Israeli leaders have universally condemned the brutal murder of 18-month-old Palestinian toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha, who was killed on July 31 when terrorists firebombed his home in the West Bank village of Duma, near Nablus. The firebombing injured his parents and four-year-old brother as well.
This ghastly incident evokes memories of the kidnapping and murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian who was burned alive by Jewish terrorists in a forest near Jerusalem last July.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried the latest outrage as “a terrorist crime.” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan fervently declared, “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.”
According to Erdan, the two masked arsonists were almost certainly Jewish. This would appear to be the case because they spray-painted the walls of the two homes they attacked with a Star of David and the Hebrew words “Revenge” and “Long live the king messiah.”
If the past is any guide, the perpetrators are extremists from the settler movement in the West Bank. Such individuals have senselessly damaged Palestinian property in retaliation for Israeli government crackdowns on illegal construction in the West Bank. The crimes they commit carry what they arrogantly call a “price tag.”
Since 2008, these extremists have left an ugly trail of death and destruction in the West Bank, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. In hundreds of attacks directed against Palestinians, they have shamelessly burned and defaced mosques, left the severed heads of pigs in Muslim holy places, slashed the tires of cars and trucks, broken the windows of homes, cut electricity lines and uprooted trees in olive orchards.
They’re terrorists who will stop at nothing to ensure that the West Bank will remain in Israel’s hands in perpetuity.
Their disgusting provocations have prompted reflexive condemnations from the Israeli government, but words are blatantly insufficient. The settlement movement, which produces these toxic weeds in the garden of Zion, is officially sanctioned and supported by Israel.
As long as Israel occupies the West Bank, blocking the legitimate and internationally-supported right of the Palestinians to exercise statehood, violence emanating from both sides will inevitably flare and Jewish terrorists will flourish.
Israel cannot wish away the problem by simply condemning it in routine and rote fashion. Talk, after all, is cheap, as the Anti-Defamation League suggested after yesterday’s atrocity in Duma. “Expressions of outrage” by Israeli leaders “are no longer enough,” wrote ADL national director Jonathan Greenblatt and his Israeli counterpart, Carole Nuriel.
“The perpetrators of these crimes need to face specific, enhanced consequences for these despicable acts of hate and terrorism,” they demanded. “Community and religious leaders must make unquestionably clear that any act of hate and violence is unacceptable, un-Jewish, and that anyone involved in such incidents will be shunned by the community, let alone prosecuted to the full extent of the law. They must take concrete steps to identify and root out extremist elements.”
The president of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, made an important point that the Israeli government should take to heart. “To my great sorrow,” he said, “we have been lax in our treatment of the phenomenon of Jewish terrorism. Perhaps we did not internalize that we are faced with a determined and dangerous ideological group…”
Rivlin is right, but he does not go far enough.
Israel needs to get much tougher with Jewish terrorists, as the leader of the Labor Party, Isaac Herzog, said on August 1.
Beyond cracking down hard on these malcontents, Israel must disengage from the West Bank within the framework of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. The occupation has corrupted, coarsened, demeaned and isolated Israel in ways Israelis might not have imagined following the euphoria of the Six Day War. And as a considerable number of Israelis now recognize, the occupation threatens Israel’s status as a democratic Jewish state. At the rate Israel is going, it may well degenerate into a binational state amid the ruins of the Zionist dream.
If Israel continues to occupy the West Bank against the will of its mostly Palestinian inhabitants, the forces of Jewish extremism will grow exponentially, resulting in many more human tragedies.
It’s time for Israel to act resolutely and decisively.