with the flesh of the Israeli nation. Zerhom was not able to speak because he was “dripping blood, dripping” and it was “fun to see”. Fun not only for the murderers in Beersheba but also for Channel 2 and its viewers.”

Whilst the case in Beersheba may show the brutality of Israeli response to suspected “terror”, the accident of last Saturday in Tel Aviv shows just how meaningless the “security claim” in a supposed “response to terror” can be. An unconscious man is further “neutralized” by a lynch mob.

One could wonder, if the driver turned out to be Palestinian, whether the accident would have turned out to be a “terror attack” anyway – disregarding the heart attack. We have a case to compare this with: on the 13th of October, Alexander Levlovitch was driving in Jerusalem in the evening and lost control of his car and hit a pole. Some witnesses said that stones were thrown in the area, but there was also a thread that the police were investigating, that Levlovitch had a heart attack and lost control due to that, not necessarily stones. As Ynet reported, “questioning of the other passengers suggested that the driver had convulsed before losing control of the car, and police decided to continue investigating the cause of the accident.” 

Whilst the event was placed under gag order, Netanyahu hurried to exploit it the next morning in order to convene an “emergency meeting” following the incident, to discuss “the war on stone throwing and fire bombs in Jerusalem and its vicinity.”

Whilst it seems possible that the cause of death was a heart attack, the possibility that stones were thrown and caused Levlovitch’s death was much more convenient for the propaganda of “war against stone throwers”.

Thus one could easily surmise, that if the driver last Saturday was a Palestinian (that is, a “not good person” as Shoshana San put it), he could well have become a terrorist – post mortem that is. A gag could be placed on the case, and although there would be evidence to suggest he simply died from a heart attack, the news could be construed to consider the accident another terror attack.

But it turned out that the driver was “a good person” – that is, a Jew. Now it’s clear why the subsequent lynching of an unconscious man is then toned down. It’s not good PR. You can’t possibly construe it to be “terror”. And if the lynching turns out to be not against the background of “terror” but simply out of “mistaken identity”, it begins to show a picture of gratuitous violence. And Israel doesn’t want that, because it needs the victim narrative. Otherwise, it’s just embarrassing.

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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23 Responses

  1. a blah chick
    June 21, 2016, 10:26 am

    “The witnesses thought that the car ramming was an intentional Palestinian terror attack, so although the driver was already unconscious, they “pulled him out of the car” as Israeli NRG noted (Hebrew) and lynched him whilst he was unconscious.”

    I thought I read an account in Haaretz a few days ago which claimed the autopsy revealed he had died of the heart attack and not the beating. If this isn’t true then it might be a case of the pathologist being told to falsify a report so that the “beaters” won’t get arrested.

    Here’s a scenario: a settler has a heart attack and loses control of his car. Heplows into a crowd of Palestinians on the West Bank, who promptly beat him. Does anyone think the Israeli government would let this group of beaters go scott free even if the evidence showed the driver was already dead?

  2. a blah chick
    June 21, 2016, 10:58 am

    Didn’t Israel pass a law not long ago which said that you had to give aid to an injured person? It seems to me that the family of the unfortunate driver have a case against the beaters. Even if he died of the heart attack dragging him from the car and pummeling him probably did not help the recovery process.

    So, let me see if I understand this: if Jewish Israelis kill a dying or subdued “terrorist” they get the benefit of the doubt, but if Palestinian Israelis kill a subdued terrorist (like Nada) they get 8 years.

    But remember, it’s not Apartheid!

    • Kay24
      June 21, 2016, 1:45 pm

      It is all selective when it comes to the zionists. They treat wounded Al Qaeda terrorists, Syrian rebels, and some claim ISIS terrorists too, yet when that young man (supposedly tried to attack them with a knife) was lying wounded after being shot by Israeli forces, a killer in uniform walked up the helpless man and executed him., and we have seen young Palestinians shot and left to die on the streets. Their compassion is always selective, and God’s chosen decide who should live or die.

    • dfmz
      June 22, 2016, 2:46 pm

      >Didn’t Israel pass a law not long ago which said that you had to give aid to an injured person?

      Now that you mention it, don’t the bible, the torah and the koran also recommend this albeit in more or less convoluted ways?

  3. Ossinev
    June 21, 2016, 11:25 am

    JSIL continuing on it`s inexorable drive from QuasiNazi towards full scale Nazi status and all the while the poor terrified victimised pogromised traumatised delegitimised JSILi population is being singled out for criticism by nasty Anti Semites everywhere.

    @a blah chick
    “Didn’t Israel pass a law not long ago which said that you had to give aid to an injured person?”
    Are you sure that you are not thinking of a proposed law to legalise summary execution for wounded “terrorists” (incorporating a 68 year “retrospective” legalisation clause) ? Seems more fitting for the Land of Desecration.

    • a blah chick
      June 21, 2016, 2:46 pm

      “Are you sure that you are not thinking of a proposed law to legalise summary execution for wounded “terrorists” (incorporating a 68 year “retrospective” legalisation clause) ? Seems more fitting for the Land of Desecration”

      There was some incident last year or the year before (I can’t recall) where it was alleged some Palestinians did not come to the aid of a Jewish person who was injured in an attack. And Netanyahu started threatening Palestinians with MORE jail time unless they helped the injured. The cretins in the Knesset are probably trying to figure out how to write a law that will force non-Jews to give aid while allowing lynching by the majority. That’s not an easy thing to do.

  4. Sycamores
    June 21, 2016, 11:39 am

    due to the lack of information on this a lot of people didn’t believe the lynching actual happen. the only news that could be glean from Israeli media on the day was 3 dead and six wounded from a car accident.

    on Sunday Haaretz wrote, what can only be call a cover up story, about “American High-tech Guru Killed in Tel Aviv Accident Remembered as ‘Honest, Generous Person’ ”

    Alan Weinkrantz, a high-tech public relations executive and startup communications strategist based in both San Antonio, Texas and Israel was one of the victims of the tragic accident in Tel Aviv on Saturday when a car slammed into a restaurant.

    Weinkrantz, an American citizen, had been sitting outdoors at the Chinese restaurant Furama when a car slammed into the seating area, killing the driver and two diners and injuring six. According to the San Antonio Express-News, the U.S. embassy informed Weinkrantz’s son Aaron Weinkrantz of his father’s death on Saturday.

    http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.725740

    this story suggest that the driver was killed by the car crash rather than been pulled from the car unconscious and then beating.

    in the Habtom Zerhom case four Israelis were charged with lynching. has anyone been arrested for the latest lynching?

  5. John O
    June 21, 2016, 11:53 am

    “…the event was placed under gag order…”

    Whatever happened to the free press in Israel?

  6. Ossinev
    June 21, 2016, 11:55 am

    Meanwhile back in the UK our esteemed Prime Minister David Cameron miraculously found time in his frenetic pre -EU Referendum schedule to attend a “donor” meeting and reassure British Jews ( 5% of the UK population FFS ) that their country ie JSIL not GB would best be served by the UK remaining in the EU.Decided not to waste the time going “up north” to reassure those funny northerners in the likes of Yorkshire.Always an insufferable experience for an Old Etonian.
    http://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/1.726245

    Apparently unbeknownst to 95 % of the population and without consulting us he has decided that “Britain is Israel`s greatest friend”

    Was “undecided” before with regards to the referendum but now I know where Cameron`s priorities lie I have made up my mind.

    • John O
      June 21, 2016, 12:13 pm

      CallMeDave is on the horns of a dilemma: if he wins the referendum, he will probably go down in history as Britain’s worst Prime Minister; if he loses, that crown will undoubtedly go to Boris.

    • Bumblebye
      June 21, 2016, 5:02 pm

      I think you’ve got that percentage an order of magnitude wrong!
      The last figures I saw were under 300,000, which is under half of one percent.
      Which makes Camoron’s toadying even worse.

  7. Shmuel
    June 21, 2016, 12:16 pm

    I am reminded of Ziad Julani: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/otherwise-occupied-why-they-shot-him-in-the-head.premium-1.510669 — not lynched by a mob, but executed by border police.

  8. Raphael
    June 21, 2016, 1:31 pm

    In the, US, the right wing uses the word Muslims; to refer to the Arabs in Israel, that are attacked,and lynched. But, when I was in Israel the right wing lumps all Arabs, as the scapegoat. Scholars call it the scapegoat mechanism. As a half Jew for me with Jewish ancestry it is not much of a problem in the US; but, as a Israeli citizen, it was a tense environment, for me. As a Christian, for me I was basically, forbidden, to even say I was a Christian; because I was living in the non tourist areas of Israel, in a Jewish community. If I had even stated I was Christian; it is illegal under Israeli law.

    The reason why I left Israel was because of the lynch mentality, subconsciously, expressed by the average Israelis, behavior, that they were not even aware, as being, that of a lynch mentality. Why was I worried?… I looked Jewish; but to some fanatical right wing militarist with a gun; the mind can play tricks; and, I could of “looked” like a stranger, a foreigner, perhaps even Arab.

    Add to that the Sephardic Jews from ME countries that speak Arabic, and look Arab; the average right winger does not have the education, or training to actually deal with the violence he has been, in theory, trained to deal with; that is because of poor leadership, politically and in the military. They should be trained to deal, with violence non-violently in violent situations just as they are trained to deal with violence violently, during a war, for example.

    And, the majority of Christians in Israel are Arabs, so if they even hear Christian, a right winger could associate that with Arab, perhaps not consciously, all the time, but probably subconsciously. Similar to what happens for the lynching mentality which is the subject matter of this article.

    I could have easily gotten around this by being a Hasidic Jew, in fashion. In fact my great grandfather was the president of a Orthodox synagogue; but, that also is illegal, if I was a Christian dressed like a Hasidic Jew I would have been expelled.

    • echinococcus
      June 21, 2016, 5:27 pm

      Rafael,

      “the Sephardic Jews from ME countries that speak Arabic”
      are definitely, expressly not Sephardic. Those would be Arab Jews, or Mizrahi, or other names.
      The Sefardí are of Spanish origin and speak a dialect which developed from 15th-century Castilian. Abundant literature available.

      • Raphael
        June 22, 2016, 9:45 am

        For me, it appeared to me, when I was in Israel, that the Saphardic religious icons I seen throughout Israel were of Mizrahim, or Sephardic origin. It seems that it to be a kind of status symbol, as well; not just among the religious but also the secular; when, I read about politicians there.

        I, ironically had to be careful not to be Jewish religiously, or Christian religiously; because though my Israeli ID says Israeli; on my application to be a citizen, I said I was Catholic, so I was prohibited from having a public persona of being a religious Jew or Christian, under Israeli law.

        Not so easy, of a task, when there were rituals, and competition among Jews, it seemed, to be a religious Jew, publicly.

        https://www.quora.com/How-do-Mizrahi-Jews-relate-to-Sephardic-Jews-What-are-the-status-of-the-former-group-in-modern-Israel-What-are-their-status-worldwide

        How do Mizrahi Jews relate to Sephardic Jews? What are the status of the former group in modern Israel? What are their status worldwide?

        ….The term Sephardic has two different meanings. The strictest meaning, that of regional ancestry, is the one I used above, and the one I assume the OP was using, since they distinguished between Sephardim and Mizrahim. However, in the religious sense, there are two overarching broad schools of Judaism (ignoring groups like the Ethiopian Jews, etc.): the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim. This is mainly a distinction in the texts and philosophers that each group tends to use more, and also in that the liturgy is distinctly different (e.g. what prayers are said when and how). And in that sense, all Mizrahim are Sephardic.

        Wikipedia has a great explanation for the distinction I’m trying to make, so I’m just going to quote straight from them:

        For religious purposes, the term Sephardim means all Jews who use a Sephardic style of liturgy, and therefore includes most Jews of North African (Maghrebim) and Middle Eastern (Mizrahim) background and have no historical connection to the Iberian Peninsula.

      • echinococcus
        June 23, 2016, 1:02 am

        That is a Zionist “definition”. Invented post-invasion. The intent is to confuse and make believe that all so-called “Jews” are a big, happy, family. They are not. Spanish Jews are a separate culture with their own Spanish language and traditions, no relationship to the Mizrahi (of course there were a lot of contacts, but that’s another story.) And don’t quote Wikipedia to me, the home of the Zio-nationalist Propaganda Divisions.

        There is no call to follow the Zionist thieves and murderers in their post-invasion hypernationalist, theocratic-racist bullshit, pretending to forget some 500 years of history and culture. Which, by the way, is not quite dead yet, no matter the Zionist BS.

  9. Kay24
    June 21, 2016, 1:53 pm

    This is how the ‘only” Democracy in the Middle East operates. There is vigilante justice when they think a perpetrator is Palestinian and Arab. The hatred and anger rises, and they become primitive in their violent methods of punishing some poor guy for whatever crime THEY are sure was committed. The violence is ugly and similar to Taliban methods. So this is what we send our dollars for.

  10. Mooser
    June 21, 2016, 9:33 pm

    “On October 18th,an Eritrean refugee, Habtom Zerhom, was mistakenly thought to have been a terrorist after a shooting at the Beersheba main bus station. He was lynched and died from his wounds shortly after. A video of the incident is to be found in this article, and I warn of extremely graphic content. Zerhom, after being shot, is held down under a chair, as an officer of the Israel Prison Authorities smashes a whole row of chairs on his head, to the cheering of a crowd. I have probably not seen a more violent video in my life. The crowd shouts “mehabel” (terrorist), “Kill him!” and “Break his head! Break his head! Son of a prostitute!”

    “jon s” October 18, 2015 at 4:59 pm:

    “Terrorist attack in Beersheva this evening.
    My family and I are ok, thank God. I also asked all the kids in my class to check in and they all reported that they’re ok, although some sound shaken.” – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/profile/jon-s/?keyword=terrorist+attack#sthash.BKdQAR0I.dpuf

    Israeli history.

  11. Elizabeth Block
    June 22, 2016, 10:31 am

    A friend of mine asked me how the Occupation benefits Jewish Israelis. In all ways, I said — they can steal land, water, and resources, and they have a captive market, since just about everything Palestinians buy comes from Israel.
    Then he said he thought that the Occupation was in fact destroying Israel. He was thinking of incidents like these, and worse. I said yes, but most Jewish Israelis don’t think it is.
    But it is certainly destroying Judaism.

  12. just
    June 22, 2016, 11:01 am

    Headline news:

    “Israeli troops ‘mistakenly’ kill Palestinian teenager

    Military says 15-year-old died and four others were wounded in West Bank after soldiers mistook them for stone-throwers …”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/21/israeli-troops-mistakenly-kill-palestinian-teenager-stone-throwers

    So in this admission they are telling the world that it is A- OK to shoot and kill “stone- throwers”.

    hmmm. As to the rest of your very important article Jonathan, my mom always taught me to never judge a book by its cover. It’s worked for me.

    • Kay24
      June 22, 2016, 12:33 pm

      For all the bragging we hear from the zionists about having the most moral army in the world, and just how heroic they are, it seems their judgement seems poor, and their so called mistakes when it comes to Palestinians, are quite high. They kill, lie, pretend it was a mistake, and are treated like heroes. We shall use terror, assassination, intimidation……..etc.

    • Talkback
      June 27, 2016, 12:30 pm

      just: “So in this admission they are telling the world that it is A- OK to shoot and kill “stone- throwers”. ”

      You got it all wrong, just.

      An Israeli soldier was even court-martialed and sent to prison for illegal use of his weapon, because he simply gave a warning shot!

      But I’m not quite sure, if it is relevant that the stonethrowers in his case were Jewish.

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