There is nothing about which Israelis are more in denial than nationalist crime by Jews, especially Jewish terrorism. In the Israeli mind, terrorists are always Arabs, religious extremism is always Islamic and racism and violence are always the sins of others. Israelis and Jews are always the victims – victims of terror, victims of hatred, victims of antisemitism.
When reality contradicts Israelis’ prior opinions of themselves, the public response is always the same: This was an exception to the rule. When Jews assault Palestinians, kill, burn, shoot, persecute, loot, destroy, steal, abuse and throw stones, it’s always a one-of-a-kind incident that doesn’t even register as a statistic, much less as a widespread problem. They are always deemed “wild weeds.”
Even now, when a 3-year-old Palestinian boy is hospitalized with a head wound in Be’er Sheva’s Soroka Medical Center because dozens of masked settlers threw stones at him, his family and other residents of his village while also vandalizing and destroying everything in their path, in an incident that can only be described as a pogrom – even now, Israelis don’t see themselves as violent. Almost all of them will say this incident was terrible but unrepresentative. Thuggery, terror, violence and murderous nationalism are always Palestinian.
Given this, Haaretz’s recent report on the rise in nationalist crimes committed by Jews against Palestinians in the West Bank over the last two years requires Israelis to reconsider their self-image. At a closed security meeting, the security services warned senior officials and politicians about the rise in Jewish nationalist crime. There were 363 documented crimes of this sort in the West Bank in 2019. Last year, the number rose to 507. And in the first half of 2021, there have already been 416 – more than the number of Jewish nationalist crimes for all of 2019 (Yaniv Kubovich, Sunday’s Haaretz).
The rise in violence stems from the fact that lawbreakers in the West Bank feel that nobody in the political system wants to confront them, because doing so could entail a political price. But Israel, as an occupier, is obliged to protect Palestinians against settlers rather than protecting settlers when they attack Palestinians.
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This first step in dealing with Jewish nationalist crime is to recognize its existence. Just as there are Jewish thieves and murderers, there are also Jewish nationalists steeped in hatred who are willing to ignore the law. There are dangerous Jewish religious extremists, Jewish pogromists and also Jewish terrorists. As for how to deal with them, the Israeli authorities undoubtedly don’t require any lessons on that.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.