Hate Crime in Jerusalem, U.S. Calls Settler Violence "Terrorism"
Last week’s bulletin analyzed the growing problem of settler violence after a firebomb attack in the West Bank injured six Palestinians, including two children. Hours later in Jerusalem, another brutal hate crime was committed by Israeli youth that left an Arab teen in a coma. These events sparked a national conversation on ways to end the violence epidemic among extremist Israelis.
Late at night on August 16 in Jerusalem’s crowded Zion Square, 40 young Israelis chased several Palestinian Arab youths from East Jerusalem while shouting “Death to Arabs” and other racial epithets. One of the Arabs, 17 year-old Jamal Julani, fell while trying to run away and at least ten Israelis beat and kicked him until he was unconscious. While police say none of the hundreds of bystanders intervened to stop the beating, one young Israeli medical student saved Julani’s life after the attackers ran off. The hero told Yedioth Ahronoth, “From the moment that Jamal was on the ground I was right there beside him, giving him CPR. He lost his pulse twice and I restored it.” Julani remained in a coma for two days and is now recovering in the hospital.
By Monday, August 20, seven Israeli teens were in custody for what police and witnesses are calling an attempted lynching. New York Times writer Isabel Kershner reports that the event has led to “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.”
Many prominent Israeli politicians have denounced the attacks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement saying, “We will not tolerate racism, and we will not tolerate the combination of racism and violence. This is something we just cannot accept, not as Jews, not as Israelis.”
Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon turned to social media to call the attacks “hate crimes” and “terrorist acts.” Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann calls this condemnation a “game-changer in terms of the discourse.” He writes, “[Ya’alon] 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.”
Many Israelis are now wondering how to ratchet down the violence and racism that is becoming increasingly common. Ami Nahshon, president of the Abraham Fund Initiatives told the Jewish Week, “There is an atmosphere that feeds on itself, and the only answer is a definitive, proactive investment by Israeli leaders to close the gaps between Arabs and Jews, to teach tolerance to combat racism and to pursue and prosecute the offenders of hate crimes.”
Please pray for the young man recovering from his injuries, for the young people arrested for their acts of hate, and for all Israelis and Palestinians affected by hate and violence.
The recently released U.S. State Department’s report on terrorist activities around the world in 2011 is receiving increased attention this year after including incidents of settler violence in the West Bank. The report mentions the Muslim cemetery vandalized in November and two mosque burnings in December as being a part of the “price tag” campaign waged by settlers in retaliation for actions taken by the government of Israel they perceive as weakening the settlement enterprise.
The report also details terrorist attacks perpetrated by Palestinian extremists. The most deadly incidences were the tragic murders of five Fogel family members by two young Palestinian men and an attack from terrorists in the Sinai that killed eight. There was also concern over the increase of rockets launched from Gaza. The report states that, “From January 1, 2011 to November 15, 2011, 716 projectiles fired from Gaza landed in Israel, according to the Israeli government” and mentions two fatalities, including a 16 year-old riding a school bus. It also notes that while Israel holds the governing organization in Gaza, Hamas, responsible for any attacks, “the majority of such attacks were conducted by PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad], the Popular Resistance Committees, and other groups inside Gaza.”
The report also notes that the Palestinian Authority has stepped up efforts to stop terrorism. According to IDF sources, the Palestinian Authority Security Forces have improved their capacity to stop terror and “there was a 96 percent reduction in the number of terrorist incidents in the West Bank over the past five years.”
The State Department also points out that “Israeli security services continued the trend of relaxing movement and access measures in the West Bank.” It does not mention whether any arrests have been made in the price tag attacks, only that Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres have condemned them.
On Tuesday, August 21, the Republican Party’s platform committee approved their planks on foreign policy and defense. According to Washington Post writer Walter Pincus, “it appears the GOP platform panel’s most controversial discussion came over whether to include a reference that inferred support of the ‘two-state solution’ to the Palestinian question in the section about Israel.”
The 112 delegates defeated three amendments to change the language from 2008, still supported by the Romney campaign, which calls for two democratic states existing side-by-side. Pincus reports that, “Different committee members said they did not want to join the Democrats in pressuring or dictating to Israel on Palestine. One member said the GOP should remain neutral.”
One opponent of the amendments was one of Mitt Romney’s advisors, Jim Talent, who was tasked with ensuring the final document fell in line with Romney’s proposals. He spoke several times defending the two-state solution and even quoted Prime Minister Netanyahu’s own words in support of a Palestinian state. Talent asked the assembled delegates, “How do we express support for Israel if we offer an amendment that is pushing them in the direction of abandoning the policy they’ve chosen?”
“Pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization J Street released a statement saying it “welcomes the news” of the amendments’ rejection. However it also voiced concern “that such amendments could garner even a modicum of support demonstrates the very real threat to longstanding bipartisan support for the two-state resolution as a central feature of America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s survival and security as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people.”
Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a coalition of 24 national Church denominations and organizations, including Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions. It works to encourage U.S. government policies that actively promote a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ensuring security, human rights and religious freedom for all people of the region.