Almost every day, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights documents serious human rights violations in the Palestinian territories. People are beaten for no reason, children are killed by bombs. In the majority of cases, the violators are other Palestinians. This flood of rights violations hardly ever makes the news. If Palestinians kill a child, or murder a Christian or burn a Christian bookstore it is hardly news. It is certainly not news if Palestinian hoodlums beat up other Palestinians and take their land. But Palestinian society is Palestinian society and Israel is Israel. After describing violence and anarchy in Gaza, a Palestinian living there remarked
of his society:
I wish I lived in a place where there were courts, and the law, to deal with these crimes.
Woe to anyone who lives under anarchy. We Israelis tell ourselves and the world that we have different standards, and we try to live up to them.
Israeli police announced the arrest of at least two suspects in the beating of Palestinians in South Hebron, near the settlement of Sussiya. Nobody was killed in this ugly incident. Still, the attack was featured prominently in Israeli media and a video of the incident was shown on Israeli TV channel 1 (see the video at the link above). This may have encouraged unusually prompt action in the case. Suspects are innocent until proven guilty. Whoever carried out those beatings, our national cause demands that get no mercy from the legal system. They have intentionally or unintentionally done a great deal of harm to the cause of Zionism and Israel. The videos were made possible because an Israeli human rights group, Betselem, distributed video cameras to Palestinians to document what they claim are repeated attacks on Palestinian Arabs by Jewish settlers.
Don't hold your breath until Palestinian police arrest any Palestinians for beating Israelis, throwing rocks or firebombs at Israelis. Don't hold your breath either, waiting for Betselem or anyone else to document Palestinian human rights violations with free video cameras. But, while we may be frustrated by the unfair reality, we can't ignore attacks such as these, because of the damage they do to Israel, and because, let's face it, beating up people is wrong. Israel is responsible for maintaining order in the West Bank. If it does not do so, it relinquishes its rights.
We must resist the temptation to resort to excuses of Arab brutality and Jewish suffering. That sort of argument is a manifestation of Diaspora mentality. When the Tsar is the ruler, his victims are justified in taking whatever measures possible to defend yourselves from the thugs. But here and now we are the rulers. With freedom comes responsibility. A sovereign nation must act as a sovereign nation.
A few "Jewish" bloggers decided that the incident is not worth discussion, since it has not gotten major attention around the world. One of them now allows that "...international and non-left media are beginning to pick up the story". Presumably, he thinks Israel TV channel 1 and the Jerusalem Post, both of which carried the story before his update, are run by former members of the KGB, and that the BBC is not "international." Another blogger claimed the incident is not mentioned in the media at all! These people are apparently so isolated from the rest of Israel, they don't know that the incident was featured on Israeli TV Channel 1 two days ago:
Me: Think about it... why didn't something like this make the news? It doesn't even pass the laugh test over at Haaretz! Believe me, when it comes to accusing settlers of bad behavior the mainstream Israeli media isn't particular about fact-checking... but the only place I see this story is on sites like ISM, Peace Now and B'Tzelem.
The news passed the laugh test and the crying test in Ha'aretz, in Jerusalem Post, in the Israeli Knesset where it was discussed, and on Israeli TV. The gentleman in question must be living in another country. Not many folks put the Jerusalem Post and Israel TV Channel 1 in the same league as ISM. And of course, the story was in Haaretz as well.
Even if it were true that nobody discussed the incident, even if there were not already over 400 pages on the Web that headline "Video captures settlers beating Palestinians" and similar, and recount the story of the unfortunate Nawaja family, even if the footage had not been aired on CNN as well as Israeli television, we could not ignore the incident.
We may be angry that propagandists in the BBC and elsewhere prejudged the issue and decided the identity of the perpetrators with no evidence. It is par for the course. But that doesn't change the facts. Someone did the beatings and Palestinians certainly were the victims. I repeat that Israel is responsible for maintaining order in the West Bank. That is independent of who perpetrates the crime and who is the victim. It is independent of the doings of hostile media and NGOs, and it does not depend on who knows about the incident. The law is the law. If we do not have the rule of law, we shall have the rule of anarchy, which like the bramble in the parable of Jotham, will put forth fire and devour us.
The attackers and the people who got beaten up know it happened. We know it happened. Morality doesn't depend on whether on not the incident was reported in "MSM" (a catchphrase for "Main Stream Media"). Morality for Israel cannot be an abstract principle. It is the key to our survival, for as Chaim Weizmann pointed out long ago, the world will judge us on how we treat the Arabs.
Richard Landes asserts that it is probable, based on inside knowledge, that the perpetrators were settlers. Landes notes:
...among those attacked was an elderly woman who is now in the hospital. Such attacks are heinous and inexcusable, and hopefully the violators will be arrested.
Of course, every decent person must concur in that hope. However, if Landes claims he or people he knows have information that will lead to arrest of the perpetrators, then he and his acquaintances should be doing more than hoping that the criminals should be arrested. People who have knowledge of a crime should report it. It is their duty. If it is a crime that is harmful to Zionism, it is also the Zionist thing to do. Landes also writes however, that his sources tell him:
2) My source from the West Bank tells me that Palestinians regularly try and provoke things for the camera, making the presence of the camera a reason for violence.
3) Btselemís policy of handing out these cameras is an invitation to Pallywood staging. If the Israelis are smart, they will prepare a team of experts to go over these scenes on a regular basis.
There is however, no "provocation" that could justify this behavior. Is the land claimed by the settlers? Even that would not be a justification for such violence, but in any case nobody made such a claim. So what was the "provocation?" Indeed there have been staged incidents in the past, and this could be another such claim. Sadly, not all incidents were staged.
Those who are truly zealous for the cause of Israel understand that justice must be done, and justice must be seen as well. Preventing such incidents, investigating them and punishing the perpetrators should be the job of the most concerned Zionists, not the interest of anti-Zionists. Whoever they are, those malefactors are doing the work of ISM and other anti-Zionist groups in discrediting Israel and sowing hatred between Jews and Arabs. If Israelis are smart, we will put ISM, Betselem and all the other "rights" groups out of business by rendering them redundant. We will create an independent government authority that has the power to investigate every such incident and complaint in the territories. This body would be able to commandeer police and GSS resources, to follow up and report on arrests and convictions, ensure that complainants get fair treatment, that malefactors are brought to justice and that hoaxers and provocateurs are exposed promptly by efficient investigations. Extremists on either side will find it difficult to create polarizing incidents. Politicized NGOs will be robbed of their vulture feast on the misery of Palestinians and settlers alike. The honor of Israel and Zionism will be saved, and good relations between Arabs and Jews will be promoted. This body would, in effect, implement the conscience of Zionism.
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