Early Friday morning, two masked settlers crouched before a home in the West Bank village of Duma, touched their fingers to its cold walls and nodded. Then they spray painted the words “vengeance” and “long live the Messiah” before breaking windows, throwing firebombs inside and fleeing as a family of four burned in their beds.
Three of those family members–a mother, father and their four-year-old son–are fighting for their lives. The fourth, a baby named Ali Saad Dawabsha, burned to death in the home’s attic.
The crime, committed by terrorists seeking revenge for Israel’s removal of an unapproved settlement outpost, has shaken the nation in ways other crimes have not. This became immediately evident as prominent conservative politicians began releasing pointed and unusually emotional condemnations. Gilad Erdan, a member of Netanyahu’s cabinet, said this in the crime’s wake:
“A nation whose children were burned in the Holocaust needs to do a lot of soul searching if it bred people who burn other human beings.”
Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, compared Jewish terrorists to ISIS and called them a traitorous fifth column:
In the other room my son is putting on his uniform. He came home last night and has just now received a phone call. “Emergency call up,” he says, his face stern. He’s been called back in because the enemy acted last night in Duma. Terrorists entered at night and set fire to a baby. As always, the IDF is going to war against the enemy. Only this time the enemy is from here, from inside, from within us. They are a fifth column. They are the natural partners of Hamas, of Hezbollah, of ISIS. They look like us but they aren’t like us. They are traitors to all that is sacred to us, traitors to the very idea on which the State of Israel was founded, traitors to Judaism. And they’re trying, like the enemy always tries. to destroy the State of Israel.
Netanyahu, reading the mood and desperate to mute the horrible images emanating from the Occupied Territories, expressed his shock in the face of such an atrocity:
But Netanyahu’s not shocked. He’s complicit.
Indeed, Netanyahu appointed as Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who actively called for the genocide of Palestinians and championed calling their children “little snakes.”
He has repeatedly incited racism and hatred against Palestinians, once famously warning Jewish voters on election day that “Arabs are heading to the polls in droves.”
Netanyahu has stated that he wants an occupation which subjugates Palestinians to last forever and fully supports those extremists behind the settlement enterprise, with expansions having surged on his watch.
Netanyahu’s government has refused to crack down on settler terrorism and violence. Indeed, 120 incidents of terrorism or violence targeting Palestinians have occurred just this year alone, and approximately 11,000 incidents have occurred over the past 10 years, the vast majority of which aren’t even recorded by the State, much less prosecuted.
And of course, Israel killed over 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza last summer during its 51-day assault, a bombing campaign which was preceded by Netanyahu calling for “vengeance.” The same word scrawled by terrorists on baby Ali’s home before being burned alive.
Now, Netanyahu is of course not the only one complicit. So too are those very politicians, Lapid and Erdan included, who made emotional statements when news of Ali’s death reached their ears. It’s no surprise that in all of their statements, two words never appeared: “occupation” and “settlements.” Yet it is the occupation which lies at the center of settler violence and the devaluing of Palestinian lives. It is a center threatening to tear Israel apart as settlers and soldiers tear Palestinian families apart.
Nearly every member of Israel’s government has either actively worked to maintain the occupation or passively enabled its continued brutality by refusing to confront the damage it’s doing to both Israel and those Palestinians subjugated daily. And it’s not just Israel’s leaders who are complicit. American Jewish and ‘pro-Israel’ organizations are responsible as well, for the vast majority continue to ignore the occupation as though it doesn’t even exist.
To emphasize this, nearly every major American Jewish and pro-Israel organization–including AIPAC, ADL, AJC, and Jewish Federations–condemned the terrorism which took baby Ali’s life. Not a single statement mentioned the words “occupation” or “settlements.”
Unless Israeli and Jewish-Zionist leaders in the diaspora are willing to confront and end the occupation, the racism and violence against Palestinians will not just remain, but grow. Unless Jewish leaders stop vilifying Palestinians while allowing them to be oppressed, the racism and violence will not just remain, but grow. Of course, this isn’t a surprise to anyone. It’s known. It’s been known for longer than most leaders would bear to admit.
So spare me the “I’m shocked” routine and do something.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.