Swedish human rights worker, Tove Johansson was viciously attacked by Orthodox Jews in Hebron in November, 2006
We are confronted by around 100 ultra-orthodox Jews, who are gathered in Hebron to mark ‘Hebron day’, one of whom shouts “You know that Jesus is gay?”. None of us really react to this arbitrary taunt, however it does serve to focus the crowd’s attentions squarely on our small group of human rights workers. Another shouts “What are you doing here?”
“Tourists” I reply, believing this to be the safest response under the circumstances. The crowd then begins chanting in Hebrew “We killed Jesus, we’ll kill you too!” — we are quickly designated the ‘other’. The mob mentality takes on an oppressive and ugly turn; now almost a single entity justifying almost any excess as long as it is directed towards the ‘other’. The crowd edges forward “You love Palestinians” one of them shouts, spitting in a human rights worker’s face.
The first stone had been cast: saliva rains down on us and people jump above one another to be able to deliver their contempt. We are shoved and kicked repeatedly, and even though it is apparent that events are spiraling dangerously out of control, the soldiers who are standing just a few feet behind us at the checkpoint choose to look on impotently as the attacks intensify.
A man lunges from the crowd, smashing Tove, a 19 year old Swedish girl across the face with a bottle. She immediately collapses to the ground clutching her bloodied face in horrified terror. At this point the soldiers come forward and motion at the settlers, in a “ok… that’s enough guys…” motion, amid clapping, cheering and chanting from the crowd.
As Tove lay on the hard concrete floor, blood oozing from her wounds the crowd re-groups, fed by curiosity and growing in energy “We killed Jesus, we’ll kill you too!” I now felt a growing sense of apprehension as awareness dawned of the mob’s evil intent and the soldiers’ unwillingness to intervene in any meaningful way.
A religiously dressed Orthodox Jew then adds insult to injury by posing with a thumbs-up gesture over Tove’s bloodied face. The sight of this was so obnoxiously contemptuous I never gave the guy the satisfaction he sadistically craved by taking his picture. The decision as to whether I should have taken that picture has been discussed over and over by people I know, though I feel the impact of sharing that disgusting image I have etched in my mind, can serve no purpose other than that of breeding hatred.