Israeli leaders are uniting to condemn the violent attack on Palestinian teenagers by Jewish youth in Jerusalem on August 17th, which Care2 reported in Lynchings’ in the Holy Land.
In that incident, “scores of Jewish youths” beat several Arab teenagers, according to The New York Times. Though a crowd witnessed the beatings, no one intervened. Nine Jewish teens have been indicted for the crime.
In the days since the assault, Israeli officials and many citizens have spoken out against the violence and the hatred that caused it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ”This is something we cannot accept – not as Jews, not as Israelis,” according to Ma’an, a Palestinian news service.
Reuven Rivlin, a leader of the right-wing Likud party and the Speaker of the Knesset (Parliament), made a sweeping denouncement of anti-Arab sentiment among Israeli Jews. He called the attack on the Arab teens “a microcosm of a national problem that could endanger Israeli democracy,” and warned that “this evil” resulted from “insufficient education.” Rivlin worried that ”more and more youth think that hate and racial violence are permissible.” Rivlin visited the most severely injured Palestinian youth in the hospital and apologized to him personally, according to the Jewish JTA news service.
It seems that some officials are giving Israeli adults a pass and focusing on youth as the locus of anti-Arab sentiment, blaming biased education for the problem. Rivlin said that “This evil comes from insufficient education,” because of which “more and more youth think that hate and racial violence are permissible.”
Rivlin did admit that “We, the government, the Knesset, schools and everyone who sees himself as a leader, are responsible for this,” according to The Jerusalem Post. But the most concrete and wide-reaching action a government official has taken is the education minister’s order to schools to hold classroom discussions about the beating.
Others, however, are speaking out against the spread of anti-Arab racism throughout Israeli society. As Israeli newspaper Haaretz editorialized,
Even the denunciations of the prime minister and other public figures can’t obscure the fact that this lynching has a deep-seated political and social context.
The suspected perpetrators are children and teens. They absorbed their hatred of Arabs from their environment: perhaps at home, certainly from the educational and political systems. When incitement against Arabs has become politically correct, when rabbis urge the public to treat Arabs in a racist manner and aren’t fired from their posts, when the Knesset passes legislation over which a nationalist and racist flag waves, when the education minister extols Jewish supremacy over the Palestinians in Hebron, it’s impossible to complain solely about those teens, who translated all this into the language of violence.
Of course Palestinian violence against Jewish Israelis is itself a chronic problem, from throwing stones at passing vehicles to two full-scale intifadas. Arab teenagers have participated in these attacks. We are now witnessing the almost inevitable cycle of violence begetting violence and hatred begetting hatred. That cycle seems to have sped up of late: the recent rise in attacks on Palestinians by Jews reflects a change in Israeli society, where Jewish violence against Arabs (outside of the military) used to be rare. It may also be evidence of diminishing hope, and diminishing chances, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be resolved peacefully.