Washington Watch: Justice, justice will you pursue?

January 6, 2016 21:51
4 minute read.
Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List

Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List. (photo credit: REUTERS)

I was struck by the contrasting reactions of the fathers of two accused terrorists, both Israelis. One son shot up a Tel Aviv pub, murdering two and wounding seven; the other firebombed a house, killing an infant boy and his parents and severely wounding a four-year-old brother. Both sons have records of hate crimes.

One father quickly alerted police when he suspected his son’s involvement, and publicly expressed deep regret over the incident, offering condolences to the victims and their families. He declared his “loyalty” and “love” for Israel. The other father insisted his son was innocent and that his confession was tortured out of him. He denounced the State of Israel and declared his hatred for it. He called the country’s leader “the fuhrer.”

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The father who called on his son to surrender is an Israeli Arab who has been a volunteer with the Israel Police for more than 30 years.

The other father, who called Israel the “most anti-Semitic country in the world,” is the ultra-Orthodox rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Karmei Zur.

The Arab suspect in the shooting on Dizengoff Street, Nashat Milhem, 31, is still at large as of this writing. Early Tuesday, his father, who has called on his son to surrender, and five other relatives and family friends were arrested as possible accessories, but some reports suggest they were being used as bait to get Milhem to turn himself in.

The Jew, Amiram Ben-Uliel, 21, was indicted last week for the July 31 fatal firebombing of the Dawabsha family home in the village of Duma while they slept.

A third father sought to take political advantage of the tragedies. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, noting that his sons were about the same age as the pub shooting victims, tried to spread the blame over all Israeli Arabs and exploit the tragedy for political gain.

Six months earlier, he condemned the Duma arson as “Jewish terrorism” but dismissed the killers as “extreme and marginal, and [they] certainly don’t represent religious Zionism.”

But on Dizengoff Street this weekend the Israeli leader played his customary race card with a verbal assault on Israel’s Arab citizens.

He blamed the killings on “wild incitement of radical Islam,” and lectured one fifth of the nation’s population about its responsibilities as citizens. He demanded all Arab Knesset members, “without exception...

condemn the murder clearly and unequivocally.” There was no such demand of Jewish MKs after the Duma murders.

Netanyahu cemented his position as Israel’s inciter-in-chief with his wholesale indictment of Israel’s Arabs and dismissal of Jewish terrorists as an almost irrelevant fringe group.

In terrorist attacks when he was out of power, Netanyahu was quick to blame the sitting prime minister for lax security. But now that he’s in charge, it’s always someone else’s fault.

Netanyahu has that Trumpian penchant for taking credit for what works and blaming others for what goes wrong.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said the prime minister smeared all Israeli Arabs because of his own inability to provide security.

The YNET.com news site called Netanyahu’s speech a “diatribe” similar to the one on election eve last year, when he warned his followers to rush to the polls because Arab citizens were voting in “droves.”

At a time when the nation needed a leader who could heal wounds, Netanyahu offered fear and incitement.

He claimed that Arabs in the Wadi Ara region where the killer came from were celebrating the murder when just the opposite was true.

Ayman Odeh, head of the Arab bloc in Knesset, accused Netanyahu of incitement against the Israeli Arab community.

He pointed out that community leaders throughout the country had condemned last week’s shooting as “inexcusable” and “despicable.”

But Arutz Sheva, the news service of the religious Zionists and settlers, has suggested that Ben-Uliel was being “framed” and the firebombing “may have been an inside job committed by feuding residents of the Arab village.”

Too often the settler movement simply turns a blind eye to the violent gangs like the Hilltop Youth and other extremists, brushing aside their actions as simple vandalism by “fringe groups” of impetuous youth angered by something the Palestinians have done.

As the indictment was handed down for Ben-Uliel and a young accomplice, and police searched for Milhem, Israeli security forces were destroying the Jerusalem homes of the families of two Arab terrorists.

Hussein Dawabsha, whose family was torched in Duma, said, “In my view the test of the Israeli authorities is whether they will destroy the homes of the [Jewish] attackers as they do to Palestinians.”

Indeed, that will be a test for Netanyahu and for Israel. Is there equal justice for all, regardless of ethnicity? Netanyahu sees settlers, nationalists and Religious Zionists as his core constituents and has been reluctant to crack down on the extremists, creating what one Israeli human rights leader called “a climate of impunity with the settlers.”

Ben-Uliel is part of a movement called The Revolt, according to the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency), that wants to overthrow the elected government by fomenting war with the Arabs, driving out all non-Jews and establishing a Jewish monarchy that will rebuild the Temple and follow strict halachic law, a Jewish version of an Islamic republic.

I am not oblivious to Arab terrorism and I am well aware it is more extensive and more deadly than Jewish terrorism, and that it often has the tacit approval of the Arab street, and even the president of the Palestinian Authority. But blaming all Arabs, particularly Israel citizens, while giving scant attention to Jewish terrorism, as Netanyahu does, is foolish and dangerous.

At a time when the nation needs leadership and healing, this prime minister seems capable only of offering more incitement and racism, guaranteeing more violence and misery for Jews and Arabs alike.

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