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Police Close Case Against Hevron Jews Accused of Attack

Jews in the Hevron region who were accused of attacking Arab farmers have been released, and the case closed, for lack of evidence.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 8/21/2009, 1:04 PM

Police have closed an investigation into allegations that Jews from the Hevron region beat local Arabs, due to lack of evidence. During the course of the investigation several Jews were arrested and questioned.

The case began in June of 2008, when Arabs from a village near Hevron presented a videotape purporting to show Jews beating them with clubs near the Jewish community of Susiya. The attackers in the tape were masked, but the victims insisted that they were certain that the masked men were Jewish agricultural workers from the area.

The tape was created using a camera belonging to the pro-Arab B'Tselem organization. B'Tselem has distributed many video cameras among Judea and Samaria Arabs in recent years in an attempt to document IDF soldiers and local Jews taking part in alleged acts of violence or oppression.

B'Tselem and foreign media distributed the tape widely, leading to international condemnation of Israel, and of Israeli Jews living in Judea in particular.

The Arabs who opened the case, along with representatives of B'Tselem, complained Friday over the decision to close the investigation, stating that with pictures of the attack widely available, police should be able to charge the attackers. B'Tselem said it would appeal the decision.

Judea and Samaria police defended their decision to close the investigation, pointing out that while there are pictures of the attack, the attackers are masked. There is no evidence that the Jews accused were involved in the incident, they said.

No Equality Before the Law
Jewish residents of the Hevron area said the case was a clear example of the difference between the police response to complaints filed against Jews and those filed against Arabs. While Jews who report Arab and anarchist attacks are almost always ignored, or even accused of violence themselves, alleged Jewish attacks are given full police attention, they said.

Hevron resident Orit Strook, head of the Judea and Samaria Human Rights Organization, compared the case to a second incident that took place last year. Last summer, a group of Arabs and anarchists infiltrated the Jewish community of Mitzpeh Asael in the Hevron region and set fire to several structures.

When Jews attempted to dispel the attackers, police arrived, and arrested the Jews, who are currently on trial for allegedly using violence in their attempt to stop the arson, Strook said. The  case took a dramatic turn this week when it was revealed that one of the activists who accused the Jews of assault is actually a Hamas supporter.

In contrast, in the Susiya case, police used every tactic available in an attempt to find information linking the suspects to the case, Strook said.

The discrepancy between the treatment meted out to Arabs and Jews, in two incidents that took place in the same area at roughly the same time, is just one example of a police policy under which “Jews are always guilty,” Strook said. The policy creates a situation in which there is no equality before the law, she added.

Strook and other Hevron residents implied that in their rush to find evidence against local Jews, police may have unintentionally undermined their own investigation. Police may have wasted their time focusing on the obvious suspects, instead of pursuing other angles of investigation, they said.