For the first time, the United States State Department has designated Israelis as perpetrators of terror. Earlier this month, Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians were included in the “terrorist incident” list. These attacks include personal assaults, burning of mosques and roadside ambushes.
An incident this week in West Jerusalem was unique in its publicness. A gang of at least five teens set upon a Palestinian teenager in a public square, punching and kicking him until he stopped breathing, while other Israeli youths watched. Seventeen-year-old Jamal Julani was resuscitated and is in stable condition in a Jerusalem hospital. The gang, three boys and two girls aged 13 to 19 had been roaming the streets looking for a victim. They are in custody and being questioned. One of the suspects told reporters outside a courtroom “For my part, he can die. He’s an Arab.” The suspect is 15.
Analysts are citing a demographic shift in the Israeli population for the spike in hate crimes against Palestinians, and the demographics of the “settlements.” These pre-fab communities have been erected in the West Bank and West Jerusalem and populated with a disproportionate number of Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews. The settlers are also disproportionate supporters of the concept of “revisionist Zionism” which calls for Israel to have permanent ownership of the West Bank and Gaza at the very least. They are dedicated to the restoration of what they believe is Biblical Israel, something that doesn’t really come with clear borders.
The Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox settlers have the highest birth rate in Israel, a fact that is upsetting the political landscape of Israel as these children reach adulthood. They not only live in a separate space from mainstream Israelis, they live under very different circumstances. Orthodox Jews are exempt for the mandatory military service required of all physically able Israelis. Their children attend religious schools instead of the excellent public schools available to Israelis.
Other analysts point to the uprisings by Palestinians between 2000 and 2005 as a cause for the trackable increase in hatred toward them. The Macro Center for Political Economics has conducted three surveys beginning in 1998 and these show a sharp decline in Israeli acceptance of peaceful co-existence and the creation of a Palestinian state. The survey also shows an alarming trend, given the history of the Jewish people. Fifty-seven percent of Israeli teens identified themselves as right wing or moderately right wing in their political leanings and 60% said they agreed or strongly agreed that “strong leaders could fix the situation in the country better than all the laws and public discussions.”
Sixty-three years ago, American President Harry S Truman opined that he hoped the creation of the State of Israel would not result in Jews evolving from persecuted to persecutors. The right wing is the territory of fascism, the political ideology of Nazi Germany. This is not the Israel envisioned by Golda Meir, David ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan – all those people who fought to create this modern state.
Palestinians are becoming frustrated with the manner in which Israeli police usually drag their heels in solving these crimes and making arrests. It is almost as though the Palestinians are being provoked into starting another uprising.
There are 1.6 million Arabs living the Israel. The Constitution says they have equal rights, but there are numerous barriers to Arabs living as equals in Israel, the most widespread and visible being ghettoization. They are 20% of the Israeli population. There are another 4.2 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and in the West Bank they are being squeezed into smaller and smaller spaces by a combination of Israeli designation of certain lands for military use or as archeologically important or simply by the erection of new settlements. The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza live under military control, even though they nominally have autonomy.
President Obama has looked at this situation and sees oppression, repression and a retreat from decades of promises made to the Palestinians for the negotiation of a two-state solution. His criticism of the Netanyahu government has resulted in the President being accused of abandoning Israel, “throwing Israel under the bus” and betraying our “great ally.” President Obama has taken the same position as Presidents Carter and Clinton, but the Israel he is dealing with is less tolerant, less receptive to peace than Israel has ever been.
For the first time, the United States has designated Israelis as terrorists. As a nation, we can choose to apply the same standards of human rights to all people or we can choose a policy of arbitrarily deciding who deserves human rights and whose actions we will ignore. The first has become a hallmark of Democratic administrations and made Presidents Carter and Clinton respected around the world. The second is the policy of Republican administrations and led to President George W. Bush being polled as “the most dangerous man in the world,” and the United States being distrusted enough for people to truly believe that we have some secret agenda to snatch Julian Assange and imprison him at Gitmo and torture him before killing him. It’s our choice.