Frantic young men run through winding streets by the dozens, violating the sanctity of old stone homes by throwing rocks through windows and attacking passersby, security guards, and even soldiers all in the name of religion and the celebration or protection of holy sites. This is the description of Arabs rioting we have all become accustomed to in the now routine scene in and around the Temple Mount for years. This same description is part of what led to the rapid rise of Itamar Ben Gvir and his mission to “restore sovereignty and security” to the State of Israel.
Unfortunately, this is also the description of events that took place recently over Shabbat, just two weeks ago, in Hebron, in an incident that saw Jewish youths vandalize Palestinian homes, and attack and injure civilian Palestinians, a female soldier, and even a security guard of likely imminent minister Ben Gvir who was hospitalized for injuries sustained while protecting the soon-to-be-minister from rabble-rousers. Of course, this did not happen in a vacuum, but on a day when several instances of mutual fighting between Palestinians and Israelis.
This is the latest in a spree of violent incidents committed by Jewish youth across the West Bank which many left-leaning organizations claim is a growing trend in violence committed by the Jewish residents of the area. Yesh Din has quantified this trend with data purporting an 88 percent rise in Jewish attacks on both Palestinians and IDF, in comparison to the previous year. This violence undeniably exists and has been left so far mostly unchecked.
If this was another raid by Palestinian Shabab through a Jewish street in Jerusalem, no doubt leaders would be asking publicly “where are the condemnations by Arab and Palestinian leadership denouncing this violence and extremism?” and “by being silent, they are complicit.” The same may be said about the reaction, or their lack thereof, from key players in Israel’s likely new government. Today, as it pertains to violence committed by Jewish settlers, there is relative silence from the entire nationalist block with reserved criticism being expressed only when a soldier is directly injured by these same perpetrators. By waiting to intervene when the violence reaches state officials the core of the issue is actually being neglected and we risk following into “risk management,” rather then “solutions”
Where is the condemnation of these Jewish thugs in the West Bank? Where are the statements from our future ministers distancing themselves from violent mobs who attack in the name of their shared cause and instead develop a solution to address them along with the violence in Arab communities, lest Jewish towns in the West Bank slowly decline into similar lawless violence?
What began as hooliganism targeting local Palestinians has now turned into ever more frequent attacks on Israeli institutional personnel. Mr. Ben Gvir nobly called the father of the wounded Israeli soldier from Hebron, not just to convey condolences, but to commit to bringing the perpetrators to justice. This call was deeply sympathetic and one that every father or mother of a soldier in the IDF should hear. However, his call made no mention of a need to tackle the underlying issue which begins often with attacks on local Palestinians or their homes.
Racially and nationalistically motivated Jewish violence on the fringes of wide-scale celebration is not new, but a growing menace left mostly unaddressed by police or leadership. A continued strategy of ignoring it is likely to see it only grow.
As this new right-wing nationalist government forms, it is critical that they look at their own mission statements with pure and objective commitment. If they are to truly bring “rule of law and safety to Israel and the West Bank” it must come in a wholistic form that addresses the issue of political and vigilante violence in its entirety, not just the raging “Shabab” in East Jerusalem and Lod, but also this nascent but growing form of settler violence perpetrated by our own Jewish Shabab raging against our Palestinian neighbors and increasingly our own state, staining the mission of building a Jewish presence in our ancestral homeland and the morality of the Zionist cause itself along the way.