Pogroms and patriotism: The state is with you
Is it any wonder that the lynch mob thinks of itself as a savior, and the thugs believe they are carrying out the government’s will, while the Israeli state itself pays only the faintest of lip service to its duties?
In the history classes of our school days, when our teachers taught us about modern Jewish settlement in Israel, they recounted that Arab rioters setting out to wreak havoc among Jews in pre-State days used to work themselves up with the cry A-dawlah maana! — meaning “The state is with us." The authorities (back then, the British) are turning a blind eye to us, so we can do whatever we please. No harm will come to us. Why? A-dawla maana.
Now, new rioters have sprung up here. Jews this time. “Price tag” hooligans and just plain thugs, with masked faces and veiled souls, wielding axes and torches, saws and knives, foul mouths and spray paint cans for defiling and desecrating streets and sacred places.
Last week they threw firebombs at a Palestinian taxi and just a few days later we saw a lynching. In the heart of Jerusalem, a gang of Jewish youth pounced on a few Arab youth and thrashed them. They almost killed one of their victims. The only crime of those they targeted, and of those in the taxi that was firebombed, was simply that they were not Jewish.
To this disgraceful list we must add the variety of serial abuses that Palestinians, foreigners and those of different faiths suffer in Israel — from the “tradition” of spitting in the faces of priests and monks, through the mob that rioted at refugees’ shops in south Tel Aviv, to the attempted stabbings and serial assaults on African migrants, including the torching of an apartment in Jerusalem together with its inhabitants, who included a pregnant woman. And above all else, the endless, continuous sequence, year after year, of Palestinians orchards vandalized, farmers attacked, defenseless people abused, and more and more.
This entire evil horde has one common denominator, distinct and prominent: the carefree, comfortable belief that the government is with them. That the regime is on their side. That with the legal authorities and their enforcement arms turning a blind eye, they can give free rein to their impulses. Because a-dawlah maana.
In fact, it isn’t hard to understand why they believe this. The dawlah — the state — is after all doing very little to contradict it. Among hundreds, perhaps thousands, of crimes against non-Jews, both inside Israel and in the occupied territories, indictments are rarer than diamonds. Convictions? A rarity indeed. Punishments range from the feeble to ridiculous. Is it any surprise that all those people who cut down olive trees, destroy orchards, and torch and desecrate mosques, together with the other the racist thugs, are all convinced that the government and its agencies are on their side?
And if ever some enforcement authority dares do something, immediately one of their leaders stands up and gives lip service in support of law enforcement. For example Eliezer Melamed, the rabbi of the Har Bracha settlement, responded to price tag attacks a year ago by saying that: "We don't aspire to private vengeance, but to state vengeance led by the Israel Defense Forces and all the systems of government," legitimizing racism and aggression by ‘converting’ it to acts with state sanction.
No wonder, then, that the rabbi’s disciples are convinced that “price tag” thuggery is doing the Lord’s work. Moreover, the Minister of the Interior misses no opportunity to incite all willing listeners against the “uncircumcised,” “contagion-bearing,” “criminal” refugees who threaten “Jewish identity” and announces that he intends to embitter their lives until they flee.
Knesset members attempt to besmirch the legislature with a mélange of bills that should bring a shuddering chill of repulsion to the skin of every Jew. All these things together — incitement, failure in law enforcement, a legislature with neither discretion nor direction, a government that shuns its duties — is it any wonder that all the pogromists feel like patriots? And the lynch mob thinks of itself as the obvious savior of our daughters’ honor? And to all the thugs, isn't it clear beyond a doubt that they are the government’s legions, carrying out its will? And they all believe uniformly, and wholeheartedly (to the extent that they have hearts), that a-dawla maahoom — the state is with them. On their side.
But they are not the only ones responsible for that abominable belief. To our sorrow and misfortune, the guilt belongs first of all to the dawla, the state, itself.
Rachel Liel is the Executive Director of the New Israel Fund.