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gaza mother mourns

The mothers of Gaza wail

Today, the death toll in Gaza has climbed to 90.  Half of the dead are women and children.  550 Palestinians have been injured.  The IAF launched what its PR flack, Lt Col Peter Lerner, called a “precision strike” aimed at a Gaza beachside cafe where a dozen people were watching a soccer match.  Apparently wanted Gaza fugitives like to watch soccer matches on the beach in broad daylight.  Eight were killed including three sets of brothers.

Today brought the first serious Israeli casualties when an Ashdod gas station was hit, with one person severely injured.  An IDF soldier was also severely wounded by mortar shrapnel.

In at least three separate instances, the air force has deliberately targeted private homes in which families sheltered.  In some instances, all or most of the families were wiped out.  Israel’s claim is that it is targeting the homes of militant leaders.  Though those killed were family members, Israel mendaciously claims they were “human shields.”  The only army in the region which actually does use human shields is the IDF, which has strapped young Palestinians to the hoods of jeeps.  Such actions are forbidden by the Israeli Supreme Court, one among many rulings which the army has ignored.

The “quality” of targets the IAF is hitting may be seen in the bombing of Gaza’s would-be international airport which was last demolished by similar bombing two years ago.  They’re bombing targets they destroyed in the last war!  It reminds me a bit of the Confirm the Kill policy, by which IDF soldiers who merely wound Palestinians then put a point blank range shot into their heads to assure their prey is dead.

Israel’s ranking in world press freedom indices will be falling next year as they take into account yet more assaults of Palestinian media.  The IDF called the home of a cameraman from Palestinian TV telling him they would destroy it.  The army also hit a vehicle clearly marked as “TV” and killed another media worker.

Now the IDF has threatened 100,000 Gazans living near the border with Israel with death if they do not abandon their homes.  This too is collective punishment, a violation of the Geneva Convention.  This is not an academic issue.  Israel must be held accountable.  If the world community allows Israel to escape any accounting for its actions, it will make a mockery of the whole notion of international law.

Israel is engaged in wholesale slaughter of Palestinian civilians.  This is an inexcusable, indefensible war crime.  Comparing the scale of the respective Israeli and Gazan assaults, it’s as if one side used a nuclear weapon and the other a slingshot.  While I believe that no civilians on either side of this conflict should be harmed or targeted, the fact that 90 Palestinians and no Israelis are dead, should tell you something.

Palestinian rockets reached Haifa and the Mediterranean coastline at Hadera for the first time.  Israel is claiming that 27% of Palestinian rockets have been intercepted and that its success rate is 90%.  Though given that aiming a Palestinian rocket is a bit like steering an ocean liner with a kayak rudder, and that Israel offers no proof, its claims have to be viewed skeptically, as this report does.

You may remember a few brief summers ago when social justice was all the rage on Rothschild Blvd in Tel Aviv.  Now, Haaretz tells us Protective Edge will cost Israel close to $3-billion (with a “B”).  This is why Israel isn’t a normal state, but rather a perpetual war garrison state.  Any commitment to improve the lives of citizens is secondary to the god of national security.

During Operation Pillar of Cloud I launched a Facebook page, No to Gaza War.  To my sorrow, I’m renewing the page.  Use it as a place to update us with news, blog posts, pictures, videos and eyewitness testimony about so-called Operation Protective Edge.

state department evacuation from gaza

U.S. State Department plans for mass evacuation of U.S. citizens from Gaza

The very notion of calling this invasion by its Israeli bestowed name, Protective Edge, is racist.  Why do we accept the IDF’s nomenclature?  What do Gazans call it? Does anyone care?  It only reinforces the notion that western media accept the Israeli narrative and give little or no thought to the suffering of the victims bearing the brunt.  I’d rather call this disaster Operation Punching Bag, since that’s how Israel treats Gaza.  It reminds me of the mean old farmer who, when he’s had a bad day, gives his dog a swift kick.  For no reason other than that he can.

The Obama administration’s position has been abysmal.  It’s expressed support for Israel’s wholesale attack on Gaza civilians, but criticized a ground invasion.  Pres. Obama only today phoned Bibi and offered to broker a ceasefire.  Given what good relations exist between the two, surely his offer will be accepted.  The only good thing I can say about this is that Obama has begun to act more quickly than he did during Operation Pillar of Cloud and than George Bush did during the month-long Lebanon War.  He must act to stop a ground invasion.

An indication that the State Department expects one is this official announcement of an evacuation of U.S. citizens in Gaza.  It asks for information from all citizens seeking to leave by July 11th.  I’d look to July 12th being the day the invasion begins.


Gaza War: Day 3, 72 Palestinians Dead, 13 Children

gaza war 1956

1956 Gaza War: rallying the troops to fight terror

On the third day of Operation Punching Bag (aka Protective Edge), Israel has stacked up 72 Palestinian corpses like cordwood. Sixteen of them are children, ten are women, and almost none are militants (one senior Hamas leader was killed on the first day). 550 have been wounded.

Israel began amassing its forces around Gaza days before the invasion allowing the militant leaders to go into hiding in underground bunkers and tunnels (like those built by the Vietnamese during the war or the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto).

Bibi Netanyahu suggested today that an invasion was likely.  Shimon Peres said that it “may happen quite soon.”  Yuval Steinitz, a Netanyahu confidant, said this:

We will have to take over Gaza temporarily, for a few weeks, to cut off the strengthening of this terror army,” Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s intelligence minister, told Israel Radio. “If you ask my humble opinion, a significant operation like this is approaching.”

This is not merely an opinion, an invasion is definite according to my Israeli source.  It’s only a matter of whether it happens tomorrow or three days from now.  But it will happen.

Sheera Frenkel writes that the IAF concedes it has already bombed anything of military value in Gaza. Now it’s pursuing “secondary targets,” which it defines as residential homes! Homes of what it claims are Hamas leaders. But we know that many of these homes will not be those of Hamas leaders, and even those which are will likely contain civilians who will be murdered.

This happened on the first day of the war when neighbors of a Hamas leader moved into his home when the IDF warned it would bomb it. The result was that despite knowing there were civilians inside, the IDF destroyed the home and eight family members were killed.  Today, a senior military officer conceded the strike was an error, but an unavoidable one:

“There was nothing to be done, the munition was in the air and could not be diverted,” a senior air force officer said. “Although you see [the family members] running back into the house, there was no way to divert the missile,” he said.

What a load of horsecrap.  How long does it take for a missile to reach its target from the moment it’s fired?  2 seconds?  Three?  So you mean to tell me that when the pilot fired the missile there were no civilians in sight, but that three seconds later they miraculously made their way inside it?  Israel has massive aerial surveillance which selects targets and views them throughout the flight of those attacking them.  A pilot too can see what he’s attacked.  It’s the job of the flight controller to view the target and make out civilians.  There’s no way the controller and pilot both missed seeing them.  Again, a likely war crime in the making.

The IDF has the quaint idea that calling someone to warn them their home will be destroyed by a massive bomb in five minutes absolves them of any violation of war crimes conventions.  This interpretation follows the Israeli penchant for twisting rules for its own benefit, like the character in Alice in Wonderland who says:

A word means precisely what I want it to mean, nothing more and nothing less.

My hope is that there will come a day of reckoning when Israel’s generals and security agents will be told the law means something entirely different than they supposed.

An Israeli friend sent me the flyer I’ve displayed here which was a patriotic broadside distributed by the IDF just as the 1956 Sinai War began.  Sixty years later, the echoes of today’s carnage in Gaza still resonates:

The will to win: the first condition for victory!

Tonight our forces will break through to Gaza.

GAZA is a living part of the body of Israel that has been severed from it.  A fist thrust toward the State, a base for the Egyptian murderers, a center for the fedayeen, an eternal threat to our security.

Opposite [Gaza] is  Nachal Oz, Beeri, Kisufim, Nirim, a string of settlements blossoming on the border with the enemy.  Our settlements sit solitary amidst threat and harassment, shelling and death.  We’ve protected them on our southern border.

Residents of the Negev!  Today the hour has arrived!

Fighters!  Tonight we will break through and flood the outposts of the enemy, uprooting the gates of Gaza and break their bolts.  As veterans of battle we will uphold the best of our fighting tradition, our military strength and iron will, to strike the enemy and win!

We will battle with him with the full measure of our military and human strength.


Strike the enemy!  Return and strike again!

Until he is overthrown by the sword of our unit!

Forward to battle and victory!

–The Unit Commander

Sixty years later. What has changed?  Nothing, other than the flowery archaic prose of post-State Hebrew has given way to a more idiomatic contemporary Hebrew.  Today, we see the same brutalism.  The same false conviction that we are marching onward to ultimate victory.  The same hope only meant to be dashed when defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory after the troops go home and everything returns to status quo ante.  As I’ve often said before, this is the definition of insanity.  Beating your head against the wall believing that if you only did it one more time, that would make all the difference.  Israel’s leaders should be in psychiatric clinics, not in the halls of power.

Whenever there is a war, the NY Times sends Steven Erlanger to augment Jody Rudoren and Isabel Kershner.  Erlanger is similar in approach to Ethan Bronner, a clear supporter of Israel who sees the Palestinian story as peripheral to his beat.  I’ve criticized a number of Erlanger’s more egregious articles.  But today, he made a beaut of a mistake:

Only in March, Israeli forces intercepted a ship in the southern Red Sea, 1,000 miles from Israel, that contained a shipment of M-302s that the Israelis said had been intended for their militant adversaries in Gaza. Israel blamed Iran, which supports Hamas and Islamic Jihad, for the shipment. They denied the Israeli accusation.

Since Erlanger is based in Paris, he’s not up to date on Middle East developments. Otherwise he’d know that the claim those weapons were meant for Gaza was made by Israel after it intercepted the ship. However, as often happens in these circumstances, Israeli intelligence made a major error. The shipment, so found a UN panel of experts, was meant for Sudan (where it was headed) and not Gaza.  Israel never acknowledged its error.  It hoped the rest of the world wouldn’t notice: the standard Israeli bluff.  But this means both Erlanger and the Israelis made errors!

Another random note: I’ve noted that the higher the Gaza body count, the more hasbara activity there is on social media.  I imagine hasbara worker bees sitting in a conference room at the foreign ministry, keyboard warriors for Zion.  They should be earning overtime.  What really humors me is when the obvious ones exclaim incredulously: “Hasbara? Me? You must be kidding!”

NOTE: A week ago I published a story about a major Israeli police corruption scandal. The information was provided to me by a source, who called himself “Joe Black” (obviously enamored of Hollywood romantic treacle) I’d never worked with him before. He provided the arrest record of one of the key figures in the investigation which established the accuracy of his claim.

A few days later, Mohamed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and brutally murdered. The source found a Facebook post published by the Shomron Community Council claiming the lead suspect was Ezra Batzri of Har Nof, Jerusalem. The source promised names of the other suspects which he never provided. He also offered Batzri’s arrest record, which he didn’t provide.

An Israeli blogger tweeted that a source had given him the names of the suspects and Ezra Batzri wasn’t one of them.  The real ringleader was a fellow named Yosef Ben David. Ben David’s father, like the possibly fictitious Batzri, is a rabbi. Also, like Batzri, Ben David is a product of disaffected Mizrahi Haredi youth, and follower of La Familia, the notorious racist Beitar Jerusalem fan club.  The blogger tweeted three other names of suspects: Israel Yosefian, Yakov Abuhazera and Elad Twito.  I understand that three of the six suspect originally arrested have been released.  I don’t know whether these individuals are still in custody or were released.

I no longer have full confidence in my source and his identification of the lead suspect. It appears more likely that the blogger is right.

As I’ve written here before, the Hasbara brigade is itching to put one over on me. This may’ve happened in this case, though I have no way to be sure. I’m writing this in the interest of transparency. When I may’ve made an error I act pre-emptively and acknowledge it.


Gaza Invasion: Day 2, 27 Palestinian Dead

This is the second day of Operation Protective Edge (“Solid Rock”). So far, 27 Palestinians have been killed, eight of them children, by massive Israeli air strikes. Two Israelis have been injured lightly. This is the first stage of what will eventually move to a ground invasion. That’s why 40,000 Israeli reservists have been called up.  Don’t believe media reports in which Netanyahu and Yaalon say Israel “may be forced” to invade. They are going to invade according to my Israeli source. Though the source assures that the invasion will have “limited objectives.” I suppose we’re supposed to be comforted by the fact that “limited objectives” means “only” 150 will die this time as opposed to 1,400 during Cast Lead.

Israel has the quaint idea that phoning the inmates besieged there telling them to abandon their homes because an attack is imminent is sufficient to avoid a war crimes charge.  This is nonsense. Your duty is not just to warn civilians to abandon their homes, but to avoid murdering them at all.  So if you warn them and they don’t do what you’ve ordered them to do, that doesn’t entitle you to dump their home on their heads as Israel did in killing 7 members of one family yesterday.  Instead of fleeing, the neighbors of this family acted as “shields” hoping to protect them, and offering to die with them if they couldn’t.  The Israeli air force gave them one of their wishes when it destroyed the home with many people inside.  A war crime on a par with the one that murdered Salah Shehadeh and 15 other innocent civilians who just happened to live in his apartment building when it was levelled by a 2,000 pound bomb.

Rockets launched from Gaza were intercepted over Tel Aviv and Jerusalemites heard air raid sirens and a rocket was intercepted over Ein Kerem. One landed in the West Bank settlement of Givat Zeev, very near Jerusalem.  I don’t believe that’s ever happened before. Certainly an escalation Israelis had feared.  Nurit Peled Elchanan wrote on Facebook:

Seems like they are bombarding the whole country. Sirens in Jerusalem and lots of Booming, airplanes above my house. Thought Jerusalem was safe…

In one bold stroke Bibi Netanyahu has changed the media narrative from kidnapping and murder, along with riots and beaten children; to Israel’s march into Gaza.  Nothing rallies a nation like a good war.  Watch to see how Israeli liberal Zionists respond.  You will see Meretz and Labor support the war, perhaps with a few caveats, but support nonetheless.  Then about a week or so into it, when it’s clear that the Palestinian bodies are piling up like cordwood and no one in Israel’s military or security apparatus can explain what the objectives are nor see that they’ve been achieved.  Then you’ll hear murmurings of criticism from the so-called Israeli political left.

I’m not of course talking about the real Israeli left, those who have abandoned hope that Israeli politics has the answer to any major social question affecting the nation: the NGOs, the solidarity groups.  All of these are the salt of the earth and the only thing worth saving in the current Likudist mess that is Israel.

Whenever Israel decides to “mow the grass” it sends its cyber-warriors once more into the social media breach, where they rally to the defense of poor Israel, only trying to protect its own from the terror of Hamas rockets.  If only those vicious Palestinians would stop firing missiles there could be peace.  It’s them, all their fault.

Which begs the question: if Israel invaded the West Bank after three teenagers were murdered, arresting 500, killing 7, and ransacking hundreds of homes just for the hell of it–after a Palestinian boy was murdered in equally, if not more brutal fashion, are the Palestinians not entitled to vent their rage?  Or is it only Israel that has that right?  If that’s so–and Israelis clearly believe it is, then they’ve turned the Middle East into a Hobbesian nightmare (a “war of all against all”).  Eventually, no one on either side will e left standing.

The name “Operation Protective Edge” has no relation to the original Hebrew name, Solid Rock (Tzuk Eytan).  The army’s hasbara department realized that “Solid Rock” just would not due for the foreign audience.  It connoted military strength, assertiveness and aggression.  Those are all qualities that appeal to Israelis, but don’t look so good to an international audience already predisposed to think the worst regarding Israeli militarism.  So it devised the more defensive-minded phrase “Protective Edge.”  “Protection” means defending; and it’s always good when Israel has an “edge” over its enemies.  Who can find fault with that, right?  Right.

This Haaretz column by Sefi Rachlevsky pretty much suits my view of today’s Israel: dark, cynical, bordering on hopelessness  It mirrors my own analysis that the right-wing ultra-nationalist lunatics have taken over the asylum that is Israel.  Here is the concluding paragraph:

Any talk of peace is meaningless and unimportant if a complete upheaval doesn’t take place in Israel – one that will get rid of the spirit of Netanyahu and his elite theological unit, the religion of Rabbi [Dov] Lior [one of the most exreme settler rabbis]. In the balance rests the dream of generations for an enlightened state, a dream that’s a moment away from being extinguished from within.

It’s a very incisive piece that’s well-informed and worth reading.


Operation Solid Rock, Gaza Invasion, Begins

Bibi Netanyahu, desperate to distract the public from the serial ineptitude of his police force in preventing two appalling kidnap-murders, one of Israeli youths and another of a Palestinian, has begun Operation Solid Rock (Tzuk Eytan–could also be translated as “Mighty Cliff”).  The IDF is mangling the translation of the phrase by calling it “Operation Protective Edge.”  That isn’t even close to the Hebrew.  But who ever accused the IDF of being precise and accurate?

IDF PR flacks had a problem: they couldn’t call it “Solid Rock” in English since that conveys strength and aggression.  By calling it “Protective Edge” they successful conceal the aggression in a phrase that has defensive connotations, making it perfect for foreign consumption.  Hasbara at work!

It has flown 90 sorties in the past 24 hours.  At least nine Gazans are dead in the past two days.

gaza invasion

Israeli airstrike on Rafah, July 8th (Reuters)

Now, finally IDF soldiers, who’ve been posting to Facebook pictures of their bodies engraved with messages calling for revenge (for the murder of the three Israeli youths near Hebron) will get their wish.  They can slaughter (almost) all the Gazans they wish.

I’m tempted to call it Operation Falling Off a Cliff, for that is what these military adventures always turn into.  A military source has told my Israeli partner that “a ground invasion is inevitable,” but “it will be limited.”

Typically uncouth Israeli officials like to use such snappy phrases as “cutting the grass” or “the landlord’s gone mad” to describe these regular love letters from the IDF to Hamas.  These recall the hard-hearted Pharaoh of the Book of Exodus.  Remember that his hard-heart led to the liberation of the Israelites and the founding of their nation in their own land.

lieberman ends coalition cartoon

Lieberman jettisons Bibi’s sidecar on the way to Gaza war and the next election.

This assault will be compared to Operations Cast Lead and Pillar of Cloud, the first a massive invasion and the second a more limited operation.  I can’t believe either Bibi or the Israeli public has the stomach for another Cast Lead.  So this will likely be closer to Pillar of Cloud.  During that incursion “only” 150 Gazans were killed and no Israelis.  The casualty count will be similar this time.

All of these deaths are needless of course.  They’re testimony not just to Israel’s obduracy and rejectionism, but to the indifference of the international community which needs to come to its senses and intervene to stop the slow-mo decimation of peace, justice, and Palestinian sovereignty.

Israel is a garrison nation in a constant state of war with its neighbors.  Nothing and no one within Israel is capable of transforming the country into a peaceful country.  That’s why the rest of the world better do it before Israel lights the match and the entire region bursts into flame.

In a related matter, Avigdor Lieberman withdrew his party from its alliance with Netanyahu’s Likud.  The two parties will continue in the same ruling coalition, but Lieberman will now be free to voice his criticisms in a fiercer manner.  Not to mention he can position himself for a run for PM in the next elections unencumbered by a too-close relationship with Bibi.  Ynet speculates that the reason for the break up is Netanyahu’s less than fierce response to the Hebron kidnapping.  Lieberman wanted fireworks in Gaza.  All Bibi’s offered is a single sparkler that fizzled out quickly.  Undoubtedly, Operation Tzuk Eytan is a response to Lieberman’s criticism.  Much of what Bibi does including killing Gazans is dictated by trying to outmaneuver his political competitors and seeking political advantage.

Indeed, it appears Bibi has outmaneuvered his hawkish ministers once again.  During the past week, he’d been mercilessly attacked by Lieberman and Naftali Bennet for his wimpish response.  Now he gets to go on the offensive.  The PMO, in a statement aired on Israel Radio, assailed them for “behavior that was irresponsible, brat-like and wanton” in attacking security forces in their hour of need as they go forth to battle against Israel’s foes in Gaza.  Further, Bibi’s media messengers claim that such divisiveness only plays into the hands of the enemy, which hopes that the nation is divided and unable to deal decisively with Gaza.

There are one hundreds ways to refute this nonsense, but no need.  What’s important is to see how tactically brilliant, but strategically vacuous Netanyahu is.


Earlier this week, I published a post noting that the Israeli police planted a rumor that Mohamed Abu Khdeir was gay and a victim of an honor killing by his family who was shamed by his behavior. I denounced the rumor as a fraud. I based my post on a Haaretz report that said the boy had been killed as the result of an honor killing. What followed was a festival of gay-baiting from Israeli rightists who were delighted to blame the victim for his own death based on his own “sordid” lifestyle. I knew the smears of the victim derived directly from the police. But the Israeli right counter-attacked with material like this:

When skeptics like Yair Rosenberg accused me of fabricating the claim that the gay rumor originated from the police, I responded that it was obvious that the social media blitz resulted from information provided by the police to the media and their accomplices. But it wasn’t good enough for them.

gay smear of Abu Khdeir originated with israeli police

Amos Harel’s story confirming gay hoax smear originated with Israeli police

Now, Amos Harel confirms my original post with a new piece in Haaretz (pictured here). It’s not yet appeared on the website in Hebrew or English:

Immediately after the murder of the [Palestinian] boy from Shuafat, the police disseminated unfounded speculation (which enjoyed widespread publication in a manner that would never occur if the victim was Jewish) according to which the murder had a homosexual motive. The Right explained that Jews aren’t capable of horrible things like this [the murder] and conveniently forgot a long list which includes names like Ami Popper, Eden Natan-Zada and more Jewish Hamasniks.

Let’s chalk up the gratuitous swipe at Hamas–since that movement appears more disciplined,  and consistent than the settlers who dominate Israeli political discourse and their henchmen who murder little Palestinian boys–to Harel’s liberal Zionism.  To his inability to acknowledge that Palestinian nationalism that aggressively resists Israeli Occupation is legitimate. That’s his problem, not Hamas’.

Leaving aside that limitation, here is proof that my original post was right on the money. The police, being the vile, racist, incompetent slobs that they are, decided that until they could solve the case they’d comfort Israeli Jews with a cock and bull story that would allow them to feel smug and self-righteous and wash their hands of this horrible crime. One which we now know was committed by a cell of Jewish terrorists who spring right from the center of Jerusalem’s Orthodox-Mizrahi community.

Mekomit, the Hebrew version of 972 Magazine adds this:

The purpose of the police was to exploit racism and ignorance of the media and its readers in order to commence a rumor mill that would divert the public’s attention from what was in all likelihood a cruel lynching by racists rightists.  It worked, of course, media outlets quoted widely this explanation.  On social media they deduced (as expected) that the murder victim was homosexual and responded with the requisite level of homophobia.

The rumor was despicable and about as likely as Shimon Peres being Yaser Arafat’s secret lover. I knew it stunk to high heaven and said so. But there were those who refused to believe the police were capable of such chicanery. Any reader of this blog knows what the police are capable of. If they only equally capable of solving crimes and securing convictions. If only they’d properly investigated the report of the attempted kidnapping of a 9 year old Palestinian boy only days before in the same neighborhood. Then Mohamed Abu Khdeir need not have died a most horrible death. The Israeli police too have his blood on their hands.

They perpetrated a hoax on the Israeli public in this case, not to mention smearing the memory of a Palestinian murder victim. This is unforgivable. But will they pay any price for it? Are you kidding?

abu khdeir forced to drink gasoline

Haaretz article confirms ghoulish murder of Mohamed Abu Khdeir

With each day that goes by the murder of Mohamed Abu Khdeir becomes ever more bestial.  Haaretz reports (Hebrew print edition only so far) that before he was burned to death he was doused with gasoline and forced to drink the fluid.  No doubt, the killers wanted him to burn from the outside and inside:

According to Palestinian public prosecutor, the findings of the autopsy were that Abu Khdeir was struck on the head and then burned to death:  there were signs of ash in his lungs showing that he was alive when his body was incinerated.  The police investigation determined that the youth was forced to drink the gasoline used to set his body alight.

A rabbi in a settlement in Samaria has even spoken for hanging the suspects for their crime.  But that avoids the real heart of the problem: punishment isn’t the answer.  Solving the root causes of the conflict with justice and compromise from both sides.  That’s the way to end this insanity.  Unfortunately, Israel and Palestine have become places that Martin Luther King said are blind and toothless: “The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.”

Let us not allow Israel to get itself off the hook with pious platitudes and denunciations of the crime.  That does not absolve them of guilt.  This is a crime of the entire nation.  Not just the lunatic killers.  The entire nation should do teshuvah for this horrific act.  If there isn’t massive soul-searching it will only confirm the inhumanity of both the nation and the Zionist nationalism on which it was founded.

I wrote a post two days ago that suggested that Abu Khdeir’s death was a martyrdom.  He is a shahid (in Hebrew, a korban-literally “sacrifice”) in the finest sense of the term.  No matter how scared and beaten down he was, his suffering makes him and his cause noble.  His immolation purifies his soul and blackens those of his killers.  There is only one way to understand this horrific crime.  If we choose to see it in the terms his killers wanted, then we give them a moral victory.  I will deny them that at all costs.

bazri murder suspect

Facebook from Shomron Settlers Committee announcing the name of the main suspect in the Abu Khdeir terror murder

Israel’s Shabak announced today it had arrested six Israeli Jews wanted in the immolation murder of Palestinian youth, Mohamed Abu Khdeir.  The leader of the terror cell is Ezra Batzri, the grandson of a well-known Jerusalem rabbi and a member of the Jerusalem Beitar racist fan club, La Familia.  Bazri is from the Jerusalem Har Nof,  a primarily Orthodox neighborhood with a large Mizrahi population.  Another suspect is from Beit Shemesh and another from the West Bank settlement, Adam.  Several are minors and their identities aren’t yet known.  They are being defended by the settler terror legal defense group, Honenu, which also defended Yigal Amir and other settler terrorists.

Unlike what I posted earlier, the conspiracy doesn’t seem particularly rooted in the West Bank (though one suspect lives there).  Rather, the suspects are all ardent followers of the Shas party, the home of Mizrahi Orthodox nationalists.  Until recently, the racist Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was the party’s spiritual leader.  Coincidentally, the latter also lived in Har Nof.  Another critical affiliation the suspects had was to the Likud-affiliated Beitar Jerusalem soccer club.  Beitar has an ardently racist fan club called, ironically enough, La Familia (the reference to the mafia is probably deliberate).

A few years ago, the then-owner, Russian oligarch Arkady Gaydamak, wanted to make a political statement and brought five Muslim players from a Chechen team he also owned to play for Beitar.  Within days people like Batzri burned down the club’s offices in an arson attack.  I don’t recall anyone being arrested for the crime, which is par for the course.

Batzri’s grandfather is the head of the Jerusalem rabbinical court, a distinguished religious position.  Another relative is a noted Shas-affiliated Kabbalist-wonder rabbi, Rabbi David Batzri , who was convicted of hate speech (Hebrew and English) in 2008.  Their offence involved incitement against Arabs which occurred at a protest against the founding of a bi-cultural Jewish-Arab school in a Jerusalem neighborhood. He said, in a homily reminiscent of the views of Rabbi Yosef:

The founding of this school is an act of rot and impurity.  You cannot mix the pure and impure.  We [Jews] certainly must be separated from other peoples [Arabs].  You will stand in the breach against this and prevent it.  It is prohibited to mix light and dark [ed., a veiled reference to skin-color].  Jews are pure.  Arabs are asses.  They are devils, demons, diseased.  So why did God make them walk on all fours?  Because they are donkeys.  That’s why they build and clean [a reference to Palestinian construction workers and garbage collectors].  But they must understand that they are donkeys.  They have no place in our schools.

In the context of Israeli religious hate, this is garden variety stuff.  As I said, many Jewish rabbis say even worse.  But what’s important about this statement is seeing how it was absorbed and implemented by Yizhar Batzri .  Clearly, the tradition of homicidal hate runs right through the entire family.  It’s not a surprise that it would manifest itself as it has.

Though I doubt this will happen, both Beitar and Shas ought to do a huge amount of soul-searching about how their ideology and theology (respectively) led these young people to the most heinous and bestial of acts.  If Israel was a nation that valued democracy and these institutions refused to do the soul-searching there would be civil and criminal sanctions levelled against them.  Beitar shouldn’t be allowed to play any official games for at least a year.  Shas should be shunned by the entire Knesset.  That won’t happen.

If you want to see why, watch this video and listen as almost an entire busload of Jewish Israelis verbally and physically assault an Israeli Palestinian on a bus, calling him “whore,” “murderer,” and shouting “Get out!”  The ringleader of the lynch mob is a man dressed in white and a black kippah.  It’s certainly possible he too is a Shas disciple or member of one of the other Orthodox racist parties.  Though there are two police officers on the bus they do nothing except stand between the two parties.  They make no attempt to force any of the attackers off the bus.

Homicidal racist Facebook post

Homicidal racist Facebook post

This is typical.  Jews have impunity.  Palestinians at best are suffered.  There is no affirmative attempt to defend or integrate Jews and Palestinians inside the state.  In this country in the 1950s and 60s whites who refused to accept Blacks were forced to do so by societal institutions including the courts, schools, military and police.  There is absolutely no will within the Israeli state to do this.  Until it does it will remain a crippled, stunted nation beset with ethnic strife, violence and economic injustice.

Here is another Facebook post by an Israeli congratulating the murderers on their “brave” act:

“Don’t stand by while the blood of your brother is shed.”

I’m proud.  I never believed Jews did it.  But nevertheless I’m proud and happy to see that there are Jews who could not stand it and remain silent.

I send a strong blessing and strength to the detainees (who I don’t know at all).

These terrorists weren’t terribly professional.  They used their own personal car–twice.  Once when they failed to kidnap a 9 year-old boy in the same Shuafat neighborhood where they went trolling for Arabs on the night the kidnapped Abu Khdeir.  The only reason their first attempt failed was that the boy’s mother held on for dear life and screamed her lungs out.  The victim’s mother reported the crime to the police, who “investigated.”  But in reality Israeli police have no interest in solving crimes involving Palestinian victims, certainly if the perpetrators are Jewish.  So an opportunity to prevent the eventual murder was lost by the typically racist, incompetent police force.

As I wrote earlier, all that these new developments signify is that the accused will likely be tried and convicted of murder.  They’ll spend a few years in jail.  Then a future Israeli president in four or five years will accede to the pleas of the settler-Shas cabal and commute their sentences or pardon them outright.  That’s the way things are done in this Jewish state which was meant for us Jews and no one else.  If we suffer non-Jews it’s because we are benevolent people and can offer the heathens civilization, paved (but segregated) roads and good restaurants.  (irony noted)

I note a very small measure of hope amidst this river of hate.  Palestinians from Hebron visited the Fraenkel home during their shivah to pay respects to the family.  Also, a West Bank rabbi arranged for the father of the Palestinian boy who was murdered to speak with the uncle of the Israeli boy who was murdered.  This was the man who bravely asked for no more bloodshed, saying that “blood is blood and murder is murder” whether of Palestinians or Israelis.  It would be a mistake to believe that these individual acts will transform either nation.  But small personal acts have meaning and value.  Of course, if they’re not followed by real political change, they mean almost nothing.