The latest criticism heard from the UN is that Israel is not moving fast enough to deal with the Jews who allegedly set a fire that killed several members of a Palestinian family, as well as other outrages.
Ahmed Tibi, MD, perhaps the brightest anti-Zionist Member of Knesset, has been prodding and helping UN officials to sharpen their criticism.
Tibi is not urging the UN to criticize the Palestinian Authority for naming streets, traffic circles, and other public spaces after declared martyrs, who gave their lives when attacking Israelis with knifes, guns, hatchets, or cars.
Tibi is also skipping over a chronic trait--we might say weakness, which Tibi should know--of the Israel police and judiciary to deal slowly with cases that are complex.
The same can be said about Israeli courts and civil cases. Better to pay, or accept less than what is owed, rather than sue, spend years and lots for attorney fees in hopes of a better result..
Ehud Olmert is a case in point, by no means an exception. The former Mayor of Jerusalem, Health Minister, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, Finance Minister, and Prime Minister left dodgy footprints in all of his offices. There were stories about Olmert from the 1980s onward. Police investigations of alleged corruption in his various positions began as early as 2006, with an indictment issued in 2009. Convictions came in 2012 for breach of trust and a suspended sentence, a conviction for bribery in 2014 with a prison sentence of six years.
Olmert is still outside the walls, while his appeal inches its way through judicial chambers.
The police and judges may act quickly in the case of Palestinians arrested at the scene of their violence or soon after. Many admit their crimes, and may even boast of them. One doubts that police questioning is gentle. However, in several cases when the government has sought to destroy the family homes of those who murdered, the process of appeals has delayed action for a year or more. In some of these procedures, the courts have ruled against the government.
Israel's violent rightists have not made it easy for the police. They train recruits to resist police questioning. Kids as young as 12 have sat for days, doing what their guidebook (prepared by a disciple of Rabbi Meir Kahane) tells them in not looking at their interrogator, and not responding to questions. Israeli courts recognize the right of an accused to remain silent, so anyone capable of it can outsit the cops if there is no independent evidence of guilt.
There is also some understanding in the public of Jews living in the West Bank who suffer from Palestinian violence on the roads, destruction of crops and other property. The police cannot be everywhere, and a bit of revenge may let the Arabs know the price of their misbehavior.
Against this are many Israeli Jews ashamed of the extremists, especially those who kill.
Prominent recent cases are the three deaths in a family home set on fire in the northern West Bank, and a teenager kidnapped from the street of an Arab suburb of Jerusalem, beaten to death, and his body burned in the Jerusalem forest.
Two individuals have been found guilty of killing the Jerusalem area teenager, and are awaiting sentencing. A third is waiting resolution of his psychiatric condition.
New information about the killing of three family members is currently in the headlines.
Officials have used the device of administrative detention against Jews where there is certainty of guilt, but short of proof that will assure a judicial verdict. Security personnel are loathe to reveal their sources of intelligence among the radicals, and this has kept a number of suspects in an administrative limbo.
The police have arrested a number of Jews in connection with the burning of the home and the killing of Arab family members. Not released was the names of those arrested, or any information other than that they were juveniles. Ranking police officers are saying that there is still a long way before there is enough material for an indictment.
Not everything here is open. The public's right to know takes a back seat in cases defined as national security.
The police can obtain a court order forbidding the publication of sensitive information. Media personnel may say they know something interesting, but cannot report it. Then we may go to the Internet, and Google (in Hebrew) until we find a blogger who has posted what seems to be accurate information.
News of an arrest of young people for the home burning came along with an item that the latest Arab killed while trying to attack Jews was a member of the Palestinian security forces, and that authorities had decided that a rape of a Jew by an Arab three years ago was an act of terror. This decision, despite its delay, will allow special government payments and other services for the victim.
Later in the day Palestinians were charging that an Israeli hospital was demanding more than a million shekels (c $250,000) for the treatment of the one family member to survive the fire, while the IDF officer with responsibility for the West Bank said that Israel had made it clear it would cover the costs of treatment.
Also in the air was the most recent mass killing in the United States, done by a Muslim couple who used assault rifles along with other weapons. The FBI, perhaps with its ear to the White House was pondering at length whether it was an act of Islamic terror, or due at least in part to some other motive.. While some use the term Islamic terror for the 2009 rampage at Ft Hood by Major Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 and injured more than 30, after being in contact with radical preachers in the Middle East, federal law enforcement agencies described it as "workplace violence."
Price Tag is the slogan adopted by some Jews for their rampages against mosques, Christian churches, and Arab property. It's not clear if there is an integrated group, or a variety of individuals or small clusters who have taken on the task of revenge for Arab violence and what Christians did in centuries past. We hear estimates of a few hundred activists, and extremist rabbis with a messianic mission to purify the Land of Israel of foreign or hostile elements.
Enlightened Tag is an organization vocal in opposing those who seek to clothe their extremism in religious or nationalist terms.
It is not clear what portion of the Israeli public endorses the work of Price Tag, what portion would advance the program of Enlightened Tag, and what portion is indifferent to both.
Since the announcement about the arrest of individuals involved in the fire and deaths of an Arab family, we are hearing Arab activists claiming that authorities have been lax in administering the law against those who attack Arabs, as well as attorneys concerned about civil rights and family members of the accused claiming they were denied their rights for sufficient sleep, medical attention, and meetings with attorneys.
Others say that the denial of conventional rights occurs within the framework of law and judicial process, and are necessary compromises with civil rights in order to preserve the basic framework of democracy in the presence of extremism.
It may help Americans preserve their rights if they admit the hostility inherent in fashionable forms of Islam, as well as the need to deal with the easy availability of firearms. There have been 354 cases of at least four killings in the US during 2015. Overall, the annual US homicide rate is 3.8 per 100,000, while the average for Western European countries is 1.2, and Israel's is 1.8.
It's no surprise that gun advocates say that having a firearm is the best defense in the event of a mass shooting.
Anyone inclined to criticize the efforts of Israelis to keep order might weigh its shortcomings against those of Palestinians to praise and reward violence.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem