The former president of Rabbis for Human Rights was violently assaulted by a far-right Israeli settler on Wednesday, April 7 near the illegal Maale Ahuvia outpost in the occupied Palestinian territories. Video footage of the brutal attack shows Rabbi Arik Ascherman conversing with a masked settler, then suddenly being attacked by another who repeatedly beats him with a long wooden club while, off-camera, cries of “No violence” are intoned.
According to Zo Haderech, Ascherman arrived at the scene after he had been contacted by local Palestinians. He used his Twitter account to share a video depicting the minutes preceding the attack that included a heated conversation between himself and several settlers, with one of them calling him a “murderer” and threatening him.
Following the assault, Ascherman related how Israeli occupation forces stood by and watched as he was beaten with the club. “The brutal attack on me happened because Israeli security forces allowed Ma’aleh Ahuvia to rebuild after evacuating it yesterday,” he explained, “and didn’t stop the [settlers’] flocks from entering [adjacent Palestine village] Dir Jarir lands to eat what is growing there.”
Last month, Ascherman was taken to a hospital emergency room following an attack by Israeli settlers where he received stitches on his torn ear and was checked for a possible broken arm. Writing about that incident in the Times of Israel, the rabbi described what he called “the resurgence of Kahanism” and said that, “This was the latest and most serious of many attacks in the last few weeks. I’ve lost count, but have submitted close to ten complaints with the police about attacks.” Sharing a photo of the tear on his ear, Ascherman explained that, “I have not been the only victim, and of course the real victims are the Palestinians. The story is the same one I have told several times.”
The settlers, Ascherman said, are “driven by an insatiable drive to dispossess Palestinian.” He explained how, almost daily, they steal what Palestinian Bedouin have planted in order to sufficiently frighten them and cause them enough financial loss so that they lose heart and cease coming back to their summer homes to graze their livestock on what they have previously planted.
Ascherman served as president of the Rabbis for Human Rights for 21 years and later founded the Israeli human rights organization Torat Tzedek (Torah of Justice). As a human rights activist, he has not only protected Palestinian farmers from violence directed towards them by settlers, while often putting himself in harm’s way, but has also fought for socio-economic justice for Israelis and Arab-Bedouins in southern Israel.
In response to Ascherman’s latest story, Hadash MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List), wrote on Twitter: “Don’t believe that these attackers are just ‘bad apples.’ This is what the people of Netanyahu, Smotrich and Ben Gvir look like. This violence is their way.”
Incidents of vandalism and attacks against Palestinians, Israeli security forces and activists in the occupied West Bank are commonly referred to as “price tag” attacks. Arrests of perpetrators have been exceedingly rare and human rights groups lament that convictions are even more unusual, with the majority of charges in such cases being dropped.
In fact, many Jews suspected of perpetrating terror against Arab Palestinians have regularly been represented by Itamar Ben Gvir, the far-right and racist politician elected to the Knesset in last month’s election with the help of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu worked diligently to form a merger between Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party and Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party to ensure that the latter would cross the electoral threshold, thereby adding a few more MKs to Netanyahu’s “natural” bloc and possibly helping him form a far-right coalition.
Video of the April 7th attack of Rabbi Asherman by settler: