Editorial

Israeli Leaders Like the Lowest Lehava Activists

Members of the Israeli right-wing, anti-assimilation group Lahava protest outside the village of Deir Qaddis, on June 17, 2019.
Oren Ben Hakon

On Monday it was reported that a Palestinian had been charged with kidnapping and raping a 7-year-old Israeli girl. The accused, a 40-year-old resident of Deir Qadis in the West Bank, who has an Israeli work permit and no criminal or security record, worked in a settlement as a cleaning and maintenance worker at the girl’s elementary school.

Immediately after news of the incident broke and without a shred of proof that it was a terror act, senior Israeli officials, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, seized on it as if they had found some great political treasure.

Netanyahu condemned the act in an unusually harsh way, tweeting, “This shocking rape of a young girl has shaken all our hearts. The courts must apply the full force of the law to anyone responsible for this terrible deed.”

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Erdan, as is his wont, and as if he had learned nothing from his blood libel against the teacher killed in Umm al-Hiran two years ago, called the rape a terror attack.

“I have no doubt that the accused was spurred on by the incitement and hate that he absorbs in the Palestinian Authority every day, and it doesn’t matter what the abominable rapist will say about the backdrop and the circumstances,” Erdan said. “Such an event must be investigated as politically motivated, and I call on the Shin Bet security service to use all means of interrogation to ascertain whether the abominable rapist would have acted like this if it had been a Palestinian girl.”

Nor did Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman miss the opportunity to score political points from the horrifying crime. He didn’t suffice with declaring the accused a terrorist, but demanded the death penalty. “This isn’t pedophilia but pure terrorism, a well-planned attack on a young, innocent, helpless girl,” he said. “This is exactly the kind of case in which I wouldn’t hesitate to demand that the court sentence this abominable terrorist to death.”

Netanyahu, Erdan and Lieberman acted like the worst activists of Lehava, the far-right movement that fights against miscegenation – and which of course exploited the incident to call for the expulsion of Arabs.

Why waste precious political time waiting for a complete investigation when you can ride the populist wave and use the awful incident to keep inciting against Arabs and fan the flames of hatred, which may yield a few more votes in the next election? Why should the prime minister or the public security minister care that people involved in the investigation say there is no evidence yet that the girl’s nationality was an issue, while the police didn’t call in the Shin Bet because no suspicion of terror arose?

Under the guise of a concern at the national level, the country’s leaders are being completely irresponsible. All the political leaders see is the political profit to be made; the hell with getting at the truth, the hell with the fragile relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, and the hell with a 7-year-old girl whose world has been destroyed.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.