In the last week, there have been two frightening incidents of Jewish violence in Israel: a bomb thrown at an Arab taxi on the West Bank and the near lynching of a couple of Palestinian kids by a gang of Jewish teenagers in Zion Square, in the heart of Jerusalem. According to newspaper accounts, all Israel is shocked. But Israel shouldn?t be shocked; nor should we. For months, Haaretz has been carrying, almost every day, accounts of settler violence in the occupied territories?Palestinians of all ages beaten up, olive trees burned, stones thrown at cars, property smashed. This is the work of Jewish thugs, the so-called Hilltop Youth and the ?price-tag? activists, some of them inspired by militant rabbis, some of them, apparently, by members of the IDF (the Israeli Defense Forces). None of these attacks has provoked a serious response by the Israeli government, which includes individuals who are probably sympathetic to violence of this sort or, more openly, are opposed to punishment for their perpetrators. (The web magazine +972 has documented both the sympathy and the opposition.)
Palestinians are not the only targets of attacks of this sort. There have also been what can only be called pogroms against Black African refugees and businesses in south Tel Aviv. And here too, incredibly bigoted statements by government officials have contributed (a word probably more gentle than accurate) to the violence.
So the recent escalation to bomb throwing and attempted lynchings can?t be a surprise: when violence is tolerated, it is also encouraged; I would even say, promoted. Prime Minister Netanyahu responded to the taxi incident with a phone call to President Abbas of the Palestine Authority promising to find and punish the terrorists. It will be an innovation indeed if he follows through on this promise. But the Palestinians, and the Americans, and all of us who identify as friends of Israel should ask for something more explicit from the prime minister. The terrorist who threw the bomb and the members of the lynch mob should be treated exactly as they would be treated if they were Palestinians and their victims were Jews. They should be investigated with the same rigor and punished with the same severity. And, what is even more important, the grown-ups who incite the young attackers, who lead organizations that teach hatred and justify violence against non-Jews?they too should be identified, rounded up, and brought to trial in exactly the same way as, or better, as if they were, Arab terrorists and instigators of terrorism.
If that were done, with all the force of what claims to be a strong government, there would be no more Jewish terrorists and no more lynch mobs.
Photo: Palestinian owned olive trees destroyed by Israeli settlers (Palestine Solidarity Project, 2011, via Flickr creative commons)