Following the killing-by-stones of Palestinian Aisha al-Rabi, 48, on October 12th, allegedly by Jewish settler youths, Israel is facing an ideological question of how to regard stones, and whether stones have a nationality.
“A stone thrower is a terrorist,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said in 2015, when Israel was amending a law that establishes stiff prison terms for stone-throwers (up to 20 years if harmful intent is proven, 10 years even if the stone-thrower does not intend harm).
In the al-Rabi case, there has now reportedly been found forensic evidence– that is DNA on the very stone that killed her as she, her husband, and daughter were traveling in a car on the occupied West Bank– tying it to one of the five Jewish suspects (as Nir Hasson reported yesterday in Haaretz).
This is a pretty clear case. Israel’s security agency Shin Bet also reported that before the arrest of the five teens from the Rheleim settlement Yeshiva (religious school), extremist settler activists rode in cars to the youths’ homes (violating the religious prohibition against driving on Shabbat) to advise the youths on how to conduct themselves under interrogation. One of these activists was Meir Ettinger, the grandson of Meir Kahane and a veteran of arrests and interrogations. Until recently, Ettinger was also the prime focus of the Shin Bet’s Jewish division.
The judge in this case has so far been lenient. He initially said he might release the minor “under very restrictive conditions” because the young man’s version of events could “open a significant gap in the alleged evidentiary basis that would justify rejecting the state’s request [of indictment].” Subsequently the judge reversed that stance.
About a hundred rabbis published an open letter to the prime minister, justice minister and interior minister protesting the teens’ arrest and the conditions of their detention.
A Haaretz editorial today reports on what Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, a Chief Rabbi of Safed with several institutional Chief Rabbinate posts, said to students at the very yeshiva that the suspects come from; and Haaretz say he is inciting murder:
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the rabbi of Safed and an important personality in the religious Zionist community, believes that an injustice was done to the five teens suspected of killing Palestinian woman Aisha Rabi. During a lesson in halakha, Jewish law, that he delivered to students at the Pri Haaretz yeshiva high school which the suspects attend, he called the justice system corrupt and said it was discriminating against the teens, while it favored Arabs. The fact that the teens allegedly threw stones at the car in which Rabi, a mother of eight, was riding, causing her death, doesn’t seem to make much of an impression on him. “When Arabs throw stones in the West Bank, that’s okay,” he said. “But if it’s a Jews, you call out the entire Shin Bet? What kind of law is that? Where is that law written?” The content of his talk with the Pri Haaretz students amounts to explicit support for the terror suspects. The belittling of the stone-throwing that caused the tragedy (“What’s the big deal? What are you being accused of? You threw a stone”) is criminal disregard for human life and indirect incitement to murder.
Eliyahu is an openly racist Jewish-supremacist. He has opposed having Palestinian Israeli citizens study in Safed Academic College; expressed support for transferring Palestinian citizens out of Israel and issued a ruling forbidding Jews to sell or rent apartments to non-Jews.
Let’s do a reality check. If we were speaking of a Muslim cleric here who openly supports Palestinian terror, this person would, at the very least, be condemned by the Zionist Jewish-Supremacists, not least by Justice Minister Shaked.
But let’s look at Shaked’s attitude towards Eliyahu. Two years ago, the Israel Religious Action Center and a few other organizations petitioned the High Court to subject Eliyahu to a disciplinary trial for his previous statements. Shaked avoided taking any steps against him, but pressured by the petition, declared that she had held a “clarification talk” with him. The justice minister who advocated for genocide in Gaza by posting a recommendation that Israel kill “little snakes” (Palestinian children), held a “clarification talk” with the racist rabbi. One wonders what they were discussing. Nothing happened. And here he is again.
It is an open secret in Israeli society, that stones, in and of themselves, are not considered murderous weapons, when Jews are throwing them.
A comparative case from last year is the evacuation of 15 homes in the illegal Jewish West Bank settler outpost called Netiv Ha’avot. There, the massive Israeli police force took great pains (and injuries) to complete this evacuation without firing a shot (active evacuation personnel were unarmed), despite the fact that security forces were violently attacked by the protesters, who hurled rocks, bottles, paint balls and other objects at them. The police statement said two officers were treated for head injuries, and another was lightly injured in the leg. According to police, a number of the protesters on the roof were also seen carrying cement blocks and glass bottles.
Yet, not a shot fired. Because the outrage of the uprooted settlers, including their stones (and potentially even cement blocks) is something that we need to sympathize with, even suffer injuries from. After all, they are Jewish.
Compare that to the killing of Izz al-Din Tamimi in Nabi Saleh by Israeli soldiers just a week earlier (several live rounds fired at close range). The 21-year-old Tamimi “flanked the troops and hurled the rock, striking a soldier’s head,” the Israeli army said. “In response, the soldier who was hit by the rock fired towards the Palestinian”. The army was nonetheless careful to note that no soldiers were injured.
You see the pattern: the stone of a colonialist settler that has killed an occupied Palestinian, with intent, and has a DNA address on it, is something to be understood and empathized with, whereas the stone of the occupied, thrown at an occupying soldier (possibly scratching the helmet or something) means immediate extrajudicial execution.
That’s “stone-cold justice” in Greater Israel, for real (to borrow the title of the Australian documentary on Israeli detention of Palestinian children).
The case of the killing of Aisha al-Rabi also begs a comparison to another case, which on the face of it seems to be like a mirror case: the alleged stoning of Adva Biton in 2013. Biton, 40, a Jewish illegal settler from Yakir, was driving with three of her daughters (age 3, 4, 5) when she crashed into a truck on the side of the road near the settlement Ariel. The youngest daughter was severely injured. First, the truck driver told police at the scene that he pulled over after he heard a thud, thinking it was the result of a flat tire. Adva Biton had simply crashed into the truck and basically buried the car under it. But quickly, the story came to be about stones. The truck driver said he saw “stones on the road”, and this became a settler-orgy of hate against Palestinian stone-throwing. In no time, some Palestinian youths were rounded up in the nearby towns of Hares and Kifl Hares. After a series of raids and torture-interrogations, five boys from Hares, aged 16 at the time, “confessed” to throwing stones and signed documents in Hebrew (which they do not read or write). The Israeli military prosecutor first submitted an indictment containing 25 charges of attempted murder for each of the boys. The maximum sentence is life in prison.
Despite the Palestinian boys retracting the “confessions” in military court, they were eventually sentenced in 2016 to 15 years in prison and fines of 30,000 Shekels each (about 8,000 USD). They are known as the Hares Boys. The child-icon of this story for Israel and Israel-supporters was the youngest daughter Adele, who died nearly two years later from pneumonia.
Notice how former New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren (now the paper’s associate managing editor for audience) uncritically parroted Israeli claims and propaganda, in a rather short coverage of the girl’s death in February 2015:
A 4-year-old Israeli girl who was critically injured in a car accident caused by Palestinian rock throwers two years ago died on Tuesday after a severe bout of pneumonia that relatives said was complicated by her neurological trauma.
In the tiny 4-paragraph piece, Rudoren tells us how “the girl, Adele Biton, became a potent national symbol of the dangers that stones can cause after the March 2013 attack… when a rock hit their car, causing the driver to lose control and crash into a truck”. Rudoren devoted a paragraph to the settler leader Gershon Mesika, who said that “this serves as a reminder to everyone in Israel that rocks can kill,” and her last paragraph to (then Economy) Minister Naftali Bennett, who “posted on Facebook a photo of himself with Adele and her mother, Adva, who was also injured in the attack, and wrote, ‘There are no words.'”
The child Adele Biton did not die as a direct result of stone-throwing. She may have died indirectly from stone-throwing, but there is real doubt that stones were even the cause of the accident. Nonetheless, this becomes the narrative. And why should the New York Times even doubt the veracity of the Israeli military court, which boasts of more than 99% convictions? There is no time for doubt, when it concerns Jewish lives. And if they are settlers, let’s give the settlers time and space, lots of it.
In the case of the settler yeshiva boys who allegedly stoned Aisha al-Rabi, we are of course not speaking of a military court. Yes, the Shin Bet is alleged to have used torture here, and if true that is a crime. But the arrests touch upon a much wider issue: that of a Messianic Jewish-terrorist network that aims to take down the Zionist Jewish State in order to create a Kingdom of Israel. It may surprise some, that many in this network consider themselves anti-Zionists, in that they view Zionism as way too soft and liberal. Mayan Sarnat covers this issue in the recent Haaretz piece “The False Innocence of Jewish Terrorism”, noting how Ettinger, who sought to assist the youths in the wake of the stoning, authored the manifesto “The Revolt” espousing the basic ideology, and how there are other booklets that aim to help perpetrators. Sarnat explains how booklets of the network advise small cells rather than a wide network, to reduce the chances of exposure. Within the cell, the activists are required to maintain compartmentalization. For example, if two members carry out a certain action, there is no need for them to share this with the rest of the cell. “You just mustn’t tell about it. And of course, the other members mustn’t question this and try to find out more,” it says. This also explains why the network is difficult to define precisely. There is a connection between this circle and the Duma arson attack of 2015, where 18-month old baby Ali Dawabsheh was burnt alive by Jewish terrorists in the West Bank town (Ali’s mother Riham and father Saad died of their wounds a few weeks later, and of the family of four, only 5-year-old Ahmad survived the arson with severe burns). Last summer, supporters of this terrorist network taunted Ali’s grandfather outside court, chanting “Where’s Ali? There’s no Ali. Ali is burned. On the fire. Ali is on the grill” – with police doing nothing.
The letter by the hundred rabbis in support of the recent settler-youth suspects did not include any moral statement regarding the deed at the center of the investigation. Rather, it condemned the Shin Bet’s “unacceptable interrogation methods” and suggested that they be disqualified on that basis. Needless to say, when Palestinian children are randomly and regularly subject to torture, you will not hear an outcry from here.
Anshel Pfeffer writes in Haaretz, “The Settler Leadership Is a Violent, Lawless, Racist Gang of Vigilantes”:
The teenage suspects have received blanket support from the ideological, political and religious leaders of the moment. Nary a word of criticism for their alleged actions, just an outpouring of vitriol against the Shin Bet and its attempts to reach the truth. True liberals can never be complacent when minors are being questioned and prevented from meeting their lawyers, but the settlers protests go beyond mere hypocrisy, as they would never have any qualms when Palestinian terror suspects are treated in similar, and often far worse, manner.
So really, all of this is not about stones. It’s not even about justice.
The real story here is about how a Jewish-terrorist network and ideology is receiving legitimization from a leadership that is growing in strength, numbers and clout. Although these ‘hilltop youths’ consider themselves “anti-Zionists”, they are really Zionists who are seeking to take Zionism a step further. Zionism was never really secular – it always had that Messianic vein in it, in one way or another. Zionists who consider themselves ‘leftists’, like Israeli historian Benny Morris, can say that they oppose a “Messianic occupation”, but “Messianic occupation” is, in one way or another, the essence of Zionism. These Jewish terrorists simply think Zionism is too liberal in its current form.
Israel is at odds with itself. And the struggle is, how much clout the one form of Zionism has, as opposed to the other form.
Will the Israeli government treat a Jewish stone like it treats a Palestinian stone? And if it does, how will it handle the backlash from the many supporters of Jewish terror? And what will Justice Minister Shaked do?
A few weeks ago, Shaked talked on the phone with the mother of one of the Israeli suspects arrested in the killing of Aisha al-Rabi, telling her to “stay strong”. I dare say Shaked would never say that to a Palestinian mother. Why would you say that to someone who you think breeds “little snakes”?