A shameful day for Israel

Op-Ed: We have been lax in tackling Jewish terrorism, said the president. We Jews should know better, said a minister. Well, we had better wake up fast

David Horovitz

David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel. He is the author of "Still Life with Bombers" (2004) and "A Little Too Close to God" (2000), and co-author of "Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin" (1996). He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem Report (1998-2004).

A relative holds up a photo of a one-and-a-half year old boy, Ali Dawabsha, in the family house torched in a suspected attack by Jewish terrorists in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus, Friday, July 31, 2015. The boy died in the fire, his parents, badly hurt, also later died. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
A relative holds up a photo of a one-and-a-half year old boy, Ali Dawabsha, in the family house torched in a suspected attack by Jewish terrorists in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus, Friday, July 31, 2015. The boy died in the fire, his parents, badly hurt, also later died. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

If, as seems highly likely, it was Jewish terrorists who deliberately burned down the Dawabsha home in Duma overnight, killing 18-month-old Ali and leaving the rest of his family at death’s door, then the attack leaves Israel at a turning point.

There’s very little, in this bloodied region, that has the power to shock anymore. Not when vast crowds in Iran are demanding Death to Israel and Death to America, and when Islamic State is beheading its opponents. Not when Israel has battled through decades of conventional warfare, terrorist onslaughts and ongoing indiscriminate barrages of thousands of rockets. And not when we’ve known terrible acts of Jewish terrorism, including Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of Palestinians at prayer in Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994, and the burning to death of 16-year-old East Jerusalemite Muhammed Abu Khdeir last summer.

But if it was Jewish terrorists who struck overnight — and the spraying of graffiti in Hebrew at the scene of the awful crime would appear to leave little room for doubt — then we Jewish Israelis most certainly need to be shocked. Shocked out of our relative indifference to the accumulation of hate crimes, committed by self-styled pro-settler revenge terrorists who evidently stop at nothing and respect no laws.

“We have been lax in tackling Jewish terrorism,” President Reuven Rivlin acknowledged Friday, and he was right. “Price tag” attacks, hate crimes, acts of Jewish terrorism — call them what you will, Israel’s authorities have failed to prevent them, and failed overwhelmingly to apprehend those responsible for them.

Condemnation across the spectrum is not sufficient. Israel needs to act — to catch the killers who targeted the Dawabsha family and the gangs who have carried out dozens of other attacks, and to work a great deal harder to prevent future such crimes.

Israeli intelligence and security are not perfect. Just witness the utter fiasco of Yishai Schlissel, who attacked participants at the Jerusalem Pride Parade in 2005, being released three weeks ago, making plain in interviews and statements that he was determined to repeat his crime, and yet being able to do so, to devastating effect, on Thursday afternoon. But the accumulation of unsolved hate crimes in the weeks, months and years before the Dawabsha attack would strongly suggest that Jewish terrorism has not been a top priority for Israel’s security establishment. It needs to be. (Israel’s Channel 2 reported Friday night that there have been 15 fire-bombings of Palestinian homes in the West Bank since 2008 by suspected Jewish terrorists; none of the assailants has been caught.)

Still more critically, however, Jewish terrorism has to be tackled at the grassroots. Minds are all too evidently being poisoned, filled with zealous arrogance, convinced that they know the will of God, primed to murder. That requires a response beyond law enforcement — a response from the spiritual leadership, and the educational leadership, in the world from which these extremists are emerging. The extremists perverting Judaism, prizing land over life, embracing racism and hatred and violence, need to be tackled practically and ideologically.

Again, condemnation, however heartfelt, is simply not enough. Condemnation is not going to prevent the next attack. Condemnation is not going to halt the spread of a vicious, untenable way of thinking and acting.

It should be needless to say that the despicable crime committed overnight, if it was indeed committed by Jews, stains all of us. It is an abuse of our faith. It also bolsters our enemies. It dismays, embarrasses and ultimately alienates our friends. It harms our own ties to this historic Jewish homeland, for our right to thrive as a Jewish state is intertwined with a Judaism that is humane and deserving of respect and support. All of that should not need saying, but all too obviously, today — as Ali Dawabsha is laid to rest, and Israel’s doctors try to save the rest of his family — it does need to be said.

We should be shocked today by this latest, sickening evidence of the brutalizing within. But as the shock reverberates, we had better ensure we act to prevent more of the same and worse.

To his credit, the man charged with responsibility for Israel’s internal security, Gilad Erdan, arguably put it best on Friday. “We have a lot of lessons to learn as a society as a result of the incidents of last night,” said Likud minister Erdan on Friday morning, as most of our nation was plunged into nausea and despair when it awoke to the news. “The signs point to this attack being carried out by Jews. A nation whose children were burned in the Holocaust needs to do a lot of soul-searching if it bred people who burn other human beings.”

Not just lessons and soul-searching, however. Action.

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