Skip to main content

Israeli press review: Columnist warns 'Kristallnacht was relived in Huwwara'

Meanwhile, Israel's military is accused of 'deliberately turning blind eye' to violent riots and legal experts say the state could face war crime charges
A Palestinian looks at a torched car in the occupied West Bank town of Huwara on 27 February 2023 following violent settler riots (AFP)
A Palestinian looks at a torched car in the occupied West Bank town of Huwara on 27 February 2023 following violent settler riots (AFP)

Huwwara rampage likened to Nazi pogrom 

A prominent Israeli commentator for a right-wing news outlet compared the violent rampage by Israeli settlers against Palestinian towns on Sunday to Kristallnacht or the "Night of Broken Glass". 

Nahum Barnea on Monday wrote for Yedioth Ahronot that settlers "staged their own Kristallnacht in Huwwara," referring to the state-directed pogrom against Jews carried out by the Nazi Party in Germany in 1938.

"What went down… is to be carefully spoken about," Barnea said. 

Huwwara riots: Eyewitness account of Israeli settler attack on Palestinian town
Read More »

"The settlers felt the Palestinians must pay a heavy price. At least one Palestinian was shot dead, others were rescued from their homes by security forces, moments before their homes burned to the ground. Kristallnacht was relived in Huwwara."

The veteran writer said rioting settlers feel "immune to the law" and that fear of the state does not apply to them. 

He added that the violent rampage reflected the current far-right government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

"Smotrich and Ben-Gvir likely see a bit of themselves in the delinquents in Huwwara. When they were young, they acted the same way. Have they matured? Perhaps, but not enough."

Hundreds of Israeli settlers, flanked by soldiers, attacked Palestinian towns and villages near Nablus in the occupied West Bank on Sunday following a shooting that killed two Israelis in Huwwara town earlier in the day. 

The assaults left one Palestinian dead, nearly 400 wounded and dozens of homes and cars burned or destroyed.

Military accused of 'deliberately turning blind eye' 

A leading Haaretz columnist criticised the Israeli military for inaction during the Huwwara "pogrom" and warned it will lead to "Sabra and Shatila 2".

Gideon Levy accused Israeli security agencies of failing to stop the violent settler marches "whether out of apathy and complacency, or because they were very deliberately turning a blind eye".

The Israeli military and reporters said soldiers attempted to prevent rioting settlers from reaching Huwwara, but "one way or another" they made it through, Levy said.

Sabra and Shatila massacre survivors: 'It can’t be unseen'
Read More »

However, he added, no one has taken responsibility for what has happened so far. 

Israeli forces arrested only eight people for their alleged involvement in the rampage. They were all later released. 

"Turning a blind eye in this way conjures up forgotten memories," Levy wrote. 

"The IDF [Israeli military] also turned a blind eye in 1982 at the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila in Lebanon, making it possible for Lebanese Phalangist militias to commit the terrible massacres there," he added.

"On Sunday, [settlers] made do with sowing destruction. But just wait for their next act of revenge, particularly when no one is brought to justice and punished for Sunday's pogrom. Sabra and Shatila 2 is on the way and no one's doing anything to stop it."

Israel launched an attack on Beirut on 15 September 1982 - breaking a weeks-long ceasefire that saw members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation leave the city - and sealed off the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

On 16 September, the Phalange, a right-wing Christian Lebanese militia group, entered the Sabra and Shatila camps in response to the assassination of Lebanon's Christian president, Bachir Gemayel. They killed as many as 3,500 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians.

Israel 'could be open to war crimes charges'

An Israeli legal expert said Tuesday that if the Huwwara attacks are not investigated internally, Israel could face war crimes charges by international courts. 

In an op-ed published in the right-wing Times of Israel website, David Kretzmer said rioters could be liable for committing war crimes after they violently rampaged through Palestinian towns.  

Israel: Legal scholars call for 'war crimes' investigation into Smotrich remarks
Read More »

The law professor explained that Israel, as the occupying power in the West Bank, has a duty under international law to protect the local civilian population and prosecute persons responsible for war crimes. 

If Israeli authorities fail to do so, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague may try those who committed war crimes. 

"When at last security forces did arrive on the scene, they failed to contain the violence. Even more depressing was the support for the pogrom by leading members of the coalition," Kretzmer said. 

"It is hard to know which is worse: that the failure was due to incompetence or negligence, or because for political reasons the commanders did not want to enter into confrontation with the settlers."

On Monday, 22 Israeli legal experts called on the attorney general to investigate pro-settler MPs - including far-right minister Bezalel Smotrich - for "inducing war crimes" over their public support for violent riots.

They argued that remarks made by the politicians "amount to encouragement to commit similar attacks in the future" and breached international law. 

*Israeli press review is a digest of news reports not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.