Of crimes in Israel

August 5, 2015 by Ted Lapkin
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“Zero tolerance for terrorism, wherever it comes from, whatever side of the fence it comes from, we have to fight it, and fight it together.”  These were the words of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, spoken while visiting the members of a Palestinian family injured by a cowardly firebombing attack.

Ted Lapkin

Ted Lapkin

The Prime Minister thus gave voice to the absolute revulsion felt by all but the most marginal sectors of Israeli society at this act of murderous terrorist violence which killed 18-month old Ali Dawabsha in the village of Douma near Shechem. It goes without saying that the Zionist Federation of Australia endorses Mr. Netanyahu’s rejection of terrorist violence committed by anyone, anywhere and at any time. We hope that the injured members of the Dawabsha family – the two parents and a four-year-old boy – will recover quickly, painlessly and completely from their injuries as they receive treatment at Israeli medical facilities.

At issue in this incident is the troubling phenomenon of ultra-nationalist Jewish terrorism. And the 2 August 2015 edition of the London & Kirschenbaum programme on Israel’s Network 10 TV provides very useful insights into the Jewish extremist movement that spawned this terrible crime. For the non-Hebrew-speakers amongst our readership I’ll synopsise the essence of this report.

The network’s correspondent for Judea-Samaria, Ro’i Sharon, begins with a general description of the Jewish radicals who carry out these so-called ‘price tag’ attacks. Numbering no more than a few score at most, these are zealots are drawn from the ranks of the so-called “Hilltop Youth” movement. These are young men in their teens and early twenties whose worldview is so extreme they go so far as to dismiss the State of Israel as an illegitimate entity because doesn’t conform to strict Jewish law.

Ro’i Sharon goes on to explain how Israeli authorities are well-aware of the price tag vandalism campaign being waged by Hilltop Youth against Arab villages in Judea-Samaria. But while the Jewish Department of the Shabak (Israel’s internal security agency) gathers intelligence data linking individual zealots to particular crimes, the task of obtaining evidence admissible in court has proven much more difficult.

It turns out the Hilltop Youth have been well-schooled in techniques of resistance to police interrogation. They routinely remain silent throughout their 30-day remand period and are usually released because no confession has been forthcoming. And because they’re such a small and cohesive group, infiltration by the Shabak or Israel Police is well-nigh impossible. Add to that the difficulties in collecting DNA from crime scenes within Palestinian-governed areas of Judea-Samaria. By the time Israel Police forensic teams reach Arab villages where price tag attacks usually occur, the crime scenes are often so thoroughly contaminated as to be useless in terms of gathering legally valid evidence.

Ro’i Sharon contrasts this state of affairs with the recent arson attack at the Church of Loaves and Fishes near the Sea of Galilee. Because this particular offence took place within Israel, the crime scene could be effectively quarantined. Police were thus able to collect sufficient admissible forensic evidence to support criminal charges against three young Jewish men who come from these same extremist circles.

Sharon ultimately expressed the view that the only way authorities will be able effectively to combat the problem of Jewish terrorism is by implementing the same sorts of measures employed against Arab terrorism – including administrative detention. And on Monday 3 August the Israeli Government approved precisely this policy. As one unnamed senior Israeli security official said on Israeli Radio: “There’s no choice but to treat suspects of hate crimes against Palestinians the same way as Palestinian suspects of terror.”

Yet there’s no lack of clarity surrounding the atrocity that took place last Thursday at the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem. In this case there is no doubt about the perpetrator nor about his motives. It was pure and simple obsessive hatred that caused Yishai Schissel to pull a knife and stab six participants in the parade. One of whom – 16-year-old Shira Banki – later died of her wounds.

The only incomprehensible aspect of this murderous attack is why Schissel was in any position to commit it. He was released just a few weeks earlier after serving 10-years of a 12-year prison term imposed for precisely the same crime – stabbing three marchers at the 2005 Gay Pride Parade. And he made no secret of his intentions. The Jerusalem Post reported that Schissel was distributing a flyer in his home town of Modi’in Ilit that declared: “it is the obligation of every Jew to keep his soul from punishment and stop this giant desecration of God’s name next Thursday.” The fact that this man wasn’t under close surveillance constitutes a major blunder by the Israel Police.

Our Torah sages teach that the Second Jewish Temple was destroyed because of sin’at hinam – groundless hatred. And it’s incumbent upon all of us – Left and Right; secular and Shabbat observant – to recognise the essential humanity of the other and condemn in no uncertain terms these cowardly attacks against the innocent.

This is precisely what happened at a public rally in Jerusalem’s Zion Square last Saturday night, where Rabbi Benjamin Lau – nephew of former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau – gave an impassioned denunciation of these crimes as being contrary to Jewish law. “In the name of which Tora;, in the name of which G-d; does someone go out and commit murder; do people go out and burn a baby and his entire family? Whose Torah is this?”, asked Lau rhetorically before himself providing the answer. “We must liberate the Torah of Israel from its handcuffs by which it has become bound by people of darkness. The Torah is the Torah of light and Judaism must illuminate the world. And Jerusalem must illuminate the world, Amen.”


Ted Lapkin is the Director of Public Affairs & Advocacy for the Zionist Federation of Australia and a former Israeli combat-intelligence officer.


13 Responses to “Of crimes in Israel”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    Dear Otto,
    It is with much pleasure that I write my response to you, in the realisation that with seemingly impossibly opposed ways of thinking, you and I often end with very similar views.

    I didn’t, however, realise that I had ‘a capella ladies’ auxiliary choir’ at my back, and no doubt knowing that might have produced an even more passionately wrought piece of writing for you to consider.

    I fear sometimes you are a little too quick in interpreting my assertions. For, I have excluded no-one from my statement that we need the unity of all different persuasions of Judaism in order to ensure Israel’s survival. That includes the Jewish settlers living in areas of the West Bank deemed legal by Israel for Jewish residential purposes. I’m also fully aware of the great strengths of the kibbutzim, some placed in geographically vulnerable parts of the country, and the wonderful job they’ve done over the years in the way of providing buffer zones of security. I have not excluded the blinkered Hilltop Youth either – I have inferred that they may not break the Israeli law in regard to what they do and that they’re a danger to a unified Israel due to their own mentality. Again, I will say, it is the HY who would exclude me, and many other Jews; it’s Jewish Orthodoxy taken to extreme that creates the most lack of unity for the Jewish people. It is precisely their ‘degree of commitment’ that excludes others. You are theoretically inciting civil chaos by postulating that if the State, in your eyes, doesn’t address problems ‘properly’, then it’s okay and reasonable to take different and/or excessive actions to redress that. Obviously, it is not. And equally obviously, Israel would quickly be reduced to anarchy and the rise of different criminal activities within that framework taking advantage of such a situation. I know that sometimes there can be seen to be ‘bad laws’, and in those circumstances, society can choose to try to have those laws changed, but that’s done by protest/demonstrations, by making politicians fearful of losing their parliamentary or Knesset seats, not by throwing fire bombs.

    If you excuse the behaviour of ‘dedicated arsonists’ on the grounds of what prompted it, then you must also excuse the barbaric behaviour of Palestinian terrorists and hate-mongers, for their perspective is the same as yours, albeit coming from a different place and circumstance. Are you in effect saying that the end result always justifies the means? Because if we extrapolate that theory – and to be fair, we must – it exonerates a multitude of barbarous acts unleashed on the world throughout history. It’s my view we must do what we have to do to survive well, within the confines of our own developed morality, our own ethics, intelligence and vision, not trade barbarism for barbarism. We’ve managed that successfully before and we can do so again. That that involves thinking outside the box and ruthlessness as well, I fully acknowledge.

    As far as groups or types/categories are concerned, I am as far removed from the Dizengoff set as I am from the Hilltop Youth, and I’ve never been a member of a choir. Also, I prefer to be called a woman, rather than a lady. I agree with you that individual conscience makes the Jew the kind of person Hashem wished for us. I have my own individual conscience, as do you … we might wonder, and argue, as to Hashem’s opinion of what the HY do in the name of their conscience and in the name of Hashem. We can remind ourselves of what fundamentalist Islamists do on behalf of Allah, or the tragic consequences over many years of Christians so righteously spreading their vitriol and wrath on behalf of their God through Jesus.

    I, too, am not departing from the universal principles that make us all the same people, but, Otto, your Hilltop Youth and many ultra-Orthodox Jews, are. (Sorry, I know you don’t like it … but I can’t just say ‘Orthodox’. There are Modern Orthodox, Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox, and due to the ever expanding differences between them, the distinction must be made.] There is in fact more of a divide now between different layers of Judaism than there was in the early twentieth century. And it’s getting worse. As I said before, herein lies the big problem.

    I am not lacking in mercy, Otto, and send this on to you with my warmest regards.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Thanks Liat and more so from Bucharest , some 38 degrees, but I can handle any heat….

  2. Liat Nagar says:

    Dear Otto, there are probably many more than a couple of differences between you and me, however, two that stand out from your last response are:

    1. you are smugly pleased with how smart your Yiddische Mame made you, and therefore rest on your laurels. [This prevents broader thinking and inhibits your ability to receive with any degree of impartiality opposing views of others, even just for consideration, never mind possible agreement. It can also result in comfortable laziness and lack of capacity to change and develop.]

    2. You speak to issues in generalities of philosophical bent married to Halacha, all branching out from a single premise rooted in your own views of Judaism. [In line with this you contemptuously refer to MY KIND OF ‘LIBERAL’ THINKING. As with so many English words, the word ‘liberal’ has many nuances and connotations. I am not so liberal that I am lacking in discipline of thought, and my ‘liberal thinking’ sees me learning as I go, always, not stuck with one brand of being. I shall not brag about the smartness my mother or my father might have endowed me with. But, I shall say that one of my strengths, as a writer, and a person, is to search for truth through particulars, and be true in expression to the particulars I observe. I have never been, and never will be, so one of the crowd, the mob, the community, the congregation, that I can’t see the lone, single tree, only the forest that encloses me. Do what you may with the metaphors.]

    I do not for myself have a definitive/rigid interpretation of the Torah – it’s an ongoing learning experience for me, not something set in concrete.It should not be assumed by this that I am ignorant in regard to it. I am open to pluralism in Judaism insofar as the way Jews view and practise their Judaism, because no single branch of Judaism and no single Jew ‘knows’, or can know, what is right for all. I abhor those who would marginalise any Jew or question her/his identity with their idea of ‘the right way to be a Jew’. By all means, let those you speak of think they know how to make Torah relevant to their immediate reality, but they’d better be made to realise quick smart that they don’t have the right to include others of different persuasions in their reality, or impinge on them. And they’d also better realise that their ideas of what’s right can’t be followed up with acts of crime or killing in the name of their cause.

    To say there’s no difference between Israel’s Defence Chiefs of Staff planning counteraction in line with security, which actions may involve casualties, and other ‘true’ Zionists doing the same, is not only ridiculous, it invites civil chaos. Use your imagination, Otto, and see where it takes you with this scenario. Okay, let’s just disband all the official government positions in force to run the country – we don’t need them. Let’s endorse Otto’s plan. Arm the whole country with swords and fire bombs and let the civilians run amok! Why not … we could go back to medieval times and pit body against body in the bloodiest of warfare. Really, Otto, your Yiddish Mame would be wondering how you could possibly have made a suggestion as lacking in ‘smart’ as that one.

    Of course, any Jews throwing a fire bomb into a Palestinian house would not have done so with the specific intention of murdering a child, however, that’s not the point is it? I believe the Law of a democratic country such as Israel, Australia, UK and the like, would bring down a finding of manslaughter, if not murder, because the fact is this was the act perpetrated, by civilians, and because of it a child died. [The IDF warn Palestinians with dropped leaflets, etc. if their homes are going to be bombed.]

    Tell me, why did a gesture/demonstration of Jewish contention of principles and places needed to be done, at that point, in that place? What is the particularity related to that? No, Otto, in reality, as we try to live it in a society with laws and regulations in the hope of preventing a slide into human chaos and barbarism, a Jew in IDF uniform is distinctly different from a Jew in civilian garb, and needs to be so accordingly. I will speak more generally to address the point, and say, that yes, all of us as Jews must fight for Israel and our own selves in the Diaspora, but our fighting role necessarily takes different modes. I consider myself a Zionist, and a Jew. Your revered Hilltop Youth would have different views on that, and cast me out from the flock. There lies the big problem, Otto. What is needed for Israel’s survival is unity of all Jews of different persuasions, not fundamentalist Jews with blinkers.

    Shabbat Shalom.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Dear Liat and that obligatto a capella ladies’ auxialiary choir chanting the mantra “Onya Liat !!!” with each well articulated paragraph in which you and THEM lasses reckon yourse told me off, the smug little Romanian bugger.
      Must admit that, in many places, you seemed almost spot on, mainly about how I hinge my expansive rhetoric on just a few basics I selected from a certain Source. I nearly said to meself ” the bloody “whatever” got me ” but, alas, the maternal voice reminded me the metal she had me wroughted from…
      So, starting the Yiddische way from aback, that phrase you now regret you concluded with ” What is needed for Israel’s survival is unity of different persuasions not fundamentalist Jews with blinkers”. At face value, you exclude at once from that necessary unity someone, dontya !!! In reciprocal appreciation of distinct groups, everybody is sporting blinkers and, thus, we are back to clear fundamentals which you implicitly and otherwise acknowledge, by which each strand of Jewishness thinks their’s is more kosher vyosher, or at least yosher.
      I will not confront everything you said, including your merciless quartering of my gentle being, simply because you said it so splendidly in literary terms and also concise and almost persuasively, but I will maintain that individual conscience makes the Jew the kind of person Hashem wished for us. It is worth persisting that one must appreciate that not all people see it permanently and exhaustively necessary to conform with all social norms/laws at all times and, even given excesses, under certain circumstances one can understand certain “unruly” behaviour. Tachless : my boys on the hill live there by virtue of their “blinked” vision of Judaism, itself well rooted in the same Source we all consider.Their degree of commitment is NOT at odds with the calculated average of the Jewish ethos, they are part of that mix you reffered to in that “united” sentence. When they act in excess of what the Dizengoff set would contemplate in-between sips, their actions have been at all times a retort to far greater provocations coupled with the perceived notion that the “authorised/legal” means by which a civilised state functions, has failed to address the problems properly. There is NO conflict of interest between the two seemingly distinct groups. My boys are on the same page even with the Diznegoff capuccino brigade and also YOUR WIZO a capella choir and I for one always consider at first what had prompted those dedicated “arsonists” to resort to such actions. My heart is bleeding for them as I realise what made them react thus, while NOT departing from the UNIVERSAL principles that make us all the same people.

  3. Liat Nagar says:

    No, Otto … was just walking by. I said nothing to the child, before or after the incident – that’s up to the mother, and she failed him miserably.As a consequence, no doubt the ‘little bubele’ will grow up to be all the things you state, with the exception of angel (although I don’t believe in angels). As for children and innocence, see William Blake’s poems ‘Songs of Innocence’ and ‘Songs of Experience’. By age five, unfortunately, due to the adults around the child, they’re no longer ‘innocent’.

    I spend an enormous amount of time defending Israel and denouncing anti-Semitism and am vigilant in sussing it out and responding to it. Doesn’t mean I have to turn a blind eye to violence and killing initiated and perpetrated by Jews. It’s yet to be known categorically that Jews were responsible for fire-bombing the house, so let’s see what else comes to light before arguing too much more in advance. I can’t account for you having for yourself as heroes those such as HY – that’s more a reflection of you, I think, rather than them. They’re not heroes and they’re not interested in the State of Israel, their only concern is having every Jew live life according to their rigid interpretation of the Torah. If they take the law into their own hands as provocateurs and Jewish terrorists, then let the law deal with them accordingly. G-d help Israel and all who live there if these kinds of Jews ever had any real authority.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Well Liat, we live and learn that the curves of life may go as they, the folk within THAT curve see it fit and that “rigid” interpretation of Torah has a lot to do with the kind of freedom of expression cum action YOUR kind of “liberal” thinking should allow for. I may say to you and those agreeing with you that YOU guys have a rigid interpretation of the Torah….couldn’t I now !!! That is because the generally – and falsely – Jews considered rigid would think ( in my view rightly so ) that THEY know how to make Torah relevan to their/our immediate reality…… To mine there is NO difference between a meeting of the Chiefs of Staff within Israel’s deffence system working out how to act and counteract the security principles and action, by which casualties are seriously considered and what ALMOST any other true Zionist does for the same purpose. If Jews were responsible for chucking a fire bomb into a palestinian house they would not have done it with the specific intention to murder a child, even if they would have known that children lived in there, but a gesture/demonstration of Jewish contention of principles and places needed to be done. To me a Jew in IDF uniform or any other, civilian garb engaged with the enemy is THE SAME PERSON. Civilians are just as expected AND obliged to fight for their country as “regular” soldiers.
      Since you ARE so good at explaining stuff, explain the difference here, if you reckon there is one !!! Mind you, but, I reckon I am very smart and may come back with the fantastic argument : wha’ about secret operatives who, obviously do not brandish uniforms or any identifiable regalia…..!!!! should we dispense with them too !!!??? See how smart me Yiddische Mame made me !!!

  4. Otto Waldmann says:

    Paul, my dear friend, the forensic details you presented make the arson/child death incident a caise celebre far too convenient for the anti Israel side if one ignores the hitherto known details and peddles the standard reaction against Israel REGARDLESS of what happens in Israel and around her. The job of defending Israel against a bulwark of antisemitism exceeds the efforts of keeping an entire IDF alert and active. Don’t know about you, but I have a list of some twenty entities listed on my computer “in” tray sending me messages daily, all about grave issues affecting Israel and the Jewish people throughout. Once I turn to Facebook……. don’t ask me. Hard to decide if all this keeps me young at mind, alert and so bloody smart and witty in my 24/7 job of attending even to a small part of the social media onslaught. J-wire receives my principal attention, but, at times I feel that there is a campaign out there to kill us softly with this neuronic warfare. At least I can pretend that I am some top brass in dialectics, lower in rank only to you…That makes Henry, I suppose , Field Marshall, at least…..
    Tachles, the child death incident is but another means by which klal Israel is made (out) to suffer in more ways than just one.

  5. Liat Nagar says:

    If the crime was committed by the ‘Hilltop Youth’, Otto, no amount of theorising and attempts to understand the circumstances of Jews living in West Bank areas is relevant. Well, due to the act, it’s not relevant anyway. The HY is a law unto itself, with no regard for Israeli government or human beings outside their own narrow agenda. They are terrorists in the same way many Arabs are, and they use their simplistic, literal reading of Torah to justify their acts, in the same way Muslims of fundamentalist nature do. This must be stamped out in Israel, for it has nothing to do with the survival and security of the State of Israel, instead it breeds a sect-like cult solely steeped in religion – no good to any one.

    Disturbingly, more and more Jewish settlers in this fraught area of the land act with an air of supreme entitlement and sense of superiority, this in relation to Jews who don’t cut it in their eyes as ‘real or proper Jews’as well as Arabs. They are rearing their children to be as narrow and singularly focussed as they are, which is equal in danger for the future to the false rhetoric and hatred Palestinians teach in their schools and homes. Don’t turn a blind eye to it. [I actually have small experience of this while walking in the Jewish part of the Old City, where a young Jewish child (maybe five years old) disengaged himself from his mother and flew at me, kicking and hitting me – must have assumed I was an alien – and his mother, simply picked him up and comforted him, and turned away. No apology, no opportunity taken to ‘educate’ her child in the wrong he’d committed in attacking a stranger. As I said, a very small example, compared to the type of thing we are discussing here; nevertheless a breeding ground for intolerance and violence.)

    Don’t defend the indefensible.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Well Liat, you know what they say….” you must have done something …”, a five year old innocent child you said, how could you !!!! Did you , by any chance bend down and in a Marry Poppins manner and called that little bubele an “intolerant, narrow minded, terror given, irrelevant religiously-narcisistic , racially prejudiced little angel !!!” That’s how I see it and, as you know I am not given to flights of fancy….
      Incidentally, circumstances DO fashion behaviour and a poor Yiddsche bugger may have the same rights as ANYONE else do vent his/her kvetch and those HY, to mine, are me heroes. They do not spend much time on facebook, but very much at the coal face of antisemitic terror and without them there would not be an Israel at all ( has vsholem) but only a certain “palestine” and then five year old hamas trained little angels would make mince meat ovya, strictly ideologically “kosher” as it may be….

  6. jill rosenberg says:

    Ted Lapkin is part of the crusty old conservatives club of Jewish Inc Pty Ltd

    You do NOT represent the Jewish diaspora and your affiliation with the i.p.a tarnishes your credibility

    We must engage in a more thoughtful and productive manner

    Thanks but no thanks Ted.


  7. Eion Isaac Israel says:

    Indeed these were atrocious attacks for the Post Shoah Jewish Humanistic and Security Consciousness mind set .I don’t think these Fanatics are so few anymore .There are Fanatics Murderers Amongst all the peoples some though some much more some much less .
    Compare Mexico to Sweden or New Zealand for example .

  8. Paul Winter says:

    Absolutely right Otto!

    The murderer who took the life of Shira Banki was not necessarily mad; he may be so obsessed with Torah commandments, that he is convinced that his actions are sanctioned by God.

    The arsonists have not been caught, so the condemnation of “Jewish terror” is premature. It does point to the differences between the Jewish state and its mohammedan neighbours. Almost all Jews condemn the act that murdered and burned people, even those who are not Jews. By contrast, the neighbours of Israel glorify any act that hurts Jews. Neighbours who hail child killers as heroes and name squares after them. Who pay their terrorists salaries while they are imprisoned.

    But there is more to the arson attack. The house was in the middle of a village, surrounded by a wall, with metal latices on the windows; the petrol bomb could not have been thrown in. Further, people were hurt in the second house torched in the village that night, but no dogs barked and no-one saw anything. The family attacked had been feuding with another family in the village for years.

    But Jews accept blame for the fire, even if the graffiti was of a strange style and praised king moshiah, something more than a little odd. The IDF taken close by CCTV cameras.

    Until the perpetrators are caught, I’ll condemn the act of terror, but I won’t blame either Jews of mohammedans.

  9. Otto Waldmann says:

    Being realistic in these cases means that we must distinguish between PHENOMENA and individual or very small group behaviour, particularly when pathological cases are concerned. Ted Lapkin does not help the issues at all by improvising theories and offering suggestions all based on truly UNREPRESENTATIVE larger class cases. We are “blessed” with an army of commentators who feel obliged to fill in paragraph after paragraph of unsolicited and UNQUALIFIED sociological or psychological assessments.
    The two separate incidents, one involving, indeed, a Jew who is obviously not clinically normal, may not be attributed to an entire class to which apparently the abnormal perpetrator belongs religiously and the other one in which NO Jewish involvement has been proven, must also be seen as a possible Jewish perpetrated event which is part of a society which is in the grips of an intense conflict internally and seriously threatened from the outside. Even if the arson/child death incident were of Jewish “origin” , one may attempt to understand the frustration of the type of conflict, tensions, pressures Jews live under. The death of the child is an unacceptable fact, but the possible reaction by Jews in that environment is NOT altogether beyond understanding the circumstances.

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