The history of rightwing Jewish extremism in Israel is strong. Not 20 years ago a religious extremist murdered Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin because he was considering giving up land to Palestinians under the Oslo accords. Killer Yigal Amir was backed by a conspiracy including rabbis and settlers.
Ten years ago Ariel Sharon was Prime Minister, and Jeffrey Goldberg reported in The New York Times that settlers were urging Sharon’s assassination because he might give up land.
Today Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure to do the same thing, give up land, yet we hear nothing about that history of Jew-on-Jew violence in Israeli society. Why isn’t Yigal Amir’s name a household word in the discourse of Israel/Palestine? Why isn’t the violent religious settler culture that nurtured him in our press? It is surely seething now that the Kerry framework nears completion.
Has that culture gone away? Yossi Gurvitz says it’s alive and well. So does Max Blumenthal’s book Goliath. But the mainstream media are ignoring his account of rightwing elements in Israeli society. (Why can’t they even do a hatchet job on it?) They’re not just hiding the crazy uncle in the attic– they’re hiding a crazed homicidal uncle.
Where is Jeffrey Goldberg when we need him? Here is Goldberg, writing in great detail in The New York Times in August 2004 about rightwing extremists threatening to kill the prime minister:
Ayelet [a settler in Ofra] wore a long skirt, her hair was covered, and she carried an M-16. I asked her if she thought Amalek [biblical enemy of Jews] was alive today. “Of course,” she said…
“Sharon isn’t Amalek,” she said, “but he works for Amalek.”..
“Sharon is forfeiting his right to live,” she said.
I asked her if she would like to kill him.
“It’s not for me to do. If the rabbis say it, then someone will do it. He is working against God.”
Over the past year, I’ve heard at least 14 young Orthodox settlers – in outposts, and in yeshivas in the West Bank and Jerusalem – express with vehemence a desire to murder Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his men, in particular the deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and the defense minister, Shaul Mofaz. I’ve met several more who actively pray – and, I suspect, work – for the destruction of the Dome of the Rock, the Muslim shrine on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. And I have met dozens more who would not sit shiva, certainly not for the Dome, but not for their prime minister, either.
The threat of the radical right has become a matter of terrible urgency in the Israeli government. Avi Dichter, the chief of the Israeli internal security service, … told a Knesset committee last month that his agents believe there are 150 to 200 settlers hoping to kill Mr. Sharon. A member of the committee asked, “If we were talking about Palestinians and not Jews, would you place these people in administrative detention?” Mr. Dichter answered, “Absolutely.”