For the last two days religiously motivated violence and terror dominates the news headlines in Israel. No, I do not mean ISIS or Hamas but Jewish zealots and extremists.
Two days ago an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man attacked revelers taking part in Jerusalem’s annual gay pride parade, stabbing and injuring six of them, police and witnesses said. A young woman still remains in critical condition. Police identified the suspect as Yishai Schlissel, who carried out a similar attack on a gay pride parade in 2005 and was released from jail three weeks ago. It was the worst attack on Israel’s gay community since 2009, when a gunman killed two people and injured 11 at a center for gay and lesbian youth in Tel Aviv.
On Friday morning suspected Jewish assailants from a nearby settlement firebombed a West Bank home burned a sleeping Palestinian toddler to death in an attack that drew Palestinian rage and widespread Israeli condemnation. The parents and another sibling sustained burn wounds over more than 90% of their body and are being treated at Israeli hospitals. Unfortunately, their chances for survival are slim to none.The attack, which threatens to set off another violent escalation, highlights the growing lawlessness of extremist Jewish settlers that the Israeli government is either unable or unwilling to contain. The terrorists have staged attacks against Palestinian property for years, as well as mosques, churches, peace-advocating Israeli groups and even Israeli military bases. In June Jewish terrorists firebombed the historic Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha, on the Sea of Galilee. Two people were lightly hurt from smoke inhalation and serious damage was done to the church, whose roof collapsed. Sixteen yeshiva students, reportedly West Bank settlers, were detained as suspects in the arson but were released without charge. Only two suspects are currently being charged for a hate crime but refuse to cooperate with the investigators.
Lets be clear: these are not lone wolves who commit random acts of violence. These terrorists are well organized and systematically and methodically attack anyone, Jew or Arab, who stands in their way. According to Israeli security sources they are even using a detailed manual on how to terrorize, injure and kill. They are being sheltered and protected by a growing number of right-wing sympathizers, mostly settlers, and their political support extends into the Knesset.
Naturally, leaders of all political parties condemned these brutal attacks and even PM Netanyahu used the term “terror” to characterize these events. BUT so far these are words not backed up by actions.
For years the General Security Service (Shabak) asked the Israeli government, i.e PM Netanyahu, to classify those Jewish extremists as terrorists, to outlaw their organizations and to arrest and isolate the radical rabbis who instigate violence and incite hatred. What the Shabak asked for are to allow them to deploy the same tools against those terrorists and their sympathizers as they do against Arab and Palestinian terrorist. Netanyahu did not grant their request because he depends on the political support of those who sympathize with or harbor, shelter and support these Jewish terrorists.
Meanwhile, the situation worsens: Israeli army and security officials are cooperating with their Palestinian counterparts to contain the violence and to prevent Hamas from using the situation for their political gains.
These efforts might fail especially if and when the parents of the murdered baby will die.
President Rivlin called for the detention and prosecution of those Jewish terrorists responsible for the murder of an innocent child. He immediately received thousands of hate messages and death threats. Shimon Peres spoke tonight at a demonstration in Tel Aviv and pleaded for Israelis to rise against the wave of terror. Naturally, he will receive death threats,too.
As Jews we cannot remain silent when Jewish values are being trampled on by religious zealots and must speak up to support democracy and justice in Israel. We must call on PM Netanyahu to lead his country in the fight against the enemy within. Tisha B’Av taught me one important lesson: religious zealots and Jewish infighting and not the Romans lead to the destruction of the temple. I hope we do not forget this historic lesson.