WASHINGTON — American Jewish groups used unusually harsh language Friday in denouncing the firebombing attack in the Palestinian village of Duma that resulted in the death of a 18-month-old boy, with some leading organizations suggesting that the Israeli government needed to step up its actions to prosecute so-called “price tag” hate crime attackers.
Noting that “this incident was most likely a so-called “price tag” attack perpetrated by extremist Israeli Jews,” the Anti-Defamation League called upon the Israeli government to step up action against the perpetrators of price tag attacks.
Assailants threw Molotov cocktails overnight into two residences in the Palestinian village near Nablus. The residents of one of the houses fled with severe injuries, but could not manage to rescue their young son, Ali, who perished in the blaze. Grafitti left on the walls of the houses suggested that the firebombing was carried out by Jewish terrorists in a “price tag” attack as revenge for ostensible actions or policies against the settlements.
ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL National Director, and Carole Nuriel, Director of ADL’s Israel Office, wrote in a joint statement that “expressions of outrage” by Israeli leaders “are no longer enough.”
“The perpetrators of these crimes need to face specific, enhanced consequences for these despicable acts of hate and terrorism,” the two demanded. “Community and religious leaders must make unquestionably clear that any act of hate and violence is unacceptable, un-Jewish, and that anyone involved in such incidents will be shunned by the community, let alone prosecuted to the full extent of the law. They must take concrete steps to identify and root out extremist elements. They must model and educate about how to express political and social views through legitimate, democratic outlets.”
Declaring that “enough is enough,” the ADL noted that price tag attacks have been ongoing for the past seven years, and emphasized that the organization “has repeatedly taken strong public positions on price tag attacks, and has called on law enforcement officials to investigate suspected incidents and prosecute those responsible, and encouraged prominent Israel political, religious and societal leaders to speak out against the underlying hatred and racism that motivates these hate crimes.”
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) also emphasized a call to deal harshly with such incidents.
“Setting ablaze the home of an innocent Palestinian family, of any such family, is frightening in its pure evil,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Whoever carried out this appalling deed must be apprehended and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and additional steps must be taken in an effort to prevent any future such attacks. Meanwhile, we pray for the recovery of those injured in this murderous assault.”
Both the AJC and ADL noted the immediate condemnations of the attack issued by Israel’s political leaders, even as they called for speedy legal action against the perpetrators.
Still, Harris noted that during the last Israeli government, a proposal to prosecute perpetrators of “price tag” attacks as terrorists was considered but not adopted. “The Israeli government should reconsider how Jewish extremists are handled and set a firm policy,” he wrote.
Condemnations of the attack were issued by many other organizations Friday.
The leadership of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America wrote that it “strongly condemns today’s apparent ‘price tag’ attack by Israelis on a Palestinian home near Nablus.”
The organization described the attack as “a heinous act” that “offends all people of good will and violates basic Jewish values.”
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations tied the overnight arson attack to the stabbing that occurred less than a day earlier at the Jerusalem gay pride parade.
In that attack, an ultra-Orthodox man recently released from prison for a near-identical 2005 attack stabbed six parade participants.
Stephen Greenberg, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations wrote that both attacks “warrant the broadest condemnation,” and noted that they “welcome the strong statements and actions by the government of Israel to apprehend those responsible and to bring them to justice.”
“These attacks, as well as the many recorded terror incidents in the past week that injured twenty-two Israelis can never be justified,” the two continued. “They must be met with determined action to prevent violence, apprehend perpetrators, and hold to account those who engage in incitement. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
The New Israel Fund, a leftist group that draws much of its support from the American Jewish community, also drew parallels between the two incidents in an English-language announcement.
“One cannot say, year after year, that Israel exists only for its Jewish citizens, or only for the Jewish citizens who comply with a narrow, right-wing interpretation of Zionism, and then be shocked when extremists feel free to express hatred and do violence and innocent children are murdered,” the group complained.
The organization said that right-wing leaders “have tolerated or personified incitement and exclusion” and that now they “need to be held responsible for their rhetoric and their actions.”
The New Israel Fund, which itself has been resoundingly criticized on the right for its positions and its European funding sources, added that the same admonition “also holds for religious leadership.”
“Rabbinical extremists who use holy texts to justify hatred and violence are even more despicable than their political brethren,” the organization complained. “Homophobia, misogyny, and the ugliest expressions of prejudice stain some in the ultra-Orthodox leadership and community and must be roundly denounced.”