The above three items may not seem to be connected but bear with me and I’ll show you how.
The Israeli news (which the international media have lapped up with malicious glee) is full of the acts of vandalism and petty crime committed by Israeli youngsters who live in communities in Judea and Samaria. They have been nicknamed “hilltop youth” by the media after the hilltop settlements in which some of them live. I’m sure you’ve all heard of at least some of their pranks: anti-Arab and anti-Christian graffiti spray-painted on mosques, churches, and Palestinian homes; tire slashing of cars belong to both Palestinians and the IDF; and generally causing a disturbance of the peace whenever the IDF or police come to their communities or are even in the vicinity.
The psychological reasons posited for the price-tag phenomenon are varied: they are youth traumatized by the Gush Katif expulsion; they have been traumatized by Palestinian terror attacks on themselves, their families or their friends and they feel betrayed by the IDF and the political establishment whose reactions they feel have been weak to none; they have been marginalized by a hostile press and leftist academia and feel they have no recourse; they have been brutalized by the “occupation”… the list goes on I’m sure.
I think the first 2 or 3 reasons are the most likely, but my opinion and anyone else’s is not really the point here. The point is more the huge resonance the price-tag phenomenon has received in the media, with the political and cultural echelons jumping on the bandwagon.
Hence we hear Justice Minister Tzippi Livni going completely over the top, calling price-tag “hate crimes” and condemning the perpetrators as “not belonging to my nation”. May I remind Ms. Livni that these perpetrators are as much of your nation as those extreme-leftists who hold alternate Memorial Day ceremonies in which they commemorate the terrorists and not the victims.
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon (who I thought was more level-headed) added to the aleihum by calling the price-tag perpetrators “an illegal organization“, thereby making them equivalent to Palestinian terrorists or the Mafia. May I remind Mr. Yaalon that there is a real illegal organization, a Mafia, operating right here in my home town and they have not yet been caught or stopped. And they are blowing up bombs and killing people, not just spray painting some nasty graffiti. Last night another bomb was found in Petach Tikva, this time in a school! Where is your police Mr. Yaalon? Too busy chasing graffiti-painters.
However, the famous author Amos Oz topped the pile with his outrageous and ridiculous conflation of price-tag with Neo-Nazis. Oz tried to explain his disgusting epithet by saying that he called the vandals “Neo-Nazis” and not “Nazis”. Big deal. Naftali Bennett had the best retort when he said:
Economics Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday that the statement by Oz is unfortunate. “The man dedicated a book as a gift to Marwan Bargouti, who is in jail for murdering Jews. Therefore, the things he says do not really carry any weight.”
The targeting of price-tag youth has centered partly on the town of Yitzhar where police procedures have verged on the illegal. This is in contrast to the almost total lack of police protection or reaction on the Mount of Olives, where the oldest Jewish cemetery lies, or Mt. Scopus at the Hebrew University campus. Here are just a few incidents taken from Facebook.
Police Minister Aharanovitch: we cannot stop stone-throwers because they are minors. (funny that they have no trouble arresting minors in Yitzhar).
An attack on a school bus on the way to the Cave of Machpela – unreported in the media outside of facebook:
Today, my sister was crying, was traveling with her class to visit the tomb of the Patriarchs. My mother joined. Entire bus full of children and mothers. On the way back, a Molotov was thrown. It made a direct hit. The bus was engulfed in flames. The girls and the women on the bus were screaming, crying, get down on the floor. The smell of burning. This time everything went well. The driver of the bus accelerated, and it was a bullet-proof bus. Of course, the trauma injuries are unknown at this stage.
So today, vile and abominable Arabs threw petrol bombs at a bus full of children in a well-planned ambush I don’t want to think how it might have ended.
This story didn’t show up anywhere in the media. Not interesting.
Neo Nazis are not Nazis and we should denounce the price tag and we are immoral and therefore we are required to keep to a higher standard. Cool. But come on, it’s a good idea to look reality in the face and perspective to understand how everything is distorted. If I had doubts about the righteousness of the right’s struggle on this, then these doubts have melted away.
Left-wingers, the media, Government, military, and the rest who live in a movie – wake up!
UPDATE: Two excellent articles in today’s Jerusalem Post demonstrate the utter hypocrisy of the establishment towards the price-taggers: Michael Freund asks “Are all price-tag attacks equal?” and Evelyn Gordon writes about “the hate crimes that don’t make the headlines“.
I should reiterate at this point that I condemn price-tagging for being illegal, dangerous and most probably likely to back-fire: it incites the Palestinians into even more violence (if that is possible); it antagonises the mainstream Israeli public and makes a huge Hillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s name) both inside and outside Israel since the price-taggers are seen as part of mainstream Orthodox Judaism. (I also think that anyone who vandalises Christian institutions needs their head examined. They are one of the few minorities who could be considered pro-Israel. Why lash out at them?)
However, as I remarked earlier, the official Israeli reaction has been over the top and hypocritical. This op-ed in Arutz Sheva by Douglas Altabef expresses my sentiments perfectly:
Suddenly, there is a new threat to world peace and stability. There has arisen a diabolical force, so sly, so threatening, so innately evil as to challenge the very foundations of Western Civilization.
This despicable, unspeakable force moves with the cunning of a cat, strikes with the force of the Mongol Hordes and, when the rest of the world is naively asleep, stealthily arrives to…
Spray Paint the Side of a Building!…or even worse, unbelievably worse, to…
Have we perhaps lost some perspective here, or is the hysteria about Price Tag attacks meant very much to be a straw dog for a larger issue, against a more serious enemy.
First things first. I am not excusing Price Tag attacks. They are the criminal acts of hooligans.
But let’s also apply some perspective. Spraying a wall with paint is not in the same league as spraying a car with bullets. Slashing a tire does not quite equate to slashing a throat.
But judging by the reactions of many on the Left there is no difference. Worse yet, those who find justification for the actions of Palestinian Arabs feel no compunction in labeling these perpetrators “terrorists” or even, to quote Amos Oz, “ a monster that needs to be called what it is: Hebrew neo-Nazi groups.”
Wow. Isn’t that just a wee bit extreme?
So what is really going on here? I think there are at least a few aspects to this, all related and each depressing in its own right.
For one thing, the price tag perpetrators (PTPs) have become the symbol by which the Left can hate the “Settler” movement (to use the coded term that carries the negative connotation of occupiers), and also all “Settlers”. They are not human, literally, nor from the rabid language used to describe them, metaphorically.
What the PTPs seem to have achieved is a flushing out of those who have now been able to channel their previously coded animosity towards the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria into full throated, dare I say, over-the-top condemnation of the PTPs. This extreme reaction seems like a release for all that restraint about the whole “settlement” enterprise.
There is a not so subtle equation of what the PTPs have done and what the Movement to Return to Judea and Samaria is all about. This use of a few bad apples to depict the whole bushel basket is of course reminiscent of classic anti-Semitism, wherein Jews were only as good as their most reprehensible fellow.
Whatever is ultimately going on, it is not good. While the PTPs are certainly not to be cheered nor excused, the over-the-top depiction of what they have done is in and of itself a huge problem.
So many of Israel’s detractors are probably thrilled to have this straw dog to pummel. They are excited to be revving up their righteous indignation, conjuring up in the PTPs all of the civil dissension of the ‘90’s that culminated with the Rabin assassination.
Fortunately, we have moved far from that terrible place. The PTPs serve no purpose for those who love Israel and cherish Zionism. The adults in the room can certainly condemn the deeds of the PTPs without reaching overarching and misplaced conclusions.
Dealing with PTPs is a chance to show political maturity and a quiet existential confidence.
Let’s hope we are up to the task.
Amen to that.
This brings me to the second part of my headline: destroying illegal buildings. There is no doubt that Israel is a country with the rule of law. And we have seen that our government has no compunction in destroying illegal outposts and buildings all over Judea and Samaria – even in places where the Jewish occupants have legally bought the land – and sometimes paid more than once. See Migron, Amona and Givat Ha’Ulpana for some examples.
Today, part of another “outpost”, Ma’aleh Rehavam, was torn down, and two more townships: Givat Assaf and Ramat Gilad are slated to be similarly destroyed in the coming days. You can read details at the link.
All this leads me to the last part of my headline. Former Prime Minister and former Mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert was found guilty (finally) of assorted crimes of bribery and corruption in relation to the building of the Holyland complex in Jerusalem and was sentenced to 6 years in prison. This case is so convoluted that I’m not even going to begin to address it. A close relation of mine was a senior prosecutor in one of Olmert’s earlier cases, and I think he was probably the only person in the country who could actually explain who gave what to whom, when and how. You can read the story at the link if you want to try to follow it.
What is absolutely glaringly clear though is that the ugly eyesore known as the Holyland complex, built on the site of the former beautiful Holyland hotel (due disclosure: it’s where I got married), could not possibly have been built with all the proper permits and procedures. And indeed, Olmert was found guilty along with several other conspirators, of taking bribes and otherwise perverting the course of justice, to enable the complex to be built.
David Horovitz at the Times of Israel warns of “corruption’s stain” and suggests in passing that a fitting punishment would be to tear down the complex (similar to what happened to the illegal outposts):
There are some who might argue, now that the bribery central to its construction has been exposed and the miscreants ordered to jail, that the Holyland homes should be torn down. Root canal treatment for this aberration. The fines imposed Tuesday by Judge David Rozen could go some way toward financing the demolition.
But quite apart from such an act constituting unwarranted punishment for the blameless residents, it would seem that Israel’s holders of high office could benefit from the continued presence of so dominant a reminder of the perils of corruption. And Israeli voters, too. For the scandal underlines how deeply corruption penetrated Israel’s leadership, and how strikingly indifferent much of the public has been to the rot.
So what are the odds that the Holyland complex will be torn down and its residents evacuated?
I’m laying my bets on zero odds. I’m betting that it’s one law for me and one for thee. One for the religious settlers who are standing off against the Palestinians, and another law for the rich city-dwellers who stand up to none besides the little man-in-the-street, and ruin Jerusalem’s skyline for generations to come.
So much for that vaunted rule of law.