Suspect in attack on Arabs in Jerusalem - Olivier Fitoussi
The 19-year-old suspect at an extension of his remand in Jerusalem, August 20, 2012. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Dozens of Jewish teens attacked three Palestinian teens in Jerusalem's Zion Square last weekend, seriously injuring one of them. The police at first treated the incident as a brawl; only on Sunday did they change their tune and begin treating it as an attempted lynching that failed only by chance to end in death. Now, we expect the police to know what it takes to indict everyone involved in this loathsome hate crime.

Eyewitnesses said the Jewish hooligans continued kicking the wounded youth, 17-year-old Jamal Julani, even after he was already crumpled up on the ground, while their comrades shouted racist, anti-Arab slogans. Dozens of Israelis watched this happen without lifting a finger. Their apathy is only slightly less grave than the behavior of those who perpetrated the lynching. Even the denunciations of the prime minister and other public figures can't obscure the fact that this lunching has a deep-seated political and social context.

The suspected perpetrators are children and teens. They absorbed their hatred of Arabs from their environment: perhaps at home, certainly from the educational and political systems. When incitement against Arabs has become politically correct, when rabbis urge the public to treat Arabs in a racist manner and aren't fired from their posts, when the Knesset passes legislation over which a nationalist and racist flag waves, when the education minister extols Jewish supremacy over the Palestinians in Hebron, it's impossible to complain solely about those teens, who translated all this into the language of violence.

The brother of one of the suspects tried to justify this lawlessness by saying the victims had "started up with Jewish girls" - and it's clear he had heard such "accusations" more than once from Knesset members and rabbis. These, and others before them over the years, also bear responsibility.

Israeli society can no longer continue to play the innocent and pretend that it's shocked by an incident like this, to treat it as an exception and make do with limp denunciations. It's necessary to pull this hatred up by the roots, which were planted, inter alia, by our leadership. This means ending the policy of pushing Palestinians to the margins and implementing a vigorous government policy to integrate Arabs into Israeli society. Otherwise, such incidents will not only keep recurring, but will get even worse.