On Saturday, two German tourists entered Nablus (Shechem) in a rented car. They were attacked by violent mobs of Palestinians and feared for their lives. Israel365 News spoke with one of the men and discovered that several lies were circulating on the internet about the attack.
תיירים שנכנסו לשכם עם רכב שיתופי של עיריית תל אביב הותקפו בידי פלסטינים באבנים@carmeldangor pic.twitter.com/xtTWIvSkza
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) March 18, 2023
The rented car had Israeli license plates, a sticker of an Israeli flag, and the logo of the Tel Aviv municipality — which has a deal with the ride-sharing company, Shlomo Sixt.
Gerald Hetzel spoke to Israel365 News. Hetzel is a 26-year-old law student who lives in southern Germany near the border with Austria.
“Young men came from taxis around us and started to knock on our windows, to scream at us in Arabic,” he said. “They were bringing stones and a traffic sign and throwing everything against the car. After one or two minutes they pulled out a knife and stabbed the wheels of the car, and also threatened my friend.”
“I didn’t understand what they wanted. We tried to tell them in English that we are tourists, and we are not Jewish, that we are there to visit and see the town, but they seemed to not understand it,” Hetzel said. “They continued to attack us.”
They saw three Palestinian policemen who stood helplessly off to the side.
“The were telling the crowd to leave us but they were ignored,” Hetzel said. “One made signs for us to drive away and the crowds just got bigger. I noticed another car trying to get my attention and it was an Arab driver who led us out through narrow side roads.”
Hetzel was surprised as he regularly visits Arab cities in Israel. The two escaped the ordeal with minor injuries that were treated at an IDF checkpoint by a medic.
“This definitely changed my perception of Arab villages and in the future, I will only enter when accompanied by some local people,” Hetzel said. “It just proved that the Palestinian police are not in a position to do anything.”
“I was also shocked at the hatred I saw in their eyes,” Hetzel said. They didn’t care who we were. They hated us because we rented a car ion Tel Aviv. They just wanted to kill us. I knew about the problems before in their educational system but it was shocking how quickly this happened.”
Hetzel emphasized that Palestinians are not threatened when driving through Jewish areas.
“I have travelled with Palestinian friends and even had them drop me off at the Jewish villages,” he said. “Nothing like this has ever happened.”
Hetzel was surprised by the incident.
“My friend, who is actually more politically left-wing, wanted to see the town because neither of us has ever been,” he said. “It is one of the biggest towns in Samaria. A lot of my German friends have been there recently and several tour guides told us that there was no problem visiting the city. I called two Palestinian friends in the morning before going and they said it was no problem.”
As a German tourist, Hetzel regularly visits Palestinian villages in the Palestinian Authority
“I always felt safe,” he said. “As an international, you are not a target.”
He admitted that when he visited Bethlehem several years ago, he had a pleasant discussion with a group of Palestinian youths.
“They seemed educated and cultured,” Hetzel said. “So I was shocked when in the middle of the nice talk, they said that if they met a Jew on the street, they would kill him. They said it just like that. I began to realize how much hate there is. I don’t blame them. It is their education.”
Hetzel also visits Israeli cities and though certainly not anti-Palestinian, he supports Israel control of the region for the time being.
“I know many Jews who live in the West Bank but I also know many Palestinians that live there. There are good people on both sides. There are many Palestinians who tell me that they wish they could live in Israeli territory. There are Palestinians who are friends of the Jewish people.”
He emphasized that since he was a teen, he has been a member of the conservative party.
“We are the partner party of Likud,” he explained. “I am not really connected to Likud but I have several friends in the party.”
Hetzel is not Jewish and not even a Zionist, per se. He explained that his interest is in finding the truth in the complicated reality that is modern Israel.
“Israel is a great country and I even have some distant relatives who live here,” Hetzel said. “I am a member of the German-Israeli Friendship Association. I work to combat the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement and to spread the truth about Israel. I have been coming to Israel since I was a child and I see that Israel is portrayed in a very different way in Germany than what I personally witnessed. There are a lot of lies and wrong information about Israel. The narrative is very one-sided, especially regarding Judea and Samaria.”
“I personally believe that it is important that Jews be in Judea and Samaria since this is the land of the Bible. There is a Jewish connection to the area. There are no Biblical sites in Tel Aviv. My personal opinion is that it is good for everyone that Israel is in control.”
In the aftermath, Hetzel was shocked to discover that posts on social media and media reports portray him as a right-wing extremist associated with radical Israeli groups.
“Some are even claiming that I am not a tourist but am an Israel provoking Arab violence by waving a big Israeli flag,” he said. “There was a tiny sticker of a flag on the back of the car that I could barely see. I am a tourist and I am not a member of any Israeli political groups. I have friends in right-wing Israeli groups but I also have Palestinian friends. I came here two weeks ago and am leaving next week.”
An article in Hebrew-language HaMakom claimed that Hetzel was an activist working for Im Tirtzu, a Zionist NGO. Its critics accuse the organization of acting in an Anti-Semitic fashion, including emulating Nazi propaganda for exposing foreign funding of anti-Israel NGOs. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly endorsed Im Tirtzu. The article criticized Hetzel for joining the group to plant trees in the Jordan Valley. The article also criticized Hetzel for his membership in the Germany-Israel Friendship Association.
AFP reported the incident, claiming that the Arab youths who attacked Hetzel believed him to be an agent of Israeli security forces.
“Palestinians who attacked German tourists in Nablus had feared they were Israeli forces, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority security services said Sunday, stressing they have ‘zero hostility’” towards Germany.”
German Ambassador to Israel Steffen Seibert posted to his Twitter account on Saturday that “a mob attacking tourists because they don’t like their license plate is disgusting and cowardly. I thank the Palestinian Israeli citizen who saved them from the bottom of my heart.”
On Sunday, Seibert defended his tweet, writing that “we know the pain of Palestinians. We support their peaceful aspirations towards a state. We know the great Palestinian hospitality. But yesterday two tourists were in grave danger because they were chased by a mob, and that can never be justified.”
حيييّ دينكممم رجال نابلس 🔥 pic.twitter.com/N7sHwdvFTy
— Malak 🖤𓂆 (@malakash0ur) March 18, 2023