The Jerusalem lynching story is not getting anything like the attention that murderous mob violence directed against Arabs in a society that calls itself our democratic ally in the Middle East ought to receive in the U.S. A terrifying story like this ought to be awakening our media to the real danger of explosive violence in Israel/Palestine and the end of the two state solution. But our media and politicians ignore the sectarian attacks, kick the can down the road.
The Times ran its story on the attempted lynching of “Palestinian youths” three days after the incident (Rob’t Mackey’s ledeblog story ran the same day there). And rushing in to defend Israel was Jeffrey Goldberg, saying the victims are “Arabs” (not Palestinians) and: “This sort of thing isn’t actually that new.”
Oh, now you tell us. But Goldberg wants folks to move along…
I’m always perplexed, after an incident like this, to read emotional statements like the one from Kershner, who said that the attack “is leading many Israelis to question how their society could have come to this.” First of all, which Israelis? Name some. Name one. I’m not saying they don’t exist. I know they exist, I just want to know if this includes only people in Kershner’s liberal circles.
By the way, “liberal circles” ended slavery in this country, ended Jim Crow and helped to end apartheid. They also gave us Roe v Wade and gay rights and feminism, and Jewish emancipation in Europe in the 18th century.
Israeli attorney Daniel Seidemann does think it’s a big deal, and he wrote to Goldberg about the mob; and good for Goldberg, he published Seidemann’s statement about creeping fascism in Israeli politics. Here’s a substantial excerpt (including Seidemann’s foolish jab at “Arabists” in the US State Department, i.e., anyone who cares about human rights):
This has not ceased being the lead item in the printed and electronic press [in Israel]. With much of the editorial judgments commercially driven, and the IBA [broadcasting authority] subject to governmental pressure, this wouldn’t be happening if the editors did not believe this genuinely concerns a large chunk of the public. I think they are right.
A lot of Israeli denial is based on the fact that these things happen “there”, in the West Bank, not “here.” And stuff like this does happen in Hebron and East Jerusalem (not all the time, but not rarely), and receives little coverage outside the media of the ideological left. (Look at Youtube on the abuse of Palestinian kids by soldiers and plainclothesman in Hebron just over the last couple of months). But there is nowhere in Jerusalem that is more “here” than Kikar Tziyon (Zion Square), and the comfort zone is narrowing. We may be witnessing the Hebronization of Jerusalem
… I think that patience among many Israelis (who don’t need superfluous worries) about settler violence is wearing thin.
…Things might be best summed up by taking a hard look at the public pronouncements of three prominent figures on this: Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, condemned “any expression of violence, both verbal or physical, by any party,” turning both victims and perps into faceless, odorless, colorless, tasteless entities. He’s got elections in a year, and will need the support even of the radical right.
…And then there was Deputy Prime Minister Bogie Yaalon. I never have had much admiration for Yaalon, the politician. Watching him, this secular former kibbutznik, pander much more than he would like to the settlers makes me squirm. And he condemned the attack in no uncertain terms, as “hate crime” and terror.
First, this is a game-changer in terms of the discourse. It’s not only the “Arabists” at State that call this terror, this is from our Deputy prime minister, who is not about to get a prize from B’Tselem (Israel’s most prominent human rights group).
Second, I don’t think he was putting his ear to ground and listening to public opinion. He will be standing in Likud primaries some time soon, and he probably caused himself electoral damage by this statement, and did it with open eyes. And he did it because in spite of his move to the right, because this violates his values, and worries him. My guess is he is not alone.
Finally – as to the backgrounds of the attackers: not clear yet. The reports from the courts were “kids with no prior criminal records”, but also haven’t heard the euphemistic “…from normative backgrounds”.
Also, while I am very grateful to Isabel Kershner for documenting facts about persecution of African migrants and the attempted lynching for NYT readers, it is dismaying that in both instances, her sympathies seem immediately to flow toward the population from which the perpetrators originated, rather than to the society the victims inhabit. A few weeks back Kershner wrote a piece titled “Crackdown on African Migrants Tugs at Israel’s Soul” and said that “the government clampdown is also ripping at Israel’s soul,” because it reminds some Israelis of the Holocaust, she wrote.
Well today the arrests for the attempted lynching in Jerusalem is also ripping at Israel’s soul, in Kershner’s view:
Hundreds of bystanders watched the mob beating, the police said — and no one intervened.
Two of the suspects were girls, the youngest 13, adding to the soul-searching and acknowledgment that the poisoned political environment around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has affected the moral compass of youths growing up within it..
The attacks, Kershner went on,
opened a stark national conversation about racism, violence, and how Israeli society could have come to this point.
Kershner chronicles Israel’s soul, I believe, because she has an attachment to the Jewish state’s ideal image of itself. When if you had asked the average Palestinian in 1949 or 1989 or 2009 what they thought about Israel’s soul, they might have been quite articulate about “racism, violence, and how Israeli society could have come to this point.” Maybe we need a little less soulful reporting from the Middle East.