Thursday, December 24, 2015

When Extremism Isn’t Mainstream. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

When Extremism Isn’t Mainstream. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, December 24, 2015.

The dance of death. By David Horovitz. The Times of Israel, December 24, 2015.


One of the standard memes of press coverage of the Middle East is the conviction that extremists on both sides of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians are mirror images of each other. In this formulation, often articulated by the Jewish left, Israel’s center-right government is somehow the moral equivalent of Palestinian terrorists. This is a false argument but it has been given credence by the reluctance of the Obama administration to acknowledge that the primary obstacle to a two-state solution has not been Israeli settlements but the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn. Despite the slander about Israeli intransigence, Netanyahu and his predecessors have all offered the Palestinians statehood but have been turned down every time. Yet even if we leave aside arguments about blame for failed negotiations, the most obvious difference between the two sides is in its attitude toward terrorism.

Recent events have made this even more easily understood.

In the last three months, the Palestinian Authority has done its best to incite and then to encourage the continuation of the so-called “stabbing intifada.” PA leader Mahmoud Abbas helped foment the unrest by repeating lies about Israel planning to harm the mosques on the Temple Mount. Having played the same card that led to anti-Jewish pogroms in the 1920s and 30s by speaking of preventing “stinking Jewish feet” from polluting holy places sacred to all three monotheistic religions, Abbas and the rest of the PA have praised those who acted on his suggestions and sought to murder Jews as “martyrs” and condemned the attempts by Israeli police and civilians to defend the victims as “extrajudicial executions” — a disingenuous slander that has been taken up by some gullible or malicious foreign governments. Hamas goes even further and not only endorses terror but is actively plotting mass murder on its own in order to undermine the rule of the PA and to harm Israelis.

But it is also true that there are instances of violence against Arabs by Jews. Most outrageously, an Arab family was murdered last summer in an arson attack on the West Bank village of Duma. Extremist Jews are believed to be behind the attack. This incident has been given enormous coverage throughout the world, especially in comparison to the often-paltry attention to the daily attacks on Jews.

But rather than illustrate the moral equivalence between the two sides, this sad chapter actually demonstrates just the opposite.

From the moment the attack on Duma became known, this atrocity was unequivocally condemned by Prime Minister Netanyahu and every element of Israeli society and from right to left on the political spectrum. Though indictments have not yet been handed down, suspects were arrested and subjected to the same harsh terms — including being held without charges and initially being deprived of legal counsel — that are given Palestinian terrorists. Indeed, lawyers for those accused of complicity in these “price tag” attacks now claim, like the Palestinians that they have been tortured. I mention this not necessarily to praise measures that would be illegal in the United States but to point out that in Israel, there truly is equality before the law for terror suspects of all kinds.

More to the point, even those on the political right in Israeli, like Education Minister Naphtali Bennett, who is labeled an extremist by foreigners, has not merely condemned the Duma attack but also the extremist fringe that supports such behavior. There is no denying that there is a tiny fraction of Jewish settlers in the West Bank who believe in such violence. But even as we join in the condemnations of their disgusting actions — such as the video now circulating of a group of these extremists actually celebrating the deaths of the Duma victims — it is important to remember that even the most nationalist rabbis in the settlements share our anger about this crime and those few who cheer it.

The existence of such extremists is deplorable not just because it is shameful that a tiny minority of Jews should be terrorists but also because these elements constitute a threat to the Jewish state. Unlike ordinary dissenters on the left or the right, anyone who is willing to use violence or go outside the law to obtain their objectives is at war with democracy and the rule of law. That’s why no one who cares about Israel should be sympathetic to these people or listen to their protests about the way the police or the army treats them. Nor does Arab terrorism which happens on a daily basis excuse their violence and hate.

But as troubling as they are, they do remind us of the stark difference between Israeli and Palestinians society. Those Palestinians that support terror against Jews are not a minority. They not only have the support of Palestinian leaders but also reflect mainstream public opinion among their people. Even the most right-wing Israeli leaders condemn Jewish terrorists.

That this is so is nothing for Jews to celebrate, as it is merely what we should expect of a decent society. Until a sea change in Palestinian culture leads them to treat their terrorists in the same way, peace is nowhere in sight.


Every society has its fringe groups, but the youths seen at a Jerusalem wedding celebrating murder have the potential to bring ruin down upon us all.

The sight is nauseating, unthinkable. And, it turns out, not entirely new.

On its nightly news Wednesday, Channel 10 broadcast footage of dozens of young, ostensibly Orthodox Israeli Jews dancing at a wedding. Rather than celebrating the union of two young people as they set out to build a life together, this clip shows a frenzied celebration of death: the killings of the Dawabsha family — 18-month-old Ali, and his parents Riham and Saad — who were murdered when assailants firebombed their home in the West Bank village of Duma on July 31.

The Israeli far right has sought to deny the investigating authorities’ contention that the Dawabsha killings were an act of Jewish terrorism. The lawyers for several Jewish suspects in the case have sought to blacken the name of the Shin Bet security agency for allegedly torturing them. Several Knesset members have lent a degree of support to this campaign. Hundreds have demonstrated on the suspects’ behalf.

But the scenes from this wedding this month in Jerusalem tell an awful, unmistakable story. For here, gathered together in wild revelry, are dozens of young Israeli Jews delighting in the deaths of the Dawabsha family.

Described variously in reports Wednesday and Thursday as members of the extreme far-right and the “Hilltop Youth,” with one or both of the happy couple reportedly “known” to the security authorities, they chant a song that hails “revenge” against the Palestinians. One celebrant holds a Molotov cocktail in homage to the killers’ means of murder. Others wave machine guns and knives. At the height of the festivities, a photograph of baby Ali Dawabsha is “stabbed.”

Condemnation of the youths has rolled in over the past few hours from pretty much the entire political spectrum. There have been innumerable professions of horror and shock.

And yet the owner of the venue told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily that there are “dozens of weddings like this every month,” and that the Israeli authorities are well aware of them. He said that after the older folks have gone home, the youths dance like this, and sometimes some of them get arrested.

Another interviewee, in the same newspaper, spoke of going to such weddings “for years,” adding, however, that the brandishing of weapons and the “stabbing” of a photograph of the murdered baby “really mark the crossing of a red line.”

Now, perhaps, we better understand why President Reuven Rivlin, on the morning after the Duma killings, lamented that “we have been lax in our treatment of the manifestations of Jewish terrorism. Perhaps we did not internalize that we are faced with a determined and dangerous ideological group,” he said, “which aims to destroy the fragile bridges which we work so tirelessly to build.” And why, at a rally the next day, Rivlin elaborated: The flames of hatred, violence and “false, distorted and twisted beliefs are spreading through the land… These flames, which are consuming all of us, cannot be extinguished with weak condemnations [by politicians],” Rivlin said. “From the educational system, to those who enforce the law, through to the leadership of the people and the country: We must put out the flames, the incitement, before they destroy us all.”

Now, perhaps, we better understand the description, given to this reporter by security officials a month after the Duma murders, of a Jewish extremist fringe that has become so radical as to lie beyond the influence of even the most hawkish rabbinical leadership. Its members heed no authority, I was told. Some are prepared to kill, to go to jail for life, and to be killed if necessary, in support of a coldly deranged championing of land and perceived religious imperative over life.

Now, perhaps, we better understand the warnings, including from Education Minister Naftali Bennett, that these shameful Jewish youths threaten the very existence of the State of Israel. “There are a few dozen people whose goal is not murder; murder is just their means to undermine the foundations of the state,” said Bennett this week.

Rabbi Eli Sadan, founder of the pre-army yeshiva academy at Eli in the West Bank, said sadly on Army Radio Thursday that all societies have their fringe youth, their violent dropouts. That they do. But in our ultra-combustible reality, a fringe like this, as the Duma killings and their violent aftermath underline, has the potential to set the entire enterprise aflame.

Bennett, who heads the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home — the Knesset party most clearly identified with the settlement movement — said Thursday that he has tried in the past to reason with the so-called “Hilltop Youth” extremists, from whose ranks perpetrators of dozens of church-burnings, tire-slashings and other hate crimes are alleged to have sprung, and from whose ranks the Duma killers, too, are said to have emerged. But they paid no heed to him, he said, and called him a “traitor.” Where the suspects in the Duma case are concerned, he observed, it was now too late for education.

But it is not too late for education where the dozens who participated in that inhumane wedding dance of death are concerned. It is not too late for political leaders and rabbis and parents and siblings and friends to pull these deranged youths back from the brink. It is not too late for the State of Israel to reassert its insistence on upholding the core Jewish values that these young people have lost — and chiefly, of course, the fundamental respect for the divine gift of human life.

Otherwise, these dancing youths, derangedly and delightedly celebrating the death of innocents, will bring down ruin upon us all.

Judge a Society Not by Isolated Events But by Its Reaction to Them. By Elder of Ziyon.

Judge a society not by isolated events but by its reaction to them. Elder of Ziyon, December 24, 2015.

Clip shows far-right wedding guests celebrating Duma killings. The Times of Israel, December 23, 2015. YouTube.

Video Shows Jewish Radicals Celebrating Wedding by Stabbing Photo of Dawabsheh Baby. By Chaim Levinson. Haaretz, December 24, 2015. Also hereYouTube.

Video Shows Israeli Extremists Celebrating Palestinian Child’s Death. By Diaa Hadid. New York Times, December 24, 2015.

Remi Kanazi on Twitter, December 23, 2015.

Elder of Ziyon:

Israelis in an uproar over the airing of a video showing Jews at a wedding celebrating the deaths of innocent Arabs:
Footage released on Wednesday showed dozens of young Israeli right-wing extremists, said to be linked to the suspected perpetrators of the Dawabsha family murder, celebrating the killing at a wedding last week. The images in the clip immediately sparked wide condemnation.

The video, aired by Channel 10, shows revelers at the Jerusalem celebration waving knives, rifles, pistols and a Molotov cocktail during the wedding.

Amid the festivities, a photo of baby Ali Dawabsha, who was burned to death in the July 31 firebombing in the West Bank village of Duma, is shown being repeatedly stabbed.

The crowd in the video chants the lyrics of a song which include a verse from Judges 16:28, quoting Samson, blinded in Gaza, saying “let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes” — but changing the word Philistines to Palestine.
The video is indeed horrific and sickening. And already the Arab world is pointing to it as evidence that Israeli Jews are hateful, murderous bigots.

Every society has its fringe elements just as every Internet forum has its crazies. It is lazy and dishonest to point to one or five sick incidents as evidence of a society's attitudes. Not that they should be swept under the rug, but neither should they be used as proof.

But you can judge a society by how it reacts to such events in its midst.
...The video was met with harsh condemnation from across the political spectrum.

 Minutes after the clip was aired, Zionist Union MK and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni got up before the Knesset and railed against the youngsters in the film, saying “this is the group that wants to destroy the Jewish Israel, to destroy this state from within, to destroy the government from within and sow hate.”

Pointing at Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich, Livni said: “These are the people you protest being interrogated by the Shin Bet.”

“My Judaism is not the Judaism of those dancing on the blood of babies,” she added on Twitter.

Smotrich condemned the “evil price tag ideology,” referring to right-wing attacks against Palestinians, but attempted to disassociate himself from the extremists, saying it “is not the way of religious Zionism, period.”

“The demonic dance with the picture of the murdered baby represents a dangerous ideology and the loss of humanity,” he said, according the Israel National News website.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), an outspoken supporter of the settlement movement, condemned the participants at the wedding.

“The clip published by Channel 10 news this evening is shocking and one cannot allow the activity of radical groups fueled by hate,” Ariel wrote on Facebook.

“Violence and support of violence deserve only condemnation. This is not the path of Zionism and this is not the path of the settlement movement,” wrote Ariel, who a day earlier had called for the Shin Bet to close down its division that deals with Jewish terror cases.

The video clip was also denounced by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, who said it went against Jewish tradition. Other religious figures also spoke out against it.
And it isn’t only politicians. Blogs, Facebook posts, and op-eds out of Israel are united in condemnation for this event – and not only because it makes Israeli Jews look bad, but  because Israeli Jews are naturally horrified by it and want to rid themselves of such evil in their midst.

The contrast to how Palestinian society reacts to their own outrages could not be more clear. After months of stabbing, car ramming and firebombing attacks on innocent Jews, I have yet to see a single statement in any Palestinian news or social media outlet that condemns those actions for being immoral. Not one.

On the contrary, the universal reaction is to justify these attacks or even to celebrate them.

The Henkins murdered in cold blood – nothing.

The massacre of the Fogels – nothing.

The Har Nof synagogue massacre – nothing.

Except for the occasional pro forma and hypocritical “condemnation” by Mahmoud Abbas (which disgust the Palestinian street), there is never any moral outrage or soul-searching that follows every attack by Jews on innocent Arabs.

While Jews condemn, Palestinians celebrate. While Jews try to root out the evil in their midst, Palestinians name schools and sporting events after their “hero” murderers. While Jews distance themselves from crimes in their name, Palestinians embrace them and encourage their people to do more.

Zionist Jews are rightly sickened at the sight of seemingly religious Jews acting in such a disgusting manner. The day that Palestinian Arabs start to react the same way to their celebrations of murdering Jews will be the day that peace might actually be a possibility.

There is no indication that it will ever happen.

Even Amira Hass Is Too “Zionist.” By Evelyn Gordon.

Even Amira Hass Is too “Zionist.” By Evelyn Gordon. Commentary, December 23, 2015.

My Message to Diaspora Jews: Don’t Become Accomplices to Israel’s Crimes. By Amira Hass. Haaretz, December 21, 2015.

Culture of Violence: A Palestinian Hobby. By Jonathan S. Tobin. NJBR, August 5, 2013. With related article links.


Many well-meaning people still believe that “pro-Palestinian activists” are exactly what the term sounds like – people anxious to better the Palestinians’ lot by ending “the occupation” and creating a Palestinian state. But Haaretz journalist Amira Hass provided a window onto these activists’ true nature in a column this week: They are people for whom even Hass – a self-described non-Zionist who deems Jewish immigration to Israel a “crime” and Palestinian violence against Israel a “right” – is a “Zionist,” and therefore beyond the pale. In short, they are people whose world has no place for any Israeli Jew of any political persuasion, and for whom the only “pro-Palestinian” future worth contemplating is one where Israel ceases to exist.

To understand just how extreme a worldview is required to label Hass too “pro-Israel,” some background is in order. Hass is Haaretz’s longtime Palestinian affairs analyst, but she’s unique among the Israeli journalists covering this beat in that she doesn’t live in Israel; she has lived for over two decades among the Palestinians, first in Gaza and then in Ramallah. This isn’t merely out of journalistic dedication; it’s where her avowed sympathies lie.

She states explicitly that she isn’t a Zionist. As she put it in the abovementioned column, during a panel she moderated at last week’s Haaretz conference in New York, “The newspaper’s representatives made it clear that Haaretz is a Zionist publication, that its opposition to the occupation stems from Zionist principles. I found it appropriate to distinguish myself from this stance.”

In this same column, she wrote that overseas Jews who move to Israel “would be choosing to participate in another crime,” a message she said she has delivered at forums ranging from the Haaretz conference to meetings with South African Jews. As she correctly noted, this is the antithesis of Zionism, which “preaches in favor of the immigration of Diaspora Jews to Israel.” In contrast, she appears to favor letting Palestinians immigrate to Israel; at any rate, she devoted several paragraphs to decrying Israel’s refusal to let them to do so.

Moreover, she believes Palestinians have a “right” to kill Israelis; in a now-infamous column in 2013, she wrote, “Throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule.” That those stones are lethal weapons whose victims are primarily innocent civilians – the list of Israelis killed by Palestinian stone-throwers ranges from infants through toddlers to senior citizens – evidently doesn’t cause her any moral qualms.

So what could Hass possibly have done to enrage those “pro-Palestinian activists” to the point of accusing her of the worst crime in their book – Zionism? In her own words, “The thing that apparently angered them most was that I dared claim that the use of weapons does not advance the Palestinians’ cause today.”

This claim was not, heaven forbid, advanced “because of my Israeli identity” – i.e. out of any squeamishness about the murder of her countrymen. It’s just that in any armed conflict between the Palestinians and the vastly better-equipped Israeli army, the Palestinians are inevitably going to lose. Or to put it in her own, more pejorative, terms, the Israelis’ “capacity for destructive revenge is bigger.”

This, incidentally, is also the stated position of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He, too, has repeatedly said that while he considers “armed struggle” legitimate in principle, he believes it has proven counterproductive in practice and should therefore be eschewed. So in the eyes of these “pro-Palestinian activists,” Abbas would also apparently qualify as a despised “Zionist.” And since he did, once upon a time, win election on this platform (though he’s now in the 11th year of his four-year term), all the Palestinians who once voted for him are presumably also “Zionists,” and therefore similarly beyond the pale for these “pro-Palestinian” purists.

Granted, the activists in question were South African, and the South African branch of BDS has long been even more pro-violence and more virulently anti-Semitic than the rest of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. But the difference is one of degree rather than kind; “pro-Palestinian” activists elsewhere are also often both pro-violence and anti-Semitic.

Judging by her column, Hass learned nothing from the fact that even she was ostracized as too “Zionist” by these activists. But other well-meaning liberals ought to do so. “Pro-Palestinian activists” who have no place even for Amira Hass in their world have no place for anyone who seeks anything other than Israel’s violent demise. Thus by cooperating with such activists, liberals are not promoting a peaceful two-state solution; they’re promoting the activists’ goal of a world without Israel.


I tell my audiences exactly what they don’t want to hear – and to Jews outside Israel I say: Don’t make aliyah.

“I should warn you. Amira Hass is a Zionist,” a pro-Palestinian activist in South Africa wrote about me two months ago. When she left the room, her fuming eyes already conveyed that what I had said in my conversation with her and her colleagues had gone beyond the party line. For example, I didn’t come out in favor of the magic, one-state solution and didn’t define the wars against Gaza as genocide.

I also told that same audience that it is not enough to analyze the colonial roots of Israel. The historical context must also include the Nazi industry of murder and the fact that most countries refused to take in large numbers of Jewish refugees.

The thing that apparently angered them most was that I dared claim that the use of weapons does not advance the Palestinians’ cause today. It was not because of my Israeli identity that I was critical of the worship of the armed struggle and wars, I clarified, but rather out of a feminist and socialist worldview. I disparaged the lethal male mimicry (whether among soldiers or between Palestinians and soldiers) of competing over “whose is bigger.” The Israelis’ is bigger. Their capacity for destructive revenge is bigger so other means need to be found in the struggle. After all, there is also revolutionary responsibility for preventing more devastation and destruction, and not just understanding the human need of the oppressed for revenge.

I tell every audience also what it doesn’t want to hear. I tell Zionists how surprising it is that Palestinian acts of violence are so few compared to the systematic and humiliating violence that Israelis authorities employ against them. At a pro-Palestinian conference in the Netherlands about two years ago, I said that the Jewish linkage to the Holy Land cannot be ignored, which also prompted fuming eyes, as if I had never written against the dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians.

In meetings with socialist Zionist youth in South Africa I told them they should not immigrate to Israel. As the other Whites, they still benefited from past privilege of criminal proportions in South Africa, so they should stay in their country and fight to genuinely curb the crimes of apartheid. Fully consciously exploiting additional privilege and moving to Israel would be choosing to participate in another crime.

I said something similar on a panel that I moderated at the HaaretzQ conference in New York last week that dealt with struggles for equality. The audience comprised mostly liberal Zionists. The newspaper’s representatives made it clear that Haaretz is a Zionist publication, that its opposition to the occupation stems from Zionist principles. I found it appropriate to distinguish myself from this stance.

Zionism preaches in favor of the immigration of Diaspora Jews to Israel. Every liberal Zionist Jew living well in the Diaspora needed to know that even without “making aliyah,” Israel was granting them rights denied to Palestinians who were born in the country or whose parents were. Diaspora Jews have the right to visit Israel, to acquire Israeli citizenship, to live and work on either side of Israel’s pre-1967 border with the West Bank, to marry an Israeli, travel between Israel and the United States and not lose their rights in either country.

Everything Israel provides Diaspora Jews, it denies the Palestinians. Most of the Palestinians who live abroad are not even entitled to visit the land of their mothers and grandmothers (their real ones; not imaginary ones from thousands of years ago). Those who are allowed to visit are subject to restrictions: Some can’t leave the West Bank, others are not allowed to enter the West Bank, most are barred from going to Gaza.

Israel is not only barring them from returning to their country. It is also preventing them from settling down in the enclaves of the West Bank. Palestinians who have fled or are trying to flee the nightmare of the Syrian slaughterhouse can’t even dream about the most rational of options: taking refuge in their country of origin.

As a rule, Israel bars Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from traveling abroad, to Israel or to the West Bank. It bars them from living in the West Bank and bars West Bank Palestinians from living in about 60 percent of West Bank territory. Jews from Brooklyn or Tel Aviv can settle tomorrow in the Jewish settlement of Ofra. Residents of the Palestinian village of Silwad, whose land was stolen for Ofra, are not entitled to settle in Jaffa or to establish a community on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Palestinian citizens of Israel lose their social rights if they dare live in the West Bank.

People born in Jerusalem are expelled from the country and lose their residency status if they dare marry and work in the U.S. By the way, Israel also prohibits them from living in Kafr Qasem inside Israel, or in Be’er Sheva. They are only allowed to live in the ghettos that we created for them in the united city.

Israel uses Jewish immigration to excuse and deepen the dispossession. Immigrants to Israel become conscious collaborators with the increasingly extreme apartheid policy. Apartheid is considered a crime. We who were born in this country are collaborators against our will. All that remains for us is to use our privileges to fight the regime of privileges and, as much as possible, reduce the level of our collaboration with the dispossession. This course of action is not unique to us. Israel is not the only evil regime in the world creating rights for some groups and depriving others of them. But Israel, by default, is our home.