On Saturday night last (4 July 2009), a violent confrontation broke out between two clans living in the village of Silwan, south of the Old City wall of Jerusalem, in the general direction of the Armon Hanetziv neighborhood in the south of the city.
Automatic gunfire raged for several hours late into the night, according to reports from Arutz Sheva and Yediot Ahronot. Two people were reported dead by Jewish and Arab residents sitting in utter fear in their homes, but Yediot Ahronot reported one person dead. Apparently, what was meant by the Yediot Ahronot report was that one person was killed by gunfire as we see below.
According to Yediot Ahronot,
The brawl Saturday initiated when children from the Rajbi and Ouda families started arguing. During the skirmish, armed family members from the two clans opened fire, killing one person. Another person was killed when hit by a car. The two casualties, both members of the Rajbi family, were evacuated to a hospital in east Jerusalem.
As most folks who know anything about Arabs living in the Land of Israel (and Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, for that matter), they divide themselves into clans and occasionally (perhaps more than occasionally) violence breaks out between these clans.
This fight was an example of such clan violence, something which often breaks out in the Hebron hills as well. According to residents in Silwan and the neighboring (Jewish) 'Ir David neigborhood, several vans of border patrolmen stood by during this entire fight, doing absolutely nothing. According to Arutz Sheva,
“It was literally like a war,” she went on. “I think there were hundreds of people shooting. The muazzins [mosque loudspeakers] were blasting all night. People were throwing bottles and rocks. We were all scared."
Devorah’s husband, Yonaton, called the police emergency hotline. “They hung up on me twice,” he said. “I asked them, ‘How do I protect my family? Should we leave our home?’ They told me they couldn’t give me more details and they couldn’t advise us on what do to because they didn’t want to take responsibility for someone getting killed.”
Arab residents seem to corroborate this story. According to Arutz Sheva Arab residents agreed that police did little to stop the fight. “There are shots being fired from M-16s and other rifles,” Dawud told Kol Yisrael (Voice of Israel Radio), holed up in his home to avoid straying bullets.
“Civilians are shooting at civilians and the police are doing nothing,” he said. “Two clan families are battling each other and the police tell them to break their heads. They are shooting on the street and the police are standing by and watching. There are three jeeps of border police officers doing nothing."
A shame there wasn't a Dunkin' Donuts for the border patrolmen to duck into for some coffee.
The Israel police tell a different story entirely. According to Yediot Ahronot, Jerusalem police claimed that they responded properly. Immediately after receiving notice of a disturbance, large units of police and border guard entered the village in order to calm things down. Throughout the entire night, three border guard jeeps patrolled the village. When shooting renewed after midnight, police forces together with the special forces entered, arrested three suspects, and transferred them to the minorities department for investigation.
Considering that both Arabs and Jews seem to agree that the border patrolmen did nothing until the Arab clans stopped shooting at each other, it would seem to this writer that the Israel police were trying to airbrush the picture, something they have been known to do before.
Speaking as one who is a volunteer with the Jerusalem District Police, I can attempt to shed some light on the behavior of the Israel police here.
There is a generic fear in interfering in Arab clan disputes because nothing "the Jews" do will be seen by anyone (not just the Arabs, but also the ever watchful international press) as the right thing. Anything they do will be condemned internationally as the "evil Zionist imperialists" will have been seen once more to "oppress the poor Palestinians," the meme of the international media. Frankly, it's a pain in the neck that the Police Ministry would rather avoid. Thus, while the Israel police vigorously deny it, reports in Arutz Sheva that PA plainclothesmen were sent in to "deal" with the situation seem terribly credible.
In any event, what can be reported reliably is this. The Islamic Student Movement was not on hand to issue press reports to a gushing media. No has-been American politicians or Nobel laureates were on hand to comment on the "terrible situation of the poor Palestinians." This story – news – has been given short shrift in the BBC, CBC, CNN, Agence France Presse, Reuters, and the rest of the mass media – who do not really care about Arabs or any other kind of people, but care terribly about celebrities (particularly of their own creation), who are not really people at all, but bundles of guaranteed site hits.