By the Editorial Advisory Board
It is appropriate that Israeli leaders have labeled the stabbings of gay pride marchers in Jerusalem and the firebombing of a Palestinian home last week “Jewish terrorism.” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu deserves credit for phoning Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and telling him that “it’s upon us to together fight terror, no matter which side perpetrates it.”
But it’s critical for the leaders of Israel – and for Jews everywhere – to recognize that such terror does not take place in a vacuum. It occurs in an ideological and institutional context. Just as they need to address the ideological and institutional context of Islamic terrorism, so they must do the same when it comes to Jewish terrorism.
Twenty years ago, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Yeshiva student who had been taught by his rabbis that the Israeli prime minister was a rodef – a “pursuer” whose killing was justified because he endangered Jewish lives. At the time, Netanyahu himself spoke at rallies where opponents of the Oslo peace process displayed posters portraying Rabin in a Nazi SS uniform and as a target in the cross-hairs of a gun.
What is the context for last week’s murderous assaults?
The stabbings, which resulted in the death of 16-year-old Shira Banki, were committed by Yishai Schlissel, a haredi man recently released from prison after serving a 10-year sentence for attempted murder and aggravated assault in an almost identical attack. His is a community that decries the annual gay pride march as “the abomination parade” – using the word toieva employed by Leviticus to identify various forbidden practices. A week before this year’s march, Schlissel distributed a letter that said, “It is the obligation of every Jew to keep his soul from punishment and stop this giant desecration of God’s name next Thursday.”
The precise context for the firebombing of the home in the villiage of Duna, in which 18-month-old Ali Dawabshe died (in above photo) is less clear. It might have been a “price tag” attack, carried out in retaliation for Israeli government actions to limit settler activity on the West Bank. But the word “revenge” was scrawled on the home by the assailants, leading some to speculate that attack was a response to the murder of a resident of the nearby settlement of Shiloh a month earlier. In addition, the attackers left behind messianic graffiti: “Yechi Hamelech Hamashiach” (“long live the king Messiah”).
When the Duna attackers are arrested, their true motives should become clear. In the meantime, we need to take to heart the message of the thousands of Israelis who took to the streets last weekend to warn against the rise of violent, radicalized groups in the Jewish state.