Thinking Aloud: The Israeli Debate Over “Jewish Terror”

Apr. 15, 2014 by Darius 

Last weekend, Israeli soldiers seized control of a religious building in the West Bank, cordoning off the area with barbed wire.  What makes this incident different from many others is that the building was not a mosque but a Jewish seminary and synagogue in the ultra-nationalist settlement of Yitzhar.  The army took control of the area in response to an incident in which a mob of angry settlers attacked and destroyed an Israeli army compound – a compound there for the settlement’s own security.  The settlers were enraged because Israeli police had recently evacuated and demolished three buildings constructed in the settlement illegally.  The Yitzhar incident has sparked a major debate in Israel: was the destruction of the small military compound by settlers an act of terror?

According to six former heads of Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security services, the answer is an unequivocal yes.  [Source: “Israel Seizes Seminary Over ‘Jewish Terror,’” The Wall Street Journal, April 12-13 2014, p.A6, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303603904579495571175639540]  One former head of Shin Bet said that the settlers arrested for the incident should be subjected to the same harsh interrogation techniques as members of Hamas.

The Yitzhar incident is an extreme new example of “price tag” attacks carried out by Jewish extremists, usually against Palestinians but also against Jews who don’t share their views.  The Israeli army reported 72 price tag attacks in the first two months of 2014, 33% higher than 2013.  Yet the Israeli government’s response to price taggers has been rather tepid.  One former Shin Bet chief felt the reasons for the lack of a response were clear: prosecuting price taggers would expose, and exacerbate, deep divisions within Israeli society.  (These are the same sorts of divisions Max Blumenthal confronts in Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.  See https://notwhatyoumightthink.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/thinking-aloud-goliath/.)

Is there a double standard here?  Certainly.  But the government is not in an enviable position.  At least it’s nice to see that when pushed, the Israeli military takes a hard line on Jewish jihad too.

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