Lynch vs Law: which one rules?

Haftom Zarhum crossed the Sinaï where criminals kidnap his people and sell their organs, to make it to Israel to seek asylum, because he believed in Israel’s flaunted democracy against the dictatorship and terror havens of the region.

He was an Eritrean who should have been given asylum almost immediately upon arrival, instead he was called an infiltrator, a cancer for the Israeli society and died under Temporary Protective Status.

It is not surprising that someone who should have been safe in Israel, legally by now, gets shot by one of its armed forces after years of incitement against asylum seekers by the Israeli right. Michael Ben Ari, Eli Yishai’s agitating poodle, led demonstrations and protests for months. Miri Regev, Israel’s Minister of Culture (then law maker) called Africans a cancer on Israeli society before apologizing emphatically to cancer victims, which tells you a lot about who is shaping Israeli culture, and what turns Israeli culture is taking. The Justice minister Ayelet Shaked shares erroneous videos of African migrant violence in Tel Aviv (which it turns out wasn’t) in an attempt to extend incarceration periods for “Infiltrators”, understand, asylum seekers and African labor migrants

If you were part of those demonstrations and you’re reading this: you have played a role in the lynching yesterday, and you’re probably making excuses today. You know who you are.

Now I saw the footage, and read some of the accounts by people involved in the lynching (don’t try to call it anything else), and I don’t know how I would have reacted in the midst of an attack, if someone had pointed to someone on the floor and blamed him for the attack, I probably would have charged the body too, and spit on it, and kicked it in the face.

Crowds are stupid. Scared crowds especially, and right now Israelis are very scared and likely to act very stupidly as a result. Some of the people involved in the lynching yesterday are disgusted with themselves and well they should.

But, do you shoot someone who’s running on suspicion of terror when you don’t identify him as an enemy already? Hard to say what goes through people’s minds, but the Israeli government has encouraged people to be trigger happy and take matters into their hands until yesterday, when Israel became a country of the Rule of Law once again, too bad that epiphany didn’t occur before security forces and the public slaughtered someone who had come to seek refuge, like so many Jews came to seek refuge, with obviously much more success.

The Israeli government promised a “probe” into what happened. It also promised justice for the Dawabsha family who died of arson related injuries over the course of a week, and yet doesn’t reveal the identities of their murderers, nor does it prosecute them on the basis of “ongoing operations”, but can’t wait to judge and sentence the young Palestinian stabber, who in my mind deserves what he’s getting, but the irony remains.

And that’s what the world sees, and that’s what asylum seekers see, and what Palestinians see: kill or attack a Jew, and all the apparatus of the state will drop on you like Maccabee’s hammer. Kill or attack an immigrant, and there will be a probe, kill or attack Palestinians and you get a big show of compassion and the pretense of legal action.

Israelis are scared? Of course you are, who can blame you, you’re being assaulted on the streets, but don’t think that puts you above judgment. Stop making excuses for yourself, stop convincing yourself that yours is the most moral state with the most moral army in the whole wide world, you’re no better than anybody else, so do consider that, and when a mob beats an innocent man to death, show the same compassion you would show anybody else, because that person believed in your country, so much so that he died in it. At your hands.

About the Author
Mame Bougouma Diene is a civil servant on permanent vacation even when he works 70 hours a week, who also blogs for the Times of Israel in French. He's French-Senegalese American, loves Israel and the Middle East, would really like to see an end to this intractable mess in his lifetime.