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Were Palestinians Really Protecting Israeli Policewoman From “Settlers”?

It is a photo that went viral, described as palestinians protecting an Israeli policewoman from rock throwing “settlers.”

This is how the photographer Shaul Golan describes the scene:

“Amid all the chaos, I saw this female officer..She was really scared. She was abandoned in the field and her so-called enemies were guarding her. I knew right away it was a special moment.”

But is this what really happened?

Let’s look at this account by Rabbis for Human Rights – for which one of the photographed men works – which seems to paint a slightly different picture.

This photo was taken when settlers had been attempting to prevent Palestinians of the village Kusra from working their agricultural lands. A settler accused a Palestinian of throwing stones, and the police attempted to make arrests of Palestinians and began using a taser gun. The Palestinians began throwing stones and the female officer froze and remained crying between the two sides after the Israeli security forces had moved. Believing she was in danger, another Israeli officer prepared to shoot at Palestinians. Zakaria shouted “don’t shoot” and he and the mayor of Kusra escorted the policewoman back to the other Israeli security forces.

The incident has resulted in trouble for Zakaria who is being vilified by settlers who know his name, and by other Palestinians who only saw him returning the officer without knowing the full context. Zakaria was also injured when trying to flee from the settlers.

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Additional thoughts and details on the event from Rabbi Ascherman, president and senior rabbi of RHR:

The bottom line is that, while settlers are calling this an intentional publicity stunt, and some Palestinians are angry with Zakaria and the Kusra mayor for having helped an Israeli policewoman (the residents of Kusra and the hundreds of additional Palestinians he has helped are not angry with him), the fact is that Zakaria may very well have saved Palestinian lives, as another police officer was preparing to shoot. 

Zakaria is a one person command center, who is often the first person to get a call when something happen. He is hated by settlers in the area for having foiled many attempts to attack, threaten, invade and trespass.

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 In another video posted on ynet, you see a settler claiming that Palestinians had thrown stones at him. Just before the portion of the video above, you see a police officer speaking with the Israelis. This officer than comes over, and attempts here to arrest Palestinians. Quickly he starts using a taser, and then the Palestinains DO start throwing stones. The frightened policewoman froze, began to cry, and got caught in between the Palestinians on one side, and the security forces and Israeli citizens on the other. She wasn’t hurt, but rocks were falling near her from one side, and tear gas and stun grenades from the other. Sensing that she was in danger, the police officer in a t-shirt who we see later extending his hand to take the policewoman, prepared to shoot at Palestinians. You can then hear Zakaria shouting “Don’t shoot,don’t shoot” You then see Zakaria and the Kusra mayor escorting the policewoman and the other officer extending his hand to draw her to him.

I don’t have words to express my admiration for Zakaria. He is a Palestinian patriot who not only possibly saved Palestinian lives, but also exemplified the first principle of human rights-human beings come before ideologies and conflicts, and certainly before stereotypes and hatred.

In other words, based on this account, this was not a simple case of palestinians protecting an Israeli policewoman from rock-throwing “settlers” as those disseminating the photo have claimed. For a start, the rocks were being thrown by palestinians. Furthermore, it seems the two palestinians starting escorting the policewoman after they felt they were about to be shot.

In other words, it sounds like this was not as much an altruistic gesture as one of self-preservation.

Is it possible the palestinians would have protected the policewoman even if they didn’t feel they were in danger from the soldiers? I honestly do not know. What I do know is this photo is not showing exactly what many are claiming it shows.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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