At the Petach Tikva Magistrate Court, where some of the key suspects in the latest wave of Jewish terror activity were having their remands extended this week, concerned family members huddled in the hallways while hearings were held behind closed doors.
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A passerby paying close attention could not help but take note of the preponderance of English being spoken. And when not English, then American-accented Hebrew.
Is it pure coincidence that a disproportionate number of those taken into custody in the latest crackdown on Jewish extremism in Israel, as well as those cheering them on, are children of immigrants from English-speaking countries or immigrants who hold dual citizenship?
Take the fact that at least one of the key suspects in the arson attack in the West Bank village of Duma that killed three members of the Dawabsheh family in July has an American parent and holds dual citizenship.
This 17-year-old, whose name has been barred from publication, grew up in the West Bank settlement of Tsofim. Another minor suspected of direct involvement in that attack is also reported to hold U.S. citizenship.
Take, for example, the fact that three other Jewish-Israeli terror suspects being held in administrative detention since the summer, even though they are not directly connected to the Duma attack, also hold dual citizenship. The most famous in the group is Meir Ettinger, the grandson of American-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose mother immigrated to Israel from the United States and who grew up in the settlement of Tapuach, a bastion of right-wing extremism. (The racist Kach movement, founded by Kahane, is outlawed in Israel). The other two are Mordechai Meyer, the child of American immigrants from Ma’aleh Adumim, a large, relatively moderate settlement outside of Jerusalem; and Evyatar Slonim, whose parents are Australian.
Finally, this week, another English-speaker – this one caught dancing with a weapon in a controversial wedding clip celebrating the Duma attack – was detained by security forces.
He is Daniel Pinner, a 50-year-old settler from the settlement of Tapuah, who immigrated to Israel from Britain many years ago.
And he was not the only English-speaker celebrating at that infamous wedding, where participants were caught on camera dancing with knives and guns, as one slashed a photo of the dead Dawabsheh baby. The bride, Roni Goldberg, is the daughter of American-born Lenny Goldberg, a former Kahane aide and author of “The Wit and Wisdom of Rabbi Meir Kahane.”
Here’s what Goldberg had to say this week in a column he published on the settler-run Arutz Sheva news service: “Not only don't I care about Duma, neither do the left or the Shin Bet.
“It's just a good excuse for them to harass and torture the hilltop youth they so despise for the Judaism that they represent,” he wrote, referring to the rogue group of youths who engage in illegal settlement activities.
When another daughter of his, barely a teenager then, sat in jail 10 years ago for blocking roads to protest the Gaza disengagement, he could hardly contain his pride. Back then he wrote on that same website: “Obviously, I am not a distraught parent over this. I'm pleased that she is occupied with this, and not with the trivial issues that concern most teenagers. I've educated them all their lives about the need for self-sacrifice for the Jewish People and the Land of Israel -- all, of course, in the comfort of our living room, or over a cholent on Shabbat. To behave as a worried Jewish mother/father now would be the most hypocritical thing of all. It would make a lie of all that I had preached. Besides, I feel guilty that I'm not doing it, so my kids might as well.”
Laura Wharton, an American-born political scientist who represents the left-wing Meretz party on the Jerusalem city council, is not surprised by the large number of children of English-speaking families among the terror suspects, noting that immigrants from these countries tend to be highly ideologically motivated, and are more likely to have radical extremists among their ranks. “I think in general people who immigrate to Israel from English-speaking countries, in fact from all wealthy countries, need a stronger incentive to make the move,” she says. “They also want to make their mark when they come here, for better or for worse.”
Sara Yael Hirschhorn, who has spent many years studying American immigrants living in the West Bank, believes the radicalism could reflect a failure to integrate smoothly into Israeli society. “I think it has to do with the fact that these people are not assimilated in the way that their native Israeli or perhaps other immigrant peers have managed to be,” she observes.
In some cases, she says, these teens may be acting out against their parents for not doing enough to make their mark on Israeli society. “It could be a rebellion against parents they thought had come to do some great ideological pioneering, but instead, turned out to be average suburbanites in places like Ma’aleh Adumim,” notes Hirschhorn, who serves as the University Research Lecturer and Sidney Brichto Fellow in Israel Studies at the University of Oxford.
The author of the upcoming book “City on a Hilltop: Jewish-American Settlers in the Occupied Territories Since 1967,” Hirschhorn has concluded that roughly 60,000 American Jews live in West Bank settlements, where they account for 15 percent of the settler population.
The number of American immigrants living in Israel, including their children, has been estimated at about 170,000.
This is not the first time that U.S. citizens have been associated with or convicted of carrying out terror activities in Israel. In 1994, Brooklyn-born Baruch Goldstein, a physician from Kiryat Arba, massacred 29 Palestinians while they were worshipping in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Yaakov Teitel, originally from Florida, has been convicted of various acts of terrorism and hate crimes against Palestinians, homosexuals, Messianic Jews and left-wingers. Boston-born Baruch Marzel, a Kahane disciple, has a criminal record that includes assaults on Palestinians, policemen and left-wingers. Former New Yorker Ira Rappaport, a member of the Jewish Underground that emerged in the 1980s, was found guilty of involvement in a car bombing that left the former mayor of Nablus maimed.
Already back then, American immigrants had acquired a reputation as potential extremists.
Chaim Waxman, a retired professor of sociology and Jewish studies at Rutgers University, who has published extensively on immigration to Israel from the United States, recalls teaching a course at Tel Aviv University in the 1980s when reports about the Jewish Underground first started surfacing. “I remember the students talking about those ‘crazy Americans,’ even though only one member of the Underground was an American,” he recounts. “But that is an impression that many Israelis have.”