‘Handful,’ ‘Wild Weeds’ — the Right Is Still Putting a Spin on Murder

One cabinet member talked about 'a marginal anarchist group,' while another mentioned a mere 'handful.' But the culprits are from the center of the action.

Olivier Fitoussi

It happened 20 years ago, immediately after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The good relations between the kibbutzim of the United Kibbutz Movement and the Religious Kibbutz Movement in the Beit She’an Valley deteriorated seriously. Secular kibbutzniks, some of them personal friends of Rabin, couldn’t endure business as usual with the wearers of knitted skullcaps.

To remedy the situation, a conference was held of all kibbutzim in the valley. One speaker was Israel Harel, a leader of the settlement movement (and for many years now a fellow Haaretz columnist).

To play down the assassination and distance it from the settlers, Harel called the prime minister’s murderer a “wild weed.” You, as farmers, said Harel, know that weeds grow at the edge of the field. As if to say: The murderer is from the margins, he doesn’t represent us — the moderate and level-headed settlers of Gush Emunim. He’s from the edge of the field.

But then Zerubavel Arbel, a member of Kibbutz Maoz Haim, spoke. Arbel was one of the first members of the Palmach prestate strike force, an intelligence officer who worked in the fields to his dying day. He said: Young man, I don’t know what kind of farmer you are, but I’ve been a farmer for 50 years and I’m telling you that wild weeds don’t grow at the edge of the field, they grow next to the irrigation valve.

Boom! In one sentence Arbel said it all — not only that the assassin didn’t come from the margins, he came from the center of the action. He studied at Bar-Ilan University and was close to political activists in the territories, where he was supported by rabbis. He was next to the main valve, with water abundant.

And that’s how right-wing spokespeople still describe the murderers, the arsonists, the pogrom inciters and the attackers of Israeli soldiers: a “handful,” “marginal,” “wild weeds.”

This week, with infinite hypocrisy, they criticized the murder of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, for example, called his murderers “a marginal anarchist group that underwent processes of extremism.” It “underwent” — but how? Without any guidance and education? Without the daily dehumanization of Palestinians by leaders of the right?

Do you remember, for example, Rafael Eitan’s “drugged cockroaches in a bottle”? Do you remember “The King’s Torah" — the book on Jewish law by the rabbis of the settlement of Yitzhar? It explains when it’s desirable to kill non-Jews. Are you familiar with the organization Lehava and its leader Bentzi Gopstein, who recently said churches should be burned?

And how is it that rabbis of West Bank yeshivas refuse to provide information on “price tag” rioters and still receive a state salary? And how is it that the authorities didn’t arrest everyone who raised a hand against Israeli soldiers and punctured their tires? All this is educating people to carry out extremism, to commit crime and murder, Mr. Erdan.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett also did a great job of it this week when he talked about a “handful,” “a few dozen anarchists” who have no connection to his political camp. But what about Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who admitted in the Knesset that he had given that same handful information about the movement of Israeli forces to prevent the evacuation of illegal outposts?

In the context of their claims about that “handful,” right-wingers are saying the left has its “handful” of dangerous extremists. So let’s draw up a partial list of the attackers and political assassins on the right, most of whom are skullcap wearers.

There’s Rabin’s assassin, the Jewish-underground murderers (15 convicted men from the cream of the settlers), Baruch Goldstein, Yona Avrushmi, the Bat Ayin underground, Yisrael Lederman, Yehuda Richter, Danny Eisenman, Ami Popper, Eden Natan-Zada, Asher Vizgan, Jack Tytell, Yosef Ben David and two minors, and the two who murdered the baby in the cruelest possible way — burning.

Now let’s wait patiently for Erdan, Bennett and Harel to provide us with a list of murderers from the leftist handful.