x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Israel confronted by Jewish terrorism

If the arrest of Yaacov 'Jack' Teitel, an alleged Jewish terrorist living as a settler in the West Bank raised questions about the level of communal support such an individual receives, a new publication confirmed that his views are far from exceptional. A book published this week by a radical Jewish rabbi and endorsed by prominent religious right-wing figures suggests killing any non-Jew, including children and babies, who pose a threat to Israel.

If the arrest of Yaacov 'Jack' Teitel, an alleged Jewish terrorist living as a settler in the West Bank raised questions about the level of communal support such an individual receives, a new publication confirmed that his views are far from exceptional. Vita Bekker, reporting for The National said: "A book published this week by a radical Jewish rabbi from the Israeli-occupied West Bank and endorsed by prominent religious right-wing figures suggests killing any non-Jew, including children and babies, who pose a threat to Israel. "The book's publication, just days after the arrest of Jewish settler Jack Teitel, who is charged with a string of killings, including two Palestinians, reflects a growing antipathy towards Palestinians among Jews living in the occupied territory. "Michael Warschawski, the founder of the Jerusalem-based Alternative Information Centre, said the book went public with a concept that was already being promoted in a quieter way by dozens of settler rabbis in internal community newspapers and speeches. "He said: 'The thinking in the book is quite widespread among settlers. A substantial number of them have a very deeply racist philosophy against any non-Jews, and, more concretely, against Arabs. This is a racist book that in other countries would lead the attorney general to open a probe against the authors.'" In The Forward, J J Goldberg noted that waves of shock and alarm have been rolling through Israel in the wake of the November 1 arraignment of Mr Teitel. "Police and other officials call it the latest case of the elusive malady known as Jewish terrorism. "Security sources tell reporters that the case is unusual, perhaps unique, because of the suspect's apparent ability to operate undetected for years, executing a string of well-planned attacks seemingly single-handedly. Also unusual is his wide range of alleged targets: not just Arabs but also left-wing Jews, Jews practicing Christianity and possibly gays. "The case has prompted a flurry of Israeli soul-searching and finger-pointing. Liberals claim an atmosphere of messianic religious nationalism makes West Bank settlements a breeding ground for extremist violence. Settlers accuse liberals and the media of demonising an entire community because of isolated acts by a few misfits. Both sides ask why the security services took so long to nab Teitel. "If answers are scarce, that's partly because memories are short. A quarter-century after the mass arrest of the notorious Jewish Underground in 1984, Jewish anti-Arab violence has become a routine aspect of West Bank unrest, yet each new case somehow comes as a surprise. True, it's not nearly as widespread or deadly as Palestinian anti-Israeli terrorism, but it's far more common than usually thought. What's truly unusual about the Teitel case is that terrorism is called by its name, and that there's been an arrest. Most assaults by settlers against Palestinians yield cursory investigations, no arrests and no public memory, except among the victims." Among the array of reactions to Mr Teitel's arrest, many inside Israel have focused on the fact that the alleged terrorist was raised in America as though this might have had more influence on his behaviour than his ideological orientation. In The Jewish Week, Michele Chabin wrote that when Dina Kraft, a Tel Aviv-based journalist, heard that an American-Israeli settler had been arrested for the alleged murder of two Arabs and attacks on a messianic Jewish family and a left-wing professor, her first thought was: "What, another American-born terrorist in Israel?" "Evidently, many other Israelis had the same thought. "The newspaper Haaretz, for example, ran its front-page story on Teitel under a large headline proclaiming, 'US-Born Terrorist Suspected of Series of Attacks over Past 12 Years'. "This reaction stung many of the country's approximately 200,000 American immigrants, the vast majority of whom are law-abiding citizens. Since last week, when Israeli police lifted a three-week gag order on Teitel's arrest, people here have been weighing in on whether something in the taciturn immigrant's American upbringing led him to move to an ideological West Bank settlement and to hate Arabs, gays, messianic Jews and liberals. "Many have pointed to the ease with which most Americans can obtain a gun (the 'gun culture') and the many shootings by people who have 'gone postal' in schools, malls and on college campuses. "They have theorised that perhaps Teitel, who reportedly kept an arsenal of weapons in his yard and barely spoke a word of Hebrew, was attracted to his West Bank settlement the way American survivalists are drawn to the hill country." The Christian Science Monitor reported: "Raised in a fervently religious home in Virginia, Teitel formed friendships when he first visited Israel in the 1990s with young ideological settlers who were setting up outposts on empty hilltops across the West Bank. "According to Israeli security services, Teitel, on an extended visit to Israel in 1997, allegedly killed a Palestinian taxi driver in Jerusalem and a shepherd in the southern West Bank within a few months of each other. Though Israeli police interrogated him in one of the killings, he was let go. "Around 2003, he moved permanently to Shvut Rachel, a small religious community nestled in a region of settlements where it's common to see posters praising Rabbi Meir Kahane, who advocated the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank. "Around a decade later, he planted bombs outside the homes of Zeev Sternhell, a prominent left-wing political science professor from Hebrew University, and a Messianic Jewish family in the settlement of Ariel. Police also accused him planting a bomb near officers patrolling a gay pride parade in Jerusalem." If Mr Tietel is now being highlighted as a symbol of intolerance, that failing extends far beyond the settler communities to which he was drawn. Haaretz reported: "Israel dismally fails the requirements of a tolerant pluralistic society, according to a new report from the US State Department. "Despite boasting religious freedom and protection of all holy sites, Israel falls short in tolerance toward minorities, equal treatment of ethnic groups, openness toward various streams within society, and respect for holy and other sites. "The comprehensive report, written by the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, says Israel discriminates against groups including Muslims, Jehova's Witnesses, Reform Jews, Christians, women and Bedouin. "The report says that the 1967 law on the protection of holy places refers to all religious groups in the country, including in Jerusalem, but 'the government implements regulations only for Jewish sites. Non-Jewish holy sites do not enjoy legal protection under it because the government does not recognise them as official holy sites.'"

pwoodward@thenational.ae