A couple months back, a 12-year-old Palestinian girl was arrested and imprisoned after attempting to stab a group of Israelis in Hebron. Sentenced to four and a half months in prison and fined 8,000 shekels, she was released a full two months early. Israel came under serious international condemnation for jailing a girl so young. The girl, Dima al-Wawi, however, isn’t an exception in her age. Since the recent wave of violence began in the fall of 2015, many of the attackers have been Dima’s age, or even younger. Many of the attackers are in fact, children, incited by anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda approved as educational materials by the Palestinian Authority. About 6 months ago, a video surfaced of a young Gazan girl, aged about 4 years, wielding a knife, encouraging Palestinians in the West Bank to stab Jews. She is egged on by the narrator of the video, likely her father or another male relative. She is too young to truly understand the gravity of the situation, nor the seriousness of what she is being taught to do.
This week, an 11-year-old African American boy was arrested for allegedly setting fire to a school bus belonging to the Bnos Chomesh Academy, an Orthodox all-girls high school in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. Much like the attack in Hebron, no one was killed. The bus was empty, so even though the incident is jarring in its showing of the re-emergence of racial tensions in Crown Heights, it was not fatal. The charges against the boy include arson and criminal mischief as a juvenile, though the case is also being investigated as a possible hate crime. Tensions between African Americans and Jews in the neighborhood – much like those between Israelis and Palestinians – are not new. The bus fire is the third in a line of attacks against Jews in the last few weeks.
Where is the international condemnation? Not only was the attack by the boy in Brooklyn likely racially motivated, it had the potential to do significantly more damage. Had anyone been in the bus, they surely would have been burned alive. Is it because the story hasn’t been reported on widely? Why did the Washington Post pick up the story, and not the New York Times, arguably the most well-read paper in the country – and the one centered New York? Where are the cries of outrage for an anti-Semitic attack committed by an 11-year-old boy?
They aren’t coming any time soon, if at all. If it weren’t already blaringly clear, Israel is unfairly held to a double standard, whether in the military realm or the judicial system. Some say that’s because Israel is a free country, and thus more is expected of Israel than of her neighbors, but what kind of system is that? Simply because Israel recognizes the value in democratic governance and equal rights does not mean that it should be held an inherently higher moral standard that other countries. That train of thinking lets the despots off the hook, and ignores the greater problem. When Palestinians who haven’t even reached puberty yet are being incited by their government, teachers, and public figures, the blame should be on Palestinian leadership, and not on Israel for trying to come up with solutions to deal with such a difficult problem.
Putting an end to the recent wave of terror means attacking the problem at its core – calling on educational materials approved and distributed by the PA to condemn violence, not to encourage it. Schools and religious institutions within the West Bank must cease inciting youth. Raising a generation whose educational experiences have been grounded in hatred will only give rise to yet another Intifada, costing lives on both sides, and dashing hopes around the globe for reconciliation.
Stop the incitement of the youths, in the West Bank, in Gaza, and in the U.S. In Israel, youth are not taught to hate their neighbors. And yet, when their neighbors try to kill them, Israel is expected not to react. The state of Israel was born 68 years ago, a place where Jews could stand up for themselves after centuries of unjust persecution. Only in Israel is self-defense against terrorism nearly always condemned. Think to Brussels, to Paris, to every city ravaged by terrorism in the least week, last year, the last decade. Think about how these cities handled the attacks. And then set the double standard to rest, once and for all.