CORRECTION: The tweet from the Shomron Settlers Committee on which I based some of the information below was later removed. Subsequently, the Shabak made arrests and Ezra Batzri was not among them. Hence the tweet was wrong.
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.
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.