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Peace activist Rabbi Arik Ascherman attacked by knife-wielding settler in West Bank

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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.

Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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40 Responses

  1. annie on October 23, 2015, 3:48 pm

    i spoke with a friend in jerusalem yesterday (a contributor here, you might remember her Enass) and she said a lot of palestinians are afraid to harvest their olives this season because of the violence of the settlers. it’s horrific the threat they are under.

    • DavidDaoud on October 24, 2015, 10:34 am

      Annie, I don’t think olive harvest season was ever before as difficult as this one is.
      Never as dangerous and fear filled.
      What fits into this is that about 60% of these settlers/terrorists are American.

      • annie on October 24, 2015, 12:25 pm

        60% of these settlers/terrorists are American.

        doesn’t surprise me in the least.

      • Mooser on October 24, 2015, 12:32 pm

        “doesn’t surprise me in the least.”

        It certainly shouldn’t. Only a complete fool commits a crime without considering the get-away and escape routes.

      • Bumblebye on October 24, 2015, 12:42 pm

        This is from Vice News series “Rockets and Revenge” (#7) and is illustrative of the mindset:

      • DaBakr on October 25, 2015, 1:21 am


        “illustrative of the mindset”…

        If by mindset you mean belief then yes-especially after 6:02 and before the wrap. it is illustrative.

      • Bumblebye on October 25, 2015, 10:55 am

        Goes far beyond belief into totally brainwashed fanaticism.

      • Kathleen on October 25, 2015, 12:13 pm

        “60% of these settlers/terrorist are American”

        That dual citizenship must provide even more padding from ever being held responsible for their crimes.

  2. oldgeezer on October 23, 2015, 4:38 pm

    They have great cause to be worried. More than Jewish Israelis. At least Jewish Israelis know the state will protect them if it is possibles. Palestinians know the Israeli state will protect their attackers despite it’s obligations under international law.

  3. talknic on October 23, 2015, 6:37 pm

    @ 00:31 “A masked Israeli ..” thug attempts to stab a rabbi in the back!

    • CigarGod on October 24, 2015, 9:57 am

      Been listening to NPR with my stethoscope and can’t even hear the heartbeat of this story.

      • just on October 24, 2015, 10:38 am

        Heh. You’re wasting your time, CG.

        (It’s sort of like holding your stethoscope up to a Ziosupremacist’s chest and hoping to hear something akin to a kind and just heartbeat.)

        “Blessed are the peacemakers”

        I remember reading that somewhere…. They are targeted. This rabbi was targeted just like Rabin was. Another peacemaker lost his life to the Occupiers last week:

        “Hebron resident and anti-occupation activist Hashem al-Azzeh died Wednesday after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces.

        According to Palestinian media reports, al-Azzeh, who suffered from a heart condition, began feeling chest pains while in his home in the Israeli-controlled Tel Rumeida neighborhood of the occupied West Bank city.

        “There was no chance to get an ambulance there,” Hisham Sharabati, coordinator of the Hebron Defense Committee and a field worker for the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, told The Electronic Intifada. Israeli forces do not allow Palestinian vehicles to drive on the streets near his home, which are reserved for Jewish motorists.

        Neighbors had to carry al-Azzeh down the hill to the nearest military checkpoint, where there were clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian youth.

        “There was tear gas there and the army kept them [al-Azzeh and his neighbors] for 10 minutes,” said Sharabati. “He had heart problems from before, but his situation deteriorated because the tear gas made it worse and then the checkpoint delay.”

        When al-Azzeh was eventually brought to a hospital, he was pronounced dead upon arrival. He leaves behind his wife Nisreen and four children, the oldest of whom is 16.

        Pregnant wife assaulted

        Al-Azzeh lived in a part of Hebron that was frequently attacked by Israeli settlers.

        “Hashem lived in a hilly area where the settlers’ homes are higher than his,” said Sharabati.

        Like all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the Tel Rumeida settlement is illegal under international law. But this particular enclave, comprised of stacks of trailers flanked by Israeli army checkpoints, houses some of the most fanatical and violent settlers in the West Bank.

        Al-Azzeh and his family endured sustained harassment from these extremists, including an attack in which settlers assaulted his nephew, then aged 9. The settlers forced a rock into the boy’s mouth to crush his teeth, al-Azzeh had said in a video recording: …

        In another incident, al-Azzeh’s own teeth were smashed when settlers attacked his home, ransacking it and destroying the furniture. Al-Azzeh’s wife was assaulted by settlers twice while she was pregnant in her first and second trimesters. She miscarried both times.

        Fanatic settlers

        “Hashem had a big role in showing the world, showing the press, showing solidarity groups, showing any visitor the details of the harassment by the Israeli colonizers in the city of Hebron,” said Sharabati. “The settlers practice all these crimes in the presence of the Israeli army who do not do anything to stop them.”

        “Everybody who knew him loved him for his method of giving the point of view of the Palestinian residents of Tel Rumeida and Hebron who are suffering from the settlements,” said journalist and Hebron Defense Committee member Bassam Shweiki.

        “The settlers of Hebron are the most fanatic settlers in the West Bank,” he added.

        One of the Tel Rumeida settlement’s founding residents is the US-born Baruch Marzel, who has been arrested dozens of times by the Israeli authorities and whose criminal record includes acts of violence against Palestinians and Israeli police. Marzel has told The Times of Israel, “We need to remove from here all our enemies.”

        Graffiti spray-painted on the side of a Palestinian school near the al-Azzeh home reads “Gas the Arabs/JDL.”…

        … Harassed during harvest

        For al-Azzeh, simply remaining in his home was an act of resistance. While many of his immediate neighbors left as closures choked off virtually all economic activity in the area, he and his family stayed, often hosting international visitors and sharing his stories of struggle with them.

        This reporter witnessed a typical episode of Israeli repression three years ago during the olive harvest. It was the first time al-Azzeh had been able to harvest his olives in five years.

        Accompanied by a handful of International Solidarity Movement volunteers, al-Azzeh made relatively short work of his few trees as many of the olives had already been picked by the settlers.

        As the work was finishing, settlers barged into the small grove, claiming that not only were the olive trees theirs, but that the entire land had been given to them by God. When soldiers arrived on the scene, they separated the two groups and in the process arrested a volunteer and two Palestinians — one al-Azzeh’s next-door neighbor and the other a videographer for the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

        Even though an Israeli officer eventually acknowledged al-Azzeh’s ownership of the land, the officer ordered him and his supporters to leave the area for the rest of the day. Baruch Marzel stood among the settlers watching the scene unfold from above. …

        … Hashem al-Azzeh’s form of resistance was “social struggle,” according to Shweiki: “Struggle by words — by giving every moment of his time whenever possible to explain what’s happening.”

        “He was a simple man in his character, but he was solid,” Shweiki added. “He called for peace all over the world. He didn’t call for any violence. But he wanted to live in peace in his own land in his home.””

        Read the whole thing @

        Thanks for this article, Allison. I’m taken aback by Mohar’s first statement, though:

        ““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.”

        Why on earth are they “still in shock”??? He then goes on to explain that this is certainly not the first time! The time for thought and reflection is long past. I guess denial is an elemental ingredient of the majority Israeli’s daily fare.

      • Mooser on October 24, 2015, 1:31 pm

        “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.”

        All what “time”? I thought I just read that Israel made permits much, much easier to get.
        Up to you, Rebbe. Me, I like to keep my jugular unsevered.

    • italian ex-pat on October 24, 2015, 7:55 pm

      Why are the settlers wearing face masks? Anybody knows? It’s not like they are going to be shot or arrested if they reveal their identity to the IDF – in fact, I’d think the opposite would be true.

      • echinococcus on October 25, 2015, 10:44 am

        When they are identified as official soldiers, police, border guard, commandos, etc. of the Zionist entity, which so many of them are, and the fact occasionally finds its way to a European indictment, some embarrassment may result.
        Or, alternatively, the idea of effective resistance may get hold of some people in Palestine and personal retribution begin to be meted out to identified criminals. Only, this hypothesis doesn’t really hold water: the religious “settler” punks not only are not masked in general but they invite publicity.
        So the masked ones are probably government operators.

  4. a blah chick on October 23, 2015, 8:01 pm

    In an earlier report a policewoman said that the rabbi provoked the encounter. Evidently she felt the rabbi over reacted to a knife-wielding masked man, who was setting fires and stealing produce. Damn lefties.

    • RockyMissouri on October 24, 2015, 10:12 am


    • Mooser on October 24, 2015, 11:16 am

      I have got to scrub or delete this article before Tribal Unity wakes up and reads Mondo. She’ll be hysterical all day! Weeping, crying, I can’t take it.
      I know, I’ll just write new copy, edit it a little, make it more believable:

      “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, but upon discovering the man was a Rabbi, immediately, stopped, apologised, and said if: “If this is the kind of stuff illegal settlement leads to, I need to go home and rethink. I almost hurt a Rabbi!” He hopped a flight for JFK that afternoon with his entire family”

      I’ll just put it on her I-pod, and prop it up with her coffee on the tray when I bring it up to her room.
      Sure it’s a lie, but she’s been through enough, and I’m not spending my Saturday listening to her kvetch.

      • john_manyjars on October 24, 2015, 9:15 pm

        Mooser, that was a great re-write. How I wish it were true…big smile though

      • Mooser on October 24, 2015, 11:56 pm

        “How I wish it were true…”

        It would be nice. But the settler, no doubt, has a Rabbi of his own, and apparently does not recognize other denominations.

        Hello, and welcome.

    • John O on October 24, 2015, 1:06 pm

      But, but but… Yair Lapid has said it’s OK to shoot a knife-wielding human. On the BBC, too:

  5. zaid on October 24, 2015, 12:27 am

    Poor settler, now he is gonna be shot or lynched by the IDF and then Israel is going to destroy his home and throw his children to the street!

    • bryan on October 24, 2015, 3:29 am

      Netanyahu has solemnly proclaimed a vow “to fight to the death against Palestinian terrror.” He did not qualify that by referring to the fight against “Palestinian Arab terror”. Therefore I have every confidence that with the world watching he has immediately issued strict orders to punish the perpetrator of this attack. Palestinian means quite simply “a native or inhabitant of Palestine”. We can argue about whether that definition includes the Jewish population of Israel though the Mandate authorities referred to Palestinians as everyone, regardless of religion or ethnicity, living within the borders of historic Palestine, and Emmanuel Kant referred even to European Jews as the “Palestinians living amongst us”. But clearly this man is an inhabitant (even if an illegal immigrant) living outside the defined borders of Israel, on Palestinian land, and quite clearly a Palestinian terrorist. Go to it, Netty, and good luck in tracking him down.

    • CigarGod on October 24, 2015, 9:59 am

      …and neither the UN or USA will say a thing.

      • just on October 24, 2015, 10:41 am

        Nope, they won’t.

        Instead the US government will reward the Israelis for obstructing their rapprochement with Iran!

        (All while they further punish the Palestinians for simply daring to exist, resist, and survive.)

  6. truthurts on October 24, 2015, 2:28 am

    “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. ”
    it’s a shame there was no video of the psychos setting fire to the olive trees

  7. Kay24 on October 24, 2015, 8:12 am

    All that and the US cut aid to the side that has suffered too much, and has lost the most.

    Adding insult to injury, American style:

    “U.S. Reportedly Cuts $80m in Aid in ‘Message’ to Palestinians
    State Department told lawmakers of intention to reduce economic aid for West Bank and Gaza Strip from $370 million to $290 at the end of September, site claims.

    The U.S. cut its financial aid to the Palestinian Authority by $80 million, al-Monitor reported, in an alleged message to the Palestinians over incitement to violence amid a recent wave of terror attacks.
    According to al-Monitor, the State Department notified lawmakers  of its intention to reduce economic aid for the West Bank and Gaza Strip from $370 million to $290 at the end of September – a 22% drop from the department’s initial request and followed what the site described as mounting criticism from Congress about Palestinian “incitement”.
    read more:



    • RockyMissouri on October 24, 2015, 10:14 am

      I agree. This is so very disgusting..!!

    • a blah chick on October 24, 2015, 8:20 pm

      You have to wonder for whom is this “message” intended?

      • Kay24 on October 25, 2015, 6:35 am

        ABC, the fact is those who suffer most will be the civilians of Palestine. The victims of Israel’s occupation, and those who face Israel’s violence on a daily basis. If anything, the message is for Israel “we do your bidding and will support you unconditionally”. It should make us all wonder what exactly Israel does for us, that makes us so indebted to it. I am learning more and more about Israel doing our dirty work in de-stabilizing nations, and getting rid of scientists and others so ruthlessly. It seems to explain this sick relationship and unwavering support. As a tax payer I am disgusted.

        The survivors of the USS Liberty need an explanation as to why the criminals who deliberately bombed them have got away with war crimes, and the American government has not done the right thing by them:

  8. Boo on October 24, 2015, 9:10 am

    I’m delighted to see Ascherman doing his best to defend himself against a masked hoodlum. After grabbing the thug’s foot, I bet a quick twist to the downhill side would’ve toppled that punk.

    • DavidDaoud on October 24, 2015, 10:47 am

      Boo, I was also impressed by the Arik’s fighting ability and his lack of fear, but he’s had many years of experience with these people.

    • Mooser on October 24, 2015, 11:22 am

      “After grabbing the thug’s foot, I bet a quick twist to the downhill side would’ve toppled that punk.”

      I am, I freely admit, completely ignorant of the syllabus in most Rabbinical Seminaries, but I never dreamed it would have to include self-defense and personal-combat training.

      Edit: I’m so dumb. Like I’ve never heard of Jewdo, or Jew-jitsu.

  9. Ossinev on October 24, 2015, 9:41 am

    Hopefully JK Rowling will get to see the video and report. She can then contact the leader of the Yitzhar settlement ” residents ” and offer to come and discuss “cultural bridges” with them.

  10. a blah chick on October 24, 2015, 10:06 am

    I love how the hasbarists referred to the knife-wielding man as an “activist.”

  11. HHM on October 24, 2015, 2:19 pm

    Rabbis for Human Rights spokesman Yariv 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.”

    I suppose what they want is a more compassionate occupation so Israel doesn’t look so bad.

    • diasp0ra on October 24, 2015, 6:12 pm

      Yeah, pretty much that it seems.

      People like this want to help but they don’t question their own role in the dispossession of the Palestinian people. Are they helping to support Israel in the long run? Or to actually help the Palestinians?

      Where does this help end? Making the occupation better? Ending the occupation?

      They will never bring up helping the refugees, because at that point they’d need to question their own role and they might actually need to give something up in return. It’s all smiles and rainbows when it’s far from you but when it comes to you actually giving up your position of superiority would you take that plunge?

    • Kay24 on October 25, 2015, 7:38 am

      They are so compassionate they are willing to be the “victims” of those they occupy for decades.
      Brings a tear to my eye. :))

  12. RoHa on October 25, 2015, 3:30 am

    I thought Israel was supposed to be the place where Jews were safe from these sort of attacks.

  13. Sulphurdunn on October 29, 2015, 5:42 pm

    Gott ist mit uns.

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