Shaiya Rothberg
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Violence and oppression in Jerusalem

Without excusing the evil on the Palestinian side, the fact is that Israeli policy has been discriminatory

We are again witness to Palestinian violence in Jerusalem. Palestinians have purposely run over Jewish civilians with motor vehicles, killing innocent people, including little children. Many more Palestinians throw rocks at moving cars, endangering the lives of whole families. Even greater numbers destroy Jerusalem public property, damaging the services in the city that we share. We who live in Jerusalem have experienced this kind of thing before, but it is none the less horrific when it begins again.

Why would people behave like this? One reason that they behave this way is that some Palestinians in Jerusalem, like many Muslims and Arabs, hold violent racist and fundamentalist views about Israeli Jews. My guess is that most of them don’t believe that we Jews have a right to self determination in Israel. Worse, I think that if you probe the world-views of many Arabs and Muslims engaged in violence against Israelis, you’ll discover that the logic of their thinking is essentially genocidal: they think that we six million Israeli Jews are not human beings at all but rather a “Zionist Entity” – a pack of evil-doers that by right should be exterminated. Such logic is voiced openly by Arab and Muslim leaders across the globe.

So far, I don’t think I’ve said anything that most Israeli Jews don’t already know. This awareness is evident in the Israeli press as well as in the Jewish press abroad. On the other hand, it often seems that the liberal West is not aware of the severity of the violence against Jews, or of its racist and fundamentalist motivations. They portray Israel as a Goliath needlessly attacking innocent children. Such unfair coverage is rightfully unsettling for Jews. Many reasonable people become suspicious that all criticism of Israel is just a front for antisemitism. As a result, Jewish public discourse tends to focus on the unreasonableness of the Arabs and on the blindness of the liberals.

But we Jews are also blind. Most of us simply do not (or will not) see one colossally important fact that stands at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That fact is that the Palestinians in the heart of the Land of Israel – Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria – are an oppressed people, and it is we Israeli Jews who are oppressing them. In spite of our rhetoric about Israel, “the only democracy in the Middle East”, the sad but evident fact is that the Israeli regime over the green line is in no way “democratic”. It is a criminal regime, founded on institutionalized and brutal discrimination against Palestinians. By “criminal” I mean that it stands in contradiction to the principles of justice and equality at the core of both international human rights law and Israeli law. And it is also “criminal” in a more general sense: the Israeli regime in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is founded on victimization of the weak and the violation of human dignity.

If you are not aware that the Israeli regime over the green line is based on discrimination against Palestinians, then you have not done your homework. No, we’re not talking about painful but necessary actions taken in self defense. We’re talking about blatantly disregarding the rights and interests of Arabs in order to benefit Jews in every area of life, such as land allocation, urban planning, basic services, the administration of justice and a host of other areas. If you think that I’m exaggerating, or telling slanderous lies, there is only one solution for your ignorance: go and learn! – take some time to sit down and learn about Israeli policy since 1967 in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. I suggest that you do it like this: assume the worst about all human rights organizations, Israeli and otherwise; assume that they are all funded by Israel haters and that every sentence may be a manipulation and every fact a fabrication. Read carefully, compare sources, consult experts that you trust. If you do that seriously, and then conclude that Israeli policy is anything less than systematic discrimination, I’ll eat my yarmulke.

I am not justifying Palestinian violence against Israeli Jews. Nor am I justifying Muslim fundamentalism. I have nothing but disgust and contempt for the genocidal logic underlying the thinking of many Arabs and Muslims about my family, myself and my people Israel. I am not saying that we Israeli Jews do not have a right to self-defense, nor am I denying that our neighbors have continually attempted to destroy us. What I am saying is that in spite of all the evil on the Palestinian side, what we are witnessing in these dark days in Jerusalem is an uprising of the oppressed. That does not give them the right to kill innocent people. But it means that we Jews must wake up, face the reality of our own criminal behavior, and cease engaging in discriminatory policies of which all decent people must be ashamed.

About the Author
Shaiya Rothberg lives with his wife in Jerusalem Al-Quds. He is a teacher of Jewish Thought and a human rights activist. Shaiya holds a PhD from Hebrew University in Jewish Thought and a B.A. in Jewish Philosophy and Talmud from Bar-Ilan University. He made aliyah in 1988 and served as a soldier and officer in the I.D.F. Shaiya's writing and teaching focus on the transformative potential of Jewish tradition.