At­tacks spark calls for Is­raeli Jewish ex­trem­ist crack­down


Is­rael faced mount­ing pres­sure Sun­day to crack down on Jewish ex­trem­ists af­ter a fire­bomb­ing that killed a Pales­tinian child and the stab­bing of six Gay Pride marchers drew wide­spread out­rage.

Fri­day’s fire­bomb­ing of a Pales­tinian fam­ily’s home in the West Bank by sus­pected Jewish set­tlers has fur­ther in­flamed ten­sions be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans, with clashes break­ing out in var­i­ous cities.

The stab­bings at the Gay Pride march in Jerusalem on Thurs­day night has also put a spotlight on Jewish ex­trem­ists, with an ul­tra­Ortho­dox man ac­cused of car­ry­ing out the vi­o­lence only weeks af­ter be­ing re­leased from prison for a sim­i­lar at­tack.

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu has firmly con­demned both at­tacks and called the fire­bomb­ing “ter­ror­ism” — a word usu­ally used by Is­raelis to re­fer to vi­o­lence by Pales­tini­ans. On Sun­day, he spoke of “zero tol­er­ance” for such acts.

But de­spite the prime min­is­ter’s strong words, many have ac­cused his gov­ern­ment of fail­ing to ad­dress the prob­lem of Jewish ex- trem­ism and of go­ing dan­ger­ously far in its sup­port for right-wing set­tler groups.

“Those who in­cite against Is­rael’s Arab cit­i­zens should not be sur­prised when churches and mosques are set on fire, and when fi­nally a baby is burned in the mid­dle of the night,” for­mer pres­i­dent Shi­mon Peres said in a speech at an anti-vi­o­lence rally in Tel Aviv on Satur­day night.

His com­ments were seen as at least partly di­rected at Ne­tanyahu, who on elec­tion day in March caused out­rage when he warned that Arabs were be­ing mo­bi­lized “in droves” to the bal­lot boxes.

Last week, Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Naf­tali Ben­nett ad­dressed protesters at a West Bank out­post where set­tlers clashed with po­lice when author­i­ties moved in to seize two build­ings ruled illegal by the Is­raeli High Court.

On the same day de­mo­li­tion of the two un­fin­ished build­ings be­gan, Ne­tanyahu, who has only a one-seat ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment, ap­proved the im­me­di­ate con­struc­tion of 300 new homes in the same area.


While Ne­tanyahu and

oth­ers have sought to avoid fur­ther es­ca­la­tion since the ar­son at­tack, no ar­rests have been an­nounced.

The fire­bomb­ing in the vil­lage of Duma which killed the 18-mon­thold child also left his par­ents and four- year- old brother crit­i­cally wounded.

The fam­ily’s small brick and ce­ment home was gut­ted by fire, while a Jewish Star of David was spray-painted on a wall along with the words “re­venge” and “long live the Mes­siah.”

The graf­fiti was in­dica­tive of so-called price tag vi­o­lence — na­tion­al­ist-mo­ti­vated hate crimes by Jewish ex­trem­ists. Some have spec­u­lated that the at­tack was re­venge for the de­mo­li­tion of the two build­ings last week.

On Sun­day, De­fense Min­is­ter Moshe Yaalon au­tho­rized the use of a con­tro­ver­sial de­ten­tion pro­ce­dure for sus­pects in the fire­bomb­ing gen­er­ally re­served for Pales­tini­ans.

The pro­ce­dure, known as ad­min­is­tra­tive de­ten­tion, al­lows sus­pects to be held in­def­i­nitely with­out charge, the­o­ret­i­cally to al­low in­ves­ti­ga­tors to gather ev­i­dence while pre­vent­ing fur­ther at­tacks.

Is­rael has been ac­cused of abus­ing the pro­ce­dure to keep mil­i­tants be­hind bars with­out trial.

But many have urged the gov­ern­ment to do more and ques­tioned why Jewish ex­trem­ist at­tacks rarely lead to ar­rests and con­vic­tions.

“It is in­com­pre­hen­si­ble that a state ... which has been a role model for how to fight ter­ror­ism and whose doc­trines are copied by many se­cu­rity agen­cies around the globe, finds it dif­fi­cult to deal with a few hun­dred ter­ror­ists and their helpers,” se­cu­rity an­a­lyst Yossi Mel­man wrote in the Jerusalem Post.

Ac­cord­ing to Is­raeli hu­man rights group Yesh Din, some 85 per­cent of cases in­volv­ing “ide­o­log­i­cal crimes” are closed due to in­ves­tiga­tive fail­ures with no charges filed.

Ne­tanyahu said on Sun­day that he had “in­structed se­cu­rity and law en­force­ment of­fi­cials to use all le­gal means at their dis­posal” to deal with the sus­pects in both at­tacks.

“We are de­ter­mined to vig­or­ously fight man­i­fes­ta­tions of hate, fa­nati­cism and ter­ror­ism from what­ever side,” he said.

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