No less shocking than the deaths of an 18-month-old Palestinian baby and a 16-year-old Jewish girl over the weekend, is the blatant dishonesty of the responses to their killings, from the president and prime minister on down.
“Flames of violence have engulfed our country,” said President Rivlin after an ultra-Orthodox man stabbed six participants in a Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem, one of whom later died of her injuries. “Flames which permit bloodshed in the name of the Torah, in the name of the law, in the name of morality, in the name of a love for the land of Israel.”
“Their path is not my path,” the good president added. “Their path is not our path. Their path is not the path of the State of Israel and it is not the path of the Jewish people.”
As if Rivilin did not grow up in the revisionist Herut movement, heir to the terrorist Irgun under Menachem Begin. As if he never served under the terrorist Yitzahak Shamir. As if he is blissfully unaware of the murderous rampages of the Gush Emunim underground, Baruch Goldstein, Ami Popper, Eden Natan-Zada and many others.
As if he has not been a long-time and consistent supporter of Israeli state terror in the occupied territories, from military violence against civilians that has gone unpunished to the blatant theft of Palestinian land the imprisonment of children. Not to mention the blanket bombing of residential areas in Gaza, of course.
And Rivlin is one of the relatively good guys; as president he has made a point of reaching out to Palestinian Israelis as equal citizens (though in practice they are anything but.)
Prime Minister Benjamin “The Arabs are moving in droves to the polling stations” Netanyahu also condemned the weekend’s violence, waxing eloquently about the “shared values underpinning Israeli society,” which no “despicable killer” would be allowed to undermine.”
What shared values? Those of the nationality bill Netanyahu has been promoting which elevates Jewishness above democracy? Or those of the two-state solution which, he said earlier this year, will never come about so long as he’s in charge? Or perhaps he was thinking of the shared value of rewarding settlers who steal Palestinian land?
It would be nice to simply attribute the feigned shock and horror of Israel’s leaders to the hypocrisy that it clearly is. How else can one describe Naftali Bennett’s condemnation of the violence – only days after he stood on a roof in Beit El, urging the mob to violently oppose a legal decision by Israel’s Supreme Court? It is hypocrisy, certainly, as well as duplicity and sanctimoniousness. But most of all, it is rooted deeply in Israel’s history.
Last weekend’s violence did not occur in a vacuum. Nor are its perpetrators simply “bad apples,” as those in the settlement and religious movements would have us believe. The entire orchard is rotten. It began with a little rot 50 years ago and now the whole place is putrid.
Just as rot, if not dealt with, breeds more rot, lawlessness breeds lawlessness and impunity breeds impunity. When the state fills the occupied territories with settlers, in defiance of international law, what basis is there to think that the settlers themselves will keep to the straight and narrow?
When the state fails, time after time, to punish soldiers for egregious violence, when it is unable to even find settlers responsible for crimes against Palestinians, never mind punish them, why should the errant soldiers and settlers not take it as a nod-and-a-wink to continue with their exploits?
When the state deliberately defies court orders or finds legalistic subterfuges to circumvent them, why should its agents and proxies feel any greater obligation to be bound by the law?
To be fair to Netanyahu, he didn’t start the rot. His nine years in power have seen an unprecedented expansion of lawlessness, arbitrariness and impunity, but Bibi inherited a strong platform from which to work. The roots of this weekend’s killings go back to the first settlements approved by Yitzhak Rabin and the immortal Shimon Peres. Back to the lies, deceptions and capricious legal dispensations that first allowed Jews to seize Arab territory.
They also go back to the first Israeli governments, which bought Orthodox support by jettisoning the concept of church-state separation and giving religion a key role in the running of the state. The result of that myopia has not only been religious terrorism over civil life – the lack of civil marriage, the kashrut regime, the lack of public transport on Shabbat etc. – it also legitimized the intrusion of the sacred into the domain of the secular.
The Jewish terrorists who burned 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsheh to death and left his mother, father and brother fighting for their lives spray-painted “Long live the Messiah” on the walls of the house they torched. Shortly before killing Shira Banki, 16, and injuring five others at the Gay Pride parade, Yishai Schlissel handed out a pamphlet saying that it was the “duty of every Jew to expose himself to beatings and imprisonment and in my opinion to danger too, and join together to stop and abort this sacrilege.”
The assailants in both incidents come from religious population groups that have been wooed and pampered by successive governments over decades. They have been fed endless streams of cash to study, rather than to work, and to settle the Holy Land. They have learned that laws (regarding such things as paying taxes and doing military service) are for others not for them. State handouts have enabled them to study and refine their messianic fantasies, firm in the knowledge that they have strong support in the highest echelons of government.
Is it any surprise, then, that they end up killing Palestinian babies and secular Jewish teenagers?