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Israeli attack goes to heart of society in crisis

An attack on young Palestinians by youthful Israelis demonstrates how Israel is increasingly dominated by hatred.

When they were taken into court in handcuffs, the Israeli boys and girls who came close to committing murder tried to hide their faces, shielding themselves from the glare of the cameras. Yet the media coverage has been relentless and has starkly exposed the violence that pervades so much of Israeli society.

Seven youths, including Jewish boys as young as 13 and two 15-year old girls, were arrested for an attack on four Palestinian boys - in broad daylight in downtown Jerusalem. The attack has been called an "attempted lynching". Witnesses reported that the Palestinian boys were minding their own business when they were set upon. One boy was beaten so badly paramedics said he did not have a pulse, although he later regained consciousness.

One of the alleged attackers was unrepentant: "As far as I am concerned, he can die," he told reporters outside the court.

Where does such hate come from among people who are so young? The answer lies within Israel, and a worsening culture of hate for the "other" inculcated over generations. This violence wasn't on the same scale as settler attacks on Palestinians - the so-called "price tag" attacks that even the US State Department recognises as terrorism - but it stems from the same source.

Israeli society is riven by a crisis of xenophobia. One can see this dramatically in the way African immigrants have been treated, evicted from their homes and deported to South Sudan. In some cases, their homes and businesses have been attacked even though they were vacant. One can see it too in the way that so many Israelis divide Jews into categories, from the European Jews to the Arabs and Iranians to the Africans of Jewish origin, who regularly complain of discrimination.

Official Israeli policy aids this. The language of Israeli politicians dehumanises the "others", whether they are Palestinians or some other "suspect" group. In the occupied Palestinian territory discrimination is official: Israeli police protect illegal settlers as they attack Palestinians, while the state continues to construct Jewish-only roads.

Many Israelis recognise this violence and openly wonder what happened to the tolerant, liberal society some of their founders intended. The truth is that the continuing occupation of Palestinian land - the checkpoints, the violence, the theft, the legal discrimination - has created a society based on domination, a cruel idea that has permeated every aspect of Israeli society.

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