Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett said Saturday night that while he abhorred violence in any form and was repulsed and appalled by the actions of Jewish terrorists, he would not allow the events of recent days to sully the image of the West Bank settler population as a whole.
“Whoever wants me by his side in the fight for tolerance and human dignity — I will be the first to stand there,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “Whoever wants to silence my camp — will find me in his path.
Bennett claimed that the murder of a Palestinian toddler by suspected Jewish terrorists on Thursday night, while horrific, has led in recent days to attacks on the settler population as a whole.
“Tolerance is two-sided,” he wrote. “I will not under any circumstances accept the attempt to vilify the 430,000 wonderful Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria, those who are known as ‘settlers.’ There is such a foolish attempt at the moment. It will not succeed. Whoever engages in such action is guilty of the same sin of prejudice and incitement.”
The education minister called on both sides, “right and left: let’s be together. Particularly at such moments, let us remember that we are brothers.”
Eighteen-month-old Ali Dawabsha was killed in Thursday night’s firebomb attack on his family’s home in Duma, near Nablus. His father and 4-year-old brother are being treated at an Israeli hospital in serious condition. His mother is critically injured.
Bennett and Jewish Home MK Yinon Magal were barred from speaking at a Tel Aviv rally Saturday night against violence and incitement, after they refused to sign a form drawn up by the organizers committing themselves to legislative activism. At the same event, Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz from the Likud party was heckled and booed by protesters who came to demonstrate against hate crimes of recent days: the stabbing attack at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade on Thursday which injured six people, and the firebombing of the Dawabsha family home.
Bennett wrote he had spent much of the weekend thinking of the slain Palestinian infant. “I kept thinking of the last moments of Ali Dawabsha who was burned to death; of his parents who tried to save him from the fires and of his family that is at this moment fighting for its life.
“I also thought of marchers in the gay pride parade, stabbed in the back by a lowlife just because of who they are.
“Difference of opinions is fine. Violence never is, ever, under any circumstances. This is not how my people shall be. This is not how my country shall be. This is not the Judaism on which we were raised, this is not the Torah taught to me by my forefathers.
“In the Torah portion read this week we received the Ten Commandments, which dictate: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Not ‘Though shalt not kill a Jew.'”
At Saturday’s rally Steinitz, a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was booed during his address. Some protesters held out hands painted in red to symbolize blood, and yelled slogans such as “homophobia and racism come from the government.”
Several politicians from the opposition openly blamed the Netanyahu government for what they called a general atmosphere of tolerance toward Jewish extremists.
In a speech in Jerusalem Saturday, President Reuven Rivlin also questioned the role of the public atmosphere created by the government that led to the attacks, while former president Shimon Peres, speaking in Tel Aviv, was much more blunt in his accusation.
“Those who incite against Arab citizens of Israel should not be surprised when mosques and churches are set alight or even when a baby is burned alive in the night,” Peres said.
Peres warned that “dark, extremist forces” were threatening to destroy the state of Israel, and called on all Israelis to confront and rebuff them.
Netanyahu sent a pre-recorded clip to be aired at the Tel Aviv protest in which he mainly addressed the Jerusalem stabbings.
We reject this hatred outright,” Netanyahu said. “We will do whatever is necessary to draw the lessons from this [incident]. But the most important lesson is accepting the other even when they are not like you. And I strongly disagree that doing this goes against Judaism.”’
Rallies were also held elsewhere in Israel, including in Haifa and Beersheba.