An open letter to: The Honorable Robert Rydberg, Ambassador to Israel from Sweden
22 November 2006
The Honorable Robert Rydberg
Embassy of Sweden
4, Rehov Weizmann
64 239 Tel Aviv
Fax: 03 718 00 05
Dear Mr. Rydberg,
We have been informed that the Swedish foreign ministry has appealed to the government of Israel concerning an attack on Swedish citizen Tove Johansson, in Hebron, on Saturday afternoon, 18 November 2006. According to press reports, Ms. Johansson is a member of the extremist Palestinian organization International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and was in Hebron as part of a protest against the Israeli presence in the city.
We would like to clarify several points concerning this incident:
1. The Jewish community of Hebron rejects any and all unnecessary violence of all kinds, by anyone, be they Arab or Jewish. This is community policy, and is enforced to the best of our ability.
2. ISM has had a presence in Hebron for over a year, and other foreign organizations, including TIPH, CPT, and others have had a presence in Hebron for a number of years. Very rarely, if at all, have there been any violent incidents between Hebron’s Jewish residents and members of ISM. Community residents do their best to ignore them. At most, there are verbal exchanges between the two sides. We are unfamiliar with complaints issued by ISM activists against Hebron’s Jewish residents.
3. In accordance with the above paragraph, and keeping in mind the fact that over 30,000 Jews visited Hebron on 18 Nov 2006, celebrating the purchase of the Tomb of the Patriarchs for the Jewish people by Abraham some 3,700 years ago, it is clear that the perpetrator(s) of the attack were not residents of Hebron’s Jewish community.
a. Hebron residents do not, and have not, physically attacked ISM members in Hebron.
b. Hebron’s residents are known by security forces in the city, and anyone participating in such an attack would have been easily identified and apprehended. However, the police have yet to identify or arrest anyone who participated in the attack.
c. According to press accounts, one of the perpetrators was quoted as having said, “I have a flight to France tonight.”
d. The fact that an overwhelming majority of the people in Hebron on Saturday, 18 Nov 2006 were not Hebron residents, along with the above-mentioned facts, is clearly proof that no members of Hebron’s Jewish community participated in the attack against Ms. Johansson.
4. According to press accounts, police and other security forces requested, prior to the attack, that Ms. Johansson and other protesters vacate the area, due to the sensitivity of their presence. It must be remembered that strict Sabbath observance forbids use of cameras and other such equipment. Photographing people who object to use of cameras on the
Sabbath is extremely sensitive and many people object to being photographed on the Sabbath. Ms. Johansson and others were requested by Israeli security forces and others to refrain from photographing Sabbath observers, however, they refused this request. This, of course, does not justify physical attack, however, clearly, had the protestors acceded to this request, most likely the attack would have been avoided.
5. According to various internet accounts, the attackers yelled, “we killed Jesus and we will kill you too.” According to eye-witnesses at the scene, this accusation is false. No such phrase was uttered.
6. In addition, according to some written accounts, Ms. Johansson did not receive proper first-aid care from medics that arrived at the scene. This is also a blatant lie. Medics from the Hebron community arrived in a community ambulance, determined the cause of the injury, and then treated Ms. Johansson just as any other injured person is cared for. The Hebron Jewish community ambulance, together with medic and driver, drove Ms. Johansson to Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, according her full treatment.
7. Finally, the presence of ultra extremist anti-Israel – anti-Jewish organizations such as ISM and other such groups in Hebron is, as can be understood, extremely unpopular amongst Hebron residents and community supporters. Their presence is clearly provocative, with the goal of aiding Arab terrorists who attempt to murder Hebron Jewish residents and support the aim of expelling Jews entirely from the city. As stated above, Hebron’s Jewish community does its utmost to ignore these people, despite the trouble they cause the community, action which, at times, borders on clear incitement against Hebron’s Jewish residents as well as Israeli security forces in the area. The fact that during such a huge Sabbath celebration, ISM members saw fit to continue public protest, utilizing instruments as cameras on the Sabbath, and photographing people against their will on the Sabbath, is a tremendous provocation. Again, unnecessary violence cannot be justified, but neither can overt public provocation against such a large gathering. Had they refrained from demonstrating, the attack would not have occurred.
8. In conclusion, the Jewish community of Hebron would suggest to the Swedish Foreign Ministry that in order to avoid any other unpleasant incidents in Hebron, that all Swedish citizens, including members of TIPH and others, such as Ms. Johansson, be requested to stop their politically provocative anti-Jewish activities, leave Hebron immediately and stop interfering in internal Israeli affairs.
David Wilder Noam Arnon
Hebron Community Council Members
The Jewish Community of Hebron