As the fallout continues after Jewish fundamentalists firebombed the sleeping Dawabshe family in their home in the occupied West Bank last June, Israeli commentators have begun to compare the Jewish State to ISIS.
Liberal Zionist and Ha’aretz columnist Asher Schechter recently wrote a piece entitled “Meet Judeo-ISIS: The Inevitable Result of Israel’s Presence in the West Bank”. No major critic of Israel himself, former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens wrote an article called “The Jewish Equivalent of ISIS.”
But the comparison had been drawn more than a year before. Speaking to the European parliament, Max Blumenthal coined the term JSIL (Jewish State in Israel in the Levant). Shortly after, Blumenthal, Rania Khalek and I launched the JSIL hashtag on Twitter with a series of tweets drawing parallels between the self-proclaimed Jewish and Islamic states.
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) September 29, 2014
— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) September 28, 2014
Growing up Jewish in America, #JSIL infiltrated my synagogue and actively recruits from my community to kill for its expansionist aims.
— Dan Cohen (@dancohen3000) September 29, 2014
The parallels we drew struck a major chord among supporters and detractors alike, and the hashtag took on a life of its own. Media outlets in Israel and the US disparagingly covered the JSIL hashtag. Ha’aretz’s Alison Kaplan Sommer wrote “There’s a new ugly hashtag in town.” Yair Rosenberg, who writes for Tablet Magazine and volunteers to edit the Israeli government’s English-language archives, tweeted that comparing between ISIS and Israel is anti-Semitic. New York Magazine called #JSIL “awful.”
But the deadly firebombing last summer has thrust the movement of fundamentalist religious Zionists into the spotlight.
As 18-month-old Ali, his 4-year-old brother Ahmad and their parents, Reham and Sa’ad Dawabshe, slept in their home in the West Bank village of Duma, Israeli settlers threw a molotov cocktail through the windows of their home. Baby Ali burned to death in his room and both parents succumbed to their wounds weeks later, leaving Ahmad as the sole, scarred survivor. Hebrew graffiti spraypainted on the walls outside read “Revenge” and “Long live messiah the king” – slogans of fundamentalist Jewish movements in nearby settlements.
As the spotlight was on the Israeli government, politicians across the spectrum condemned the attack and promised swift action. But weeks passed without any arrests, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon quietly announced that the government knew the identities of the killers but would not arrest them in order to not divulge their intelligence sources. Since then, the Shin Bet has arrested suspects and obtained confessions through means of torture.
Last week, a video was leaked that has been dubbed The Wedding of Hate, showing a celebration where guests waved military-issued guns and molotov cocktails, and one man stabbed a photo of baby Ali Dawabshe. Once again, the video caused embarrassment to Israeli officials, forcing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to issue a condemnation.
Two days ago, Ha’aretz reported that one of the suspects, whose identity the Israeli government is protecting, will be charged with murder next week. On Tuesday, the Israeli prison service released one suspect and he was greeted with cheers and balloons.
The entire episode revealed a side of Israel that has long been kept under wraps and forced the mainstream to acknowledge it, and thus the appropriation of the JSIL concept.
But no one has condemned Asher Schechter or Moshe Arens for comparing Israel to ISIS, perhaps because the mask has been ripped off and the parallels are now impossible to completely ignore. Unfortunately, Blumenthal, Khalek and myself have been vindicated but it appears that we will not be credited.