Don’t Take Your Anger Out on Israeli Arabs

The news that a mob shouting ‘Kahane was right!’ and ‘Revenge!’ converged on a store on Jaffa St. in Jerusalem to accost the Arab owner and vandalize his shop is shameful.

Grief and anger are natural reactions to the murder of three Israeli teenagers, as is the fear that a similar atrocity can happen again. There is nothing wrong with protesting if one believes the government is not doing enough to bring the perpetrators to justice or to protect its citizens from those monsters.

There is something wrong with harassing innocent shop owners in that fear and anger. The government has named several suspects in the killings, and they are known affiliates of Hamas. The IDF and Israeli intelligence organizations will not rest until they bring these men to justice. There is no need for vigilantism, and even if there was, this shop-owner is not one of the murderers.

There are Israeli Arabs who supported or justified the kidnapping, like Haneen Zoabi. There are also Israeli Arabs who, at risk to themselves, condemned the kidnapping in the strongest possible terms, like Mohamed Zoabi. It is not the job of the average citizen or the government to pass judgment on the entire population.

This is not to suggest any moral equivalence between the rioters and the murderers. Screaming at people and attacking candy stands is far removed from taking a life. If the horrible case of an Arab teenager being kidnapped and found murdered in Jerusalem yesterday turned out to be the work of extremist Jews seeking revenge, that would be an act that is equivalent morally to the murders of Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel, and Eyal Yifrah. So far the evidence points to an inter-family feud rather than a nationalistic murder.

But the act of singling out Israeli Arabs for harassment is still morally wrong. As a group they had nothing to do with the kidnapping and murder of our boys, and as citizens they are entitled to the same rights and protection as Israeli Jews.

Our efforts, as citizens of Israel, should be focused on supporting the families of the deceased through this terrible time and on supporting the government’s attempts to find the killers and cripple Hamas so these atrocities can never happen again. And if outside pressure to keep Israel’s responses ‘proportionate’ keep the government from doing what is necessary, it will also be our job to provide counter-pressure on the government to protect us. But such pressure should never involve the targeting of Israeli Arabs.

About the Author
Gary Willig is a researcher at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a student of communications at Bar Ilan University