Stop the hate crime epidemic in Israel now
The hate crime epidemic in Israel must be brought under control. This has got to stop. It is urgent and can no longer be swept under the carpet!
Every day now, and sometimes twice a day, there are hate crimes of vandalism committed by Jews against mosques and churches in Israel. Yesterday, it was a mosque. Today a church. What will happen tomorrow?
More than 30 churches and mosques have been vandalized within the last year. And no one has been brought to justice. Why? Really, why not?
If it were the other way — Palestinians vandalizing synagogues and Jewish institutions — the culprits would be apprehended the same day! And put in jail under “administrative detention”. Everyone knows this. The moral duplicity is too obvious for all too see.
The anger is growing. Thousands of Jews and Arabs are beginning to demonstrate against this phenomenon, but not enough. Perhaps we need hundreds of thousands, or even millions. Perhaps it is time for the silent majority to wake up and demand action from its government.
It is totally incredible and inexplicable that the government of Israel simply gives lip service to the fact that law enforcement should act quickly and forthrightly. And then does nothing, month after month, week after week, day after day. And the situation gets worse and worse.
Not only has nothing been done as yet on the part of the government of Israel to take this phenomenon seriously, but it is particularly disturbing since we who are active in the Tag Meir coalition — which sends representatives to offer empathy and solidarity to the community under attack each time this happens — believe that the perpetrators are well known to the authorities.
In fact, Carmi Gillon, who headed the Israeli Security Services, and spent four years focusing on Israeli Arabs, told us at our Annual Meeting last December that not only are the kids who do this well known to the Security Services but their rabbis, who incite them to do these acts, are also well known, just as the rabbis who incited Jewish extremists in the past were well known.
Moreover, there is a law in Israel against incitement and rebellion. According to Gillon, this law has not been used against these rabbis yet. And it is time to use this law, and enforce it! He told us very clearly:
We all know who they are, where they are, and in which yeshivas they study and preach. Rather than taking action, the political and security systems of Israel appear to be apathetic to these phenomena. Or is it more than just apathy? Is it blinking one’s eye, and giving in to the forces of extremism for narrow political reasons?
Is this the “Jewish state” that our government demands that the Palestinians recognize? On the contrary, such acts are antithetical to genuine humanistic Jewish values. They are a blasphemy against God!
Has our government totally lost its moral compass? And, where are the Jews of the Diaspora? They are very good at raising their voices about a prayer space for women of the wall, or anti-semitism in Europe, but where are they on this one? Why aren’t they crying out loud and clear: “This is not the Israel we have dreamed about! This is not the Jewish state that is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence”. They should be demanding action from the government and the law enforcement authorities in Israel. Right now. Not later. Not after too much damage has been done.
And, where is the rabbinic leadership in Israel? And the Diaspora? They should weigh in on this, immediately, without delay.
Last week, we read from the Torah portion of Kedoshim (Holiness) about how the Jewish people should imitate God by not only loving their neighbor as themselves, but by treating the stranger fairly, by loving the stranger. It is high time that our government and law enforcement authorities implemented this fundamental Jewish value.
I am part of a coalition of 40 organizations in Israel—representing thousands of people from all over Israel called Tag Meir—Light Tag—which has been combatting this phenomenon, without much fanfare, in Israel for the past 4 years. We have been responsive and empathetic up till now. But this is not enough. We will have to become more active—and mobilize the masses in Israel not only to raise a Jewish and interreligious voice for morality and sanity, but also to demand quick action by our government now to put an end to his dangerous phenomenon in our midst.