Reality check: The writing, literally, was on the wall

Israelis have no right to be shocked by the murder of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha.

Hebrew grafitti at the Dawabsha family home in Duma where a fire engulfed the house after a molotov cocktail was thrown at it (photo credit: ZAKARIA, RABBIS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS)
Hebrew grafitti at the Dawabsha family home in Duma where a fire engulfed the house after a molotov cocktail was thrown at it
How can Israelis be shocked by the petrol- bombing murder of 18-month-old toddler Ali Dawabsha in the West Bank village of Duma?
It’s not as if this is the first time a young Palestinian boy has been deliberately burnt to death by extremist right-wing Israelis, or has the country already forgotten last year’s sickening abduction and murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir? Nor is it the first time Arab villages have been the target of settler violence. A quick glance of the list of so-called “price tag” attacks just since Abu Khdeir’s murder last year includes a burnt minibus in the village of Yasuf (August 2014); the felling of dozens of olive trees, also in Yasuf (October 2014); the firebombing of the mosque in the village of Aqraba (October 2014); more firebombing at the mosque at al-Mughayyir (November 2014); as well as the torching of a house in Khirbet Abu Falah, also last November, where “Death to the Arabs” was scrawled on the house.
Quite literally, the writing on the wall was there for all to see.
And these Jewish extremists haven’t constrained themselves to only attacking Palestinian villages.
The Jewish-Arab Max Rayne Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem was torched at the end of last year – one of the very rare examples in which the arsonists were actually caught by police and convicted by the courts – while Christian places of worship have also been a favored target.
Vandalized churches include the walls of the Catholic monastery at Deir Rafat near Beit Shemesh (April 2014); graffiti smeared on the Notre Dame Center in east Jerusalem (May 2014); “Jesus is garbage” painted on the walls of the St. George Romanian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem (May 2014); an arson attack on a Greek Orthodox seminary next to Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate (February 2015) and, most recently, the burning down in June of part of the Benedictine Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha, on the Sea of Galilee.
Way back in 2012, Dan Halutz, the former IDF chief-of-general-staff, told Army Radio that the authorities were not doing enough to crack down on “price tag” vandalism, saying: “If we wanted, we could catch them.” A year later, after car tires were slashed in Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem, then Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich commented: “It is not logical that Israel, which is blessed with intelligence and operational capabilities that are among the best in the world, cannot catch an extremist group that causes indescribable damage.”
AND YET no serious efforts have been made to hunt down and convict the suspected terrorists. As President Reuven Rivlin bluntly said in a statement he issued in Arabic at the end of last week, Israel’s authorities have been lax in dealing with Jewish terrorists.
Rivlin declared that it was not enough to talk about the need to fight terrorism, something had to actually be done about it. Importantly, the president listed some of the steps that need to be taken to stamp out the violence engulfing the extremists on Israel’s Right. These include, he said, fighting against racism, acknowledging the importance of the rule of law, respecting the judicial system, democratic values and the dignity of all human beings.
Unfortunately, Israel’s government, headed by the racist (“the Arabs are coming out in their droves to vote”) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is doing its utmost to undermine the rule of law, particularly when it involves Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
Netanyahu’s decision to “reward” the violent protesters of Beit El with the construction of 300 new houses following the court-ordered demolition of two buildings illegally built there on privately owned Palestinian land sends exactly the wrong message to the settler community and will only encourage more acts of violence against the police and IDF soldiers ensuring the execution of High Court decisions.
Moreover, the prime minister’s failure to harshly condemn Bayit Yehudi MK Moti Yogev’s threat to destroy the Supreme Court with a D-9 bulldozer (Netanyahu’s weak response was “too little, too late” in the carefully chosen words of former Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch), or discipline Tourism Minister Yariv Levin for his comments highlight Netanyahu’s ambivalence stance toward the rule of law.
While President Rivlin calls for respect for court decisions, Netanyahu allows Levin, a minister from his own party, to get away with calling the High Court’s Beit El decision “a disgrace and another moral stain on the legal system” and describing the Supreme Court as “dominated by a radical Left school of thought, which encompasses most of its judges.”
Later this year, we will be remembering the 20th anniversary of the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Back then, Netanyahu did nothing (I’m being charitable here) to stamp out the vicious incitement and acts of violence carried out by rightwing extremists in the run-up to Rabin’s murder. It seems he has learned nothing since then.
The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.