Like the Newtown Massacre, the Palestinian Baby’s Murder Won’t Change a Thing

Israeli right-wing leaders and NRA supporters in America view calls for change as cynical ploys by political opponents.

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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Photos of Ali Saad Dawabsheh, an 18-month-old Palestinian killed by suspected Jewish extremists, lie in his firebombed house  in the West Bank village of Douma, Fri., July 31, 2015.
Photos of Ali Saad Dawabsheh, an 18-month-old Palestinian killed by suspected Jewish extremists, lie in his firebombed house in the West Bank village of Douma, Fri., July 31, 2015.Credit: AP
Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

Adam Lanza entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 carrying a .223-caliber Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, a 10mm Glock 20SF handgun, and a 9mm SIG Sauer P226 handgun. He proceeded to murder six adults and 20 angelic little children aged five to seven. President Obama, in one of his more impressive addresses, said: “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”

At first it seemed that the presidential message was having an impact: a shocked public seemed to be demanding an end to the lunacy that allows a disturbed young man to acquire an arsenal worthy of a military commando unit. But then the powerful National Rifle Association stepped in: together with Republican leaders and conservative commentators, it accused the president of exploiting the tragedy in order to impose his reviled liberal gun-control agenda. A few short months later, Congress rejected efforts to ban the sale of assault rifles and to mandate automatic background checks for all gun purchasers.

The burning of 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsheh in the West Bank village of Douma is completely different, of course, but it is destined to go through a similar process of much ado about nothing. While there is no reason to doubt the genuine expressions of shock and horror voiced by right wing and settler leaders, there is also no expectation that they might recognize any connection between the horror inflicted on the Dawabsheh family and the continued occupation, hatred of Arabs and sabotage of the rule of law that many of them have promoted for decades. And anyone who says so is nothing more than a defaming demonizing demagogue.

Just as the champions of unencumbered gun sales in America refuse to come to terms with the United States being the world’s unchallenged leader in mass shootings and gun-related homicides, so settler and right-wing leaders refuse to recognize the unassailable fact that all Jewish terrorists, bar none, come from their ranks. They prefer to devote their energies to inflating the damage done by a handful of fringe leftists while turning a blind eye to the “wild weeds” that have taken control of their own back yards. And in Israel, mind you, we don’t have a president who will confront this right wing, but a prime minister who is one of their own.

Opponents of gun control view the incredible homicide rates in the U.S. as either completely unrelated to the mass distribution of guns or as regrettable collateral damage that does not justify any curtailment of the individual freedoms supposedly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Since Obama came to power, many of them view gun control initiatives as barely disguised conspiracies aimed at disarming them in advance of a hostile Federal takeover. In Israel, calls by the left and the center are similarly viewed as barely disguised plots aimed at destroying the settlement enterprise.

Since the Newtown massacre there have been almost 900 incidents of mass shootings in the U.S., with or without casualties, including the June murder of nine African-Americans in a Charleston church. The racist backdrop of the crime did lead to a sea change in the public’s attitude toward the Confederate flag, but suggestions made by Obama and others to review gun control laws were seen as no more than going through the motions. The lobby for continued fostering of slavery-related symbols of the long gone South is only a shadow of what it was in the past, but for serious changes to gun control – just like for any dramatic confrontation with the roots of settler violence – a much deeper shock will be needed.

The Douma arson won’t be remembered as a turning point for Israel’s image in the U.S. either. The media reported on it, but not in it its main headlines: the stabbing of six participants in the Jerusalem Gay Pride march drew far more attention. Both events, however, together with last year's war in Gaza, the confrontation with Obama over Iran and other, similar incidents in recent years, are cementing the branding of Israel as an extremist, religious and slightly disturbed country.

The only sector completely immune to this perception is the American right, which, coincidentally or not, is the same right that will make any sacrifice in order to ensure that Americans can keep on killing each other wholesale, and not just one by one.

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