Between France and the Malha mall
The fact that such a hate crime is barely even reported in Israel is much more serious than the blows at the mall. The police allow it to happen, hundreds of eyewitness turn aside. No one saw, no one heard, who cares?
The voice on the other end of the phone was clearly very upset. Its owner had rung late at night to talk about the "pogrom," as he called it, at Jerusalem's Malha shopping mall a few days before. As the former head of one of the state law enforcement agencies he was particularly outraged that the incident had attracted no media attention and that no arrests had been made.
On Friday the full, terrible truth of the incident came to light. Oz Rosenberg reported in this newspaper that last Monday night hundreds of Beitar Jerusalem soccer fans rampaged through the mall, chanted racist slogans, spat at female Arab workers and attacked dozens of male Arab workers with their fists, their feet and with sticks.
"They caught some of them and beat the hell out of them," Rosenberg quoted one shop owner as saying. "They hurled people into shops, and smashed them against shop windows."
Mall director Gideon Avrahami said he had never seen such a "disgraceful, shocking, racist incident." On Tuesday he took the praiseworthy step of calling a meeting with the shopping center's Arab employees and apologizing to them. "How could you see such a thing and do nothing?" one asked.
And indeed, no one did anything. There were hundreds of eyewitnesses, security cameras recorded everything, the police came - and no one was arrested, no one bothered to tell the media (with the exception of my informant, the former lawman ). The incident occurred some hours after the massacre at the Jewish school in Toulouse. Even though what happened in France was much more violent and terrible, there is a straight line between it and the rampage in Malha - both were racist hate crimes. Those who fail to raise their voice now over Malha will get Toulouse in Jerusalem. Sticks today, guns tomorrow.
It's not hard to imagine what would have happened had hundreds of people burst into a mall in Toulouse and beat up Jews who worked there. Israel and the Jewish community would have set up a hue and cry. The president of the republic would have rushed to Toulouse, met with representatives of the Jewish community and expressed his shock and regret. Our prime minister and foreign minister would have competed with each other in expressing shock, and columnists would be fulminating about anti-Semitism raising its ugly head in Europe. Everyone would agree: Jews were beat up (again ) simply for being Jewish.
It's also not hard to imagine what would have happened had hundreds of Arabs stormed the Jerusalem mall, beating up Jewish workers. Dozens of rioters would have been arrested and tried. But when it comes to Beitar fans, all is forgiven, all is overlooked. No one was arrested, almost no one said anything, and even after it was made public the mall's manager was the only one to apologize to the workers, who were beaten up simply for being Arab.
This was not a rare, one-off event, of course. The Beitar entourage strikes again. It starts with their racist and ultranationalist chants and songs, continues to hitting and will end in murders. One of the young rioters boasted the following day (to my informant's daughter) about what he and his friends had done the previous evening. Apparently anti-Arab violence is a source of cheer: Beitar finally won a game, you have to celebrate somehow. It's easy to imagine what would have happened had they lost.
True, all of these mini-pogroms must be stopped, their perpetrators prosecuted. True, something should have been done long ago about Beitar Jerusalem's fans, to the point of dissolving their racist team. But the problem is much bigger than the Teddy Stadium and Beitar's lousy season, even. The fact that such a hate crime is barely even reported in Israel is much more serious than the blows at the mall. The police allow it to happen, hundreds of eyewitness turn aside. No one saw, no one heard, who cares?
At the same time that a terrorist is mercilessly murdering children in Toulouse, in Jerusalem hundreds of young people are running amok - not yet killing but already threatening to do so. "Death to Jews" has already come true in Toulouse, terribly, and it rocked the world. "Death to Arabs" in Malha is still a only slogan, happily - but it is we who created it and it provoked no frenzy among us except for the pre-Passover shopping frenzy that resumed the next day at the mall, as if nothing had happened.