Aug 1 2014
In Israel, racism and extremism are exploding. It began shortly after the kidnapping of three Israeli boys—Naftali, Gilad and Eyal—in Gush Etzion, that led to the assault in Gaza which has seen over 1,000 killed. A Facebook page calling for the murder of Palestinians went viral. In one photo, a soldier posed broodingly with his gun, the word “vengeance” written on his chest. In another two teenage girls smiled happily with a banner that read: “Hating Arabs is not racism, it’s values.”
A few days later, at the boys’ funeral in Modiin, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu fanned the flames. “May God avenge their blood,” he said to the gathered mourners. “Vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created,” he tweeted later.
Bibi got his wish. Over the weeks that followed, videos began to emerge almost daily of right-wing mobs roving across cities from Jerusalem to Beer Sheva, waving Israeli flags and screaming “Death to Arabs!”
Many ended in physical assaults. Last Thursday two Palestinian men were attacked on Jaffer Street in West Jerusalem as they delivered food to a grocery market. The following day two more Palestinians, Amir Shwiki and Samer Mahfouz, were beaten unconscious in the Eastern part of the city by a gang of 30 young Israelis wielding sticks and metal bars.
Nationalistic Israelis have also turned on Israelis who disagree with them. Photographs have even emerged of pro-war protestors dressed in t-shirts with “Good Night Left Side” prints, a slogan usually used by European neo-Nazis. Violence from these groups has reached unprecedented levels. Last week in Haifa, a city usually presented as a model of liberal co-existence, an anti-war rally was attacked by 700 people carrying weapons.
The worst is reserved for Palestinians. Four weeks ago in East Jerusalem, a group of Israeli men, acting in revenge, poured gasoline down the throat of Mohammed Abu Khdeir and burned him alive. For some his death, just like Jamal’s, was an aberration, an act without precedent from some mad fringe of Israel’s far-right. “What have we become?” an Israeli relative of mine asked that evening, shocked that somebody with “Jewish values” could commit such a crime.