A masked Israeli settler attacked an Israeli-American rabbi and co-founder of the group Rabbis for Human Rights, threatening the religious leader and peace activist with a knife against his neck, this afternoon following an annual olive harvest in the West Bank village of Awarta outside of Nablus.
Rabbi Arik Ascherman was not seriously injured during the assault.
Rabbis for Human Rights released a video of the assault where the settler is seen advancing toward Ascherman with a blunt object in one hand, and then pulls a knife from his pocket. The armed extremist next motions for a cameraman filming the incident, yet Ascherman interjects. Within seconds the settler kicks and hits Ascherman, briefly throwing the rabbi into a chokehold while extending the blade towards his neck.
In Awarta, the town’s groves are located inside of a closed military zone. Ascherman’s group accompanies Palestinian farmers to the area daily during the three-month fall harvest season, and coordinate passage for the villagers with the Israeli army.
This morning Israeli security forces were on site while Palestinians gathered their crops, keeping a group of settlers at bay.
After the Israeli military left the area, the settlers descended from a hilltop near the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar and set fire to the Palestinians’ olive trees, and bushes. Ascherman was attempting to put out the blaze in the moments before the assault.
“We are still in shock. We need to take time to think and reflect on it,” Rabbis for Human Rights spokesperson Yariv Mohar said to Mondoweiss.
According to Mohar, Ascherman was subject to three other assaults by settlers while assisting Palestinian farmers with the fall olive harvest over the past decade. Two years ago a 70-year old volunteer was assaulted by settlers with clubs and stones in the same region of the West Bank.
Rabbis for Human rights filed a report with the Israeli authorities following the attack, yet Mohar is cynical that the perpetrator will be arrested.
“Our past expense is that they are not so efficient in trying to catch these extremists, but I think now they are trying to take it more seriously—but not for a good reason,” Mohar said. “These people are hurting the image of Israel. If they [the Israeli authorities] catch them, then they are also helping the image of Israel.”
The Palestinian government catalogued last year more than 1,000 incidents of settler attacks against Palestinians, a majority taking place in villages in close proximately to Israeli settlements and outposts.
The Israeli human rights group Yesh Din found that over the past ten years Israel indicted less than 1.9-percent of settler attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank.