Surrounded by his relatives, the body of the 18-month-old baby Ali Saad-Dawabsheh is carried during his funeral in the Palestinian village of Duma, in the West Bank, July 31, 2015. Photo by Oren Ziv/Getty Images

Family of Palestinians killed in arson attack sues Israel for $2.8 million


The family of a 6-year-old Palestinian boy whose parents and brother were killed in an arson on their West Bank home has filed a lawsuit against the State of Israel demanding $2.78 million in compensation, saying its settlement policies led to the attack.

Right-wing Jewish extremists were indicted in the July 2015 firebombing in the Palestinian village of Duma in the northern West Bank. Ahmed Dawabshe, then 4, was the only survivor of the attack that killed his brother, Ali, 18 months old; father, Saad; and mother, Riham.

The lawsuit filed Monday in the Nazareth District Court charges Israel with criminal negligence, saying that the state failed to demolish illegal outposts, including the one from which the alleged attackers came, The Times of Israel reported.

“The writing was on the wall and it was clear to everyone that the leniency toward the hilltop youth, outpost residents and lawbreakers would quickly spill over from property damage and non-fatal attacks to deadly attacks that would end the lives of the innocent Palestinian residents,” the lawsuit said, according to the news website.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said late last month that Ahmed Dawabshe was not eligible for compensation because he does not qualify as a terror victim, the law does not apply to Palestinians and that there was no request on file for such compensation.

Liberman was responding to Arab Joint List lawmaker Yousef Jabareen, who had asked why the boy had not received money from the state.

Ahmed is being cared for by his grandparents.

Israel charges two over arson attack that killed Palestinian family


Israeli prosecutors filed murder charges on Sunday against a man and a minor for an arson attack in the West Bank that killed three members of a Palestinian family and helped fuel the fiercest eruption of street violence in years.

The attack on July 31 killed 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh and his parents Saad and Riham.

Amiram Ben-Uliel, a 21-year-old from a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, was charged with three counts of racially motivated murder at Lod court near Tel Aviv. A second Jewish defendant, whose name was withheld due to his age, was charged as an accessory.

Defence lawyers said the pair had given false confessions under torture in close-door interrogations, an allegation denied by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Shin Bet security agency. 

“I doubt such confessions will stand up in court,” lawyer Hai Haber told reporters. “We know there's no significant external evidence linking the suspects to this incident.”

The attack in Duma village and ensuing Israeli investigation laid bare fissures in Netanyahu's coalition government, where one ultra-nationalist partner voiced misgivings about the handling of Jewish suspects.

Thirteen other Israeli Jews, most of them minors, were also indicted for hate crimes, including assaulting a Palestinian, vandalism of Arab property and setting fire to a church.

Referred to in Israel as “price-tag attacks”, such offences have usually been carried out in what the attackers say are reprisals for Palestinian violence against Israelis or government curbs on unauthorized West Bank settlement building.

WAVE OF ATTACKS

Saad Dawabsheh's brother Naser said he hoped the defendants would receive the maximum penalty, but was skeptical of Israel's seriousness in prosecuting the case.

“We have no trust in the Israeli judiciary. They would not have launched an investigation were it not for the international pressure on them,” he said, accusing the government of effectively “support(ing) the terrorism conducted by (West Bank) settlers against our people”.

The time it has taken Israel to crack down on the Jewish militants, compared to the speedy and sometimes lethal response by state security forces to similar actions by Arabs, has angered Palestinians, contributing to a wave of stabbings, car-rammings and shooting attacks against Israelis since Oct. 1. 

Twenty-one Israelis and a U.S. citizen have died in the latest bloodshed, a number that will rise if police deem a Tel Aviv shooting that killed two people on Friday as a pro-Palestinian attack. The gunman, an Israeli Arab, is at large. 

Israeli forces or armed civilians have killed at least 132 Palestinians, 82 of whom authorities described as assailants. Most of the others were killed in clashes with security forces.

Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party had urged a high-level investigation of the allegations that the Duma defendants were tortured and for a Shin Bet overhaul. His party's leaders, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, disagreed. 

Israeli officials said their investigation into the attacks by far-right Jews were hampered by the suspects' operating in small, tight-knit cells and eluding electronic surveillance.

Netanyau said the indictments demonstrated the rule of law in Israel, telling his cabinet in broadcast remarks: “We oppose murder of all kinds. We oppose violence of all kinds.”

Duma reaction shows gap in Israeli and Palestinian responses to terror


I won’t soon forget the morning of July 31, when I awoke to the horrific news that a firebomb had been hurled at a Palestinian house in the West Bank village of Duma while the family living there was asleep inside. Three people were burned to death, including a baby boy. “Nekama,” the Hebrew word meaning “revenge,” was spray-painted on a house nearby.

Israelis were shocked at the news. This was especially so for Jewish-Israelis. It seemed incomprehensible that Jews could be behind this hideous act. If anti-Arab Jewish extremists did such a thing, I thought, they must be following a Bible very different from the one that most Jews respect.

A few young extremists suspected of the crime are being held in administrative detention and interrogated. Whether or not there is enough evidence to convict them, the damage to the State of Israel’s public image will be huge. The media and human rights organizations, never reluctant to portray Israel in a negative light, will most likely omit the fact that the views of these radicals are likely held by less than 1 percent of the Israeli population.

The vast majority of Israelis have condemned this violence. On the day of the murder, President Reuven Rivlin castigated the attack on his Facebook page in both Arabic and Hebrew. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “terror attack.” The Knesset held a special meeting on Aug. 4 where the atrocity was condemned by members of all the political parties, from the far left to the far right.

Moreover, across the country, Israelis shared their sense of outrage at the murders, disassociating themselves from the extremists who had perpetrated it. Many published condemnations on their own social media profiles.

The silence from the Palestinian Authority regarding acts of terror acts has, in contrast, been deafening.

On Aug. 3, three days after the Duma attack, Palestinians hurled a firebomb at an Israeli vehicle in Beit Hanina and injured an Israeli woman. On Aug. 14, Palestinians from the village of Awartta set fire to a gas station near the Israeli settlement of Eli. When the perpetrators were arrested, they claimed they were acting in revenge for the Duma attack. There wasn’t a single condemnation of either act of violence from the Palestinian side.

Moreover, Palestinian Media Watch reported the two most popular Palestinian television stations continue to incite against Jews. On Dec. 4, the host of “Children’s Talk” on the official Palestinian Authority television station explained that all of Israel will become “the state of Palestine.” On Nov. 16, the same stationbroadcast a funeral of two Palestinians, where one of the eulogists said: “Strike the Jews, count them and kill them to the last one, and don’t leave even one.” There are numerous other examples that occur on a daily basis.

Palestinians also have other ways of glorifying their terrorists, naming city squares after them and “honoring” murderers of innocent people with official certificates.

Over the past four months, 24 Jews have been murdered in the course of more than 50 Palestinian terror attacks, including stabbings, car rammings, and the hurling of rocks and firebombs. The goal is clearly to kill as many Jews as possible, and hence the large number of identifiable Jews who have been targeted: religious people, soldiers and policemen. Where is the condemnation from the Palestinian leadership?

In a recent poll of Palestinians conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 67 percent support the use of knives in the current confrontations with Israel and, in the absence of peace negotiations, 60 percent support a return to an armed intifada.

To be clear, terror attacks committed by Israelis are done by an extremely small, non-representative fringe and are condemned by everyone else. In contrast, terror is approved, even applauded, by mainstream Palestinian society.

And that is what makes all the difference.

Avital Leibovich is director of the American Jewish Committee’s Jerusalem office.

Israeli defense chief: Not enough evidence to indict alleged Duma killers


There is still not enough evidence available to indict the Jewish extremists allegedly responsible for the firebombing of a Palestinian home that killed an infant and his parents, Israel’s defense minister said.

Without the evidence, the military has placed several Jewish extremists in administrative detention, in which they can be held for six months at a time, renewable indefinitely, without charge.

“Once we discovered which group was responsible for the incident, and we realized that we were unable to bring them to justice, we opted for house arrests and administrative detentions,” Moshe Yaalon said Monday during a briefing to Israeli reporters, according to news reports. “I hope that soon we will solve it completely. “The group responsible is made up of Jewish fanatics who want a religious kingdom and regime based on Jewish law.”

Yaalon noted that there have been no serious attacks on Palestinian targets since the arrests and detentions.

Ali Dawabsheh, 18 months, was killed in the July 31 attack in the West Bank village of Duma. His father, Saad, died a week later of his injuries and his mother, Reham, died more than a month later. His 4-year-old brother, Ahmed, was seriously burnt but survived the attack.

Days after the attack, Israel’s Security Cabinet authorized the Shin Bet security service to use “all means at their disposal” to find the perpetrators of the firebombing.

Senior IDF officer: Duma attack was definitely Jewish terrorism


A senior Israeli army officer said there is no doubt that Jews firebombed a West Bank Palestinian home that left an 18-month baby and his parents dead.

“We know unequivocally that this is an act of Jewish terror,” the officer told reporters Tuesday in a briefing, the Israeli media reported.  “All the rumor and speculation being spread on this issue lack any basis in reality.”

Reham Dawabsheh, 27, died late Sunday night, five weeks after the July 31 attack on the home in the village of Duma. Her infant son Ali was killed in the attack and her husband, Saad, died more than a week later of his injuries. Another son, Ahmed, 4, was seriously burned but is reported to be recovering. He has not been told about the loss of his family.

Several Jewish extremists were arrested and remain held in administrative detention in the wake of the attack, but no one has been charged in the incident.

The long history of Jewish violence in Israel


Last week’s terrible killing of 18-month old Ali Saad Dawabsha in Duma, together with the horrific violence at the Jerusalem gay pride parade, left many Jews stunned, repulsed and demoralized. We have inculcated in ourselves — and projected to our children — the belief that whereas they operate according to a primitive code of morality, we adhere to a standard of ethical virtue. Golda Meir gave crystal-clear expression to this sentiment when she proclaimed: “Peace will come when the Arabs start to love their children more than they hate us.”

But what happens when “we” willingly kill “their” children — when we hate their children with a purity that sanctions all acts of violence? What does that say about us? It is tempting to cast the killers, who wrote “Revenge” on the home where they threw a gasoline bomb that burned the toddler, as complete outliers from Jewish tradition and Zionist history. (In parallel fashion, it may be consoling for some to regard Muslim terrorists as renegades from Islam.)

[MORE: Fighting Jewish terrorism is the burden of Israel’s right]

This kind of thinking may offer some measure of comfort, but it cannot insulate us from the fact that the century-long history of Zionism is replete with acts of terrible violence committed by Jews against Jews and non-Jews. In fact, the Zionist movement emerged on the stage of history with a deep commitment to overcome the perception of millennia of Jewish passivity through strong action. 

Much of that action took the form of self-defense against Arab attack. But not all. Indeed, violence directed against civilians — what some might call terrorism — has hardly been exceptional in Zionism. Perhaps the first major example was the killing, most likely conducted by members of the Haganah, of Dutch Orthodox Jewish writer Jacob Israel de Haan in Jerusalem in 1924. De Haan’s anti-Zionist sensibilities and close relations with local Arabs (at political and sexual levels) were deeply discomfiting to Zionist officials. 

Nine years later, in June 1933, a leading Labor Zionist official, Haim Arlosoroff, was assassinated while walking on a Tel Aviv beach with his wife. His killing occurred in the midst of intense animosity between Labor and Revisionist Zionists in Palestine. One Revisionist-leaning group that was accused of being involved in Arlosoroff’s death was known as Brit ha-biryonim (Alliance of Thugs). The group operated in an environment in which the spilling of blood was seen not as a necessary evil, but as a vital redemptive act, as poet Uri Zvi Greenberg unabashedly declared: “Land is conquered with blood. And only when conquered in blood is it hallowed to the people by the holiness of blood.”

Under cover of such poetic expression, murder became a path of political and ethical rectitude. It prompted members of the Irgun Tseva’i Le’umi (National Military Organization) to plant bombs in markets that killed scores of innocent Arabs during the Arab General Strike in 1938. It justified the actions of the paramilitary group Lehi (also known as the Stern Gang) to plot and execute assassinations of international officials — British minister Lord Moyne in 1944 and United Nations official Count Bernadotte in 1948. And most famously, it led the Irgun to blow up the King David Hotel, where the British Mandatory government and military were headquartered in 1946, leading to 91 deaths. 

All of this activity — and sadly a much longer list could be compiled — occurred well before 1967. It was undertaken in the name of the movement for national redemption. After 1967, a new and explosive element was added to the mix. Violence conducted in the name of Judaism and Zionism was suffused with a highly charged religious, even messianic, fervor that attended the conquest and occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Jews in Israel who have attacked and murdered political opponents or Arabs since then have frequently done so in the name of God, at times empowered by rabbinic warrants. The toxic and intoxicating blend of religious and national virtue has yielded a lengthy roster of victims, most notably Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a Jewish terrorist in 1995; the West Bank mayors who were maimed in 1980 by the “Jewish underground” that set its ultimate sights on blowing up the Temple Mount; Jewish activist Emil Grunzweig, who was killed by a bomb at a Peace Now rally in 1983; the 29 Muslim victims of the murderous rampage of Baruch Goldstein in 1994; the four Palestinian Israelis killed by a Jewish terrorist in 2004; Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who was brutally murdered last summer; Shira Banki, who died of her stab wounds from the assault at the Jerusalem gay pride parade; and Ali Saad Dawabsha, the Palestinian toddler who was burned by unknown terrorists. 

It would be very easy to isolate these cases and say that the perpetrators are not “ours.” But they are. They emanate from Zionist and Jewish history, from the heart of our Zionist and Jewish worlds, in which we have all tolerated for too long a language and culture of violence as redemptive. It is therefore our, not their, responsibility to look inside ourselves — into our sources, our curricula, our values, our sense of self — to remove the cancer that lurks. Rabbis, teachers and parents alike share in that task. As we enter the month of Elul, we should bring to our work of cheshbon ha-nefesh an awareness of history and an unsparing resolve to confront the terrible demon of violence within us.


David N. Myers teaches Jewish history at UCLA.

Hushed Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation continues


In the aftermath of back-to-back terrorist attacks – one perpetrated by Jewish terrorists against a Palestinian family, killing an 18-month toddler; and one carried out by a Palestinian terrorist on a mother of three young children – Israeli and Palestinian security officials are seeking signs that the joint security cooperation itself not become a casualty of the growing tension.

Last Friday, the Dawabsha home in the West Bank village of Duma was firebombed, the ensuing flames killing 18-month old Ali and burning his mother and brother over most of their bodies. Israeli officials, including President Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu, wasted no time in issuing unequivocal, public condemnations while law enforcement was greenlighted to apply to the Jewish terror suspects the same controversial rules of administrative detention about which the Palestinians bitterly complain.

In an interview with the Israeli news platform YNet, long-time Palestinian leader and football association head Jibril Rajoub was more candid than his compatriots when he said the strong and unambiguous denunciation across Israeli society resonated with Palestinian leadership and played a major role in withholding calls for revenge. Most Palestinian officials accused the Israelis of systematic inactivity when it comes to investigating crimes committed by other Israelis.

So despite Rajoub’s words, there was no surprise at the almost immediate response of Molotov cocktails being thrown into Israeli traffic, one hitting a vehicle and causing severe burns to the young woman behind the wheel. This, despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority (PA) had ordered its security services in all regions of the West Bank to take precautions to ensure that local youths do not seek revenge in clashes with Israelis forces or civilians.

Referring to Israelis who live in Jewish communities located on land Israel acquired in the 1967 war that is claimed by Palestinians for the Palestinian state-in-formation, Maj. Gen. Adnan Damiri, spokesperson for PA internal security, told a news conference that, “Settlers who commit terrorist crimes against our people, especially those that came on Friday to burn and kill the Dawabsheh family in Nablus, have become from now on wanted by Palestinian security forces. They will be chased through the legal proceedings in order to defend the lives and property of our people,” Damiri said.

General Damiri went on to say that he had no confidence in the Israeli authorities to bring the toddler’s murderers to justice. If they are caught, he suggested in a thinly-veiled threat, the perpetrators will likely “only be imprisoned for a few hours or days.” Damiri finished by calling on Israel, the United States, the United Nations, and the international community to designate Jewish extremist groups as terrorist organizations.

“Even after Jewish colonial settlers attacked a village with Molotov-cocktails, burning to death one-and-half year-old Ali Dawabsheh and severely burning three of his family members, we have not been ordered to cooperate [with security coordination with the Israelis],” Major General Akram Rajoub, governor of Nablus, told The Media Line. “There is no shared committee to investigate what has happened – the Israelis never asked and they ignored our requests in this regard.”

Suggesting that in his experience the Israeli security forces will know exactly who conducted the attack but will not share such information with any PA investigation, Rajoub invoked a                                           political path, laying the blame well beyond those who threw the Molotov Cocktail: “The killer in this crime is not an individual, but the settler bloc – a group of terrorists, mass murderers and thieves of Palestinian land – which enjoys the full support and protection of the Israeli government,” Rajoub said, noting that under terms of the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel is obligated to provide security for Palestinians living in the region designated “Area C” which is off-limits to the Palestinian security services.

“The attack would not have happened without the insistence of the Israeli government on continuing settlement activities and protecting settlers in the occupied territories,” Ghassan Daglas, chief of Nablus council’s file on settlements, told The Media Line. As a result, the PA has decided to go to the UN Security Council to request the adoption of a resolution condemning settler attacks against Palestinians “and ongoing development of Jewish communities in Palestinian territory,” Daglas said. The crime of the murder of Ali Dawabsheh will be put before the International Criminal Court as part of this move, he added.

In response to the threat of violence from Jewish extremists, groups of unarmed youths have begun volunteering to patrol Palestinian villages at night, Daglas confirmed. People from the villages of Burin, Qasra and Loban, all near Nablus, have initiated local patrols unaffiliated with any government body. In the event of a threat, volunteers will use mosque speakers to warn local residents and simultaneously send a message to the District Coordination Office (DCO) which communicates with the Israeli army.

Such communication used to be a regular occurrence. Mark Prowisor, former security chief for the Israeli community of Shilo, told The Media Line that prior to and during the early days of the second Intifada there were meetings between the security personnel of the Jewish communities and the chief of the Palestinian police, something he says no longer exists. But most of the Israelis interviewed for this article suggested that while collaboration between Israeli and Palestinian security officials continues in many forms as needed, even if Palestinians are unlikely to speak about.

Regarding the current incidents, Israel Police spokeswoman Luba Samri told The Media Line that, “There has been no need until now to cooperate with the Palestinian police [regarding the firebomb on the roadway]. We are cooperating in the case of the Duma attack but the Palestinians will deny it. In the case of the Molotov attack against the Israeli, they don’t need it yet.”

Miri Ovadia, a spokeswoman for Israel’s Binyamin Regional Council, a post-1967 area of Jewish settlement on the West Bank (Samaria to the Israelis), paints a picture more positive than the Palestinian portrayal. She told The Media Line that, “We see normal level coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians in business, in joint construction projects in Jewish communities all over Israel [“joint” meaning Palestinians working in Israeli communities because it’s illegal for Israelis to work in the Palestinian territories.] Yet, she says there are many frequent attempts by Palestinians to harm Israelis on the roads.

For the past five years the PA has been complaining to the Israeli and American governments about the increasingly dangerous attacks by Jewish extremists in the West Bank, Daglas said, but claims the PA is powerless to prevent such crimes because they are not able to arrest Israeli citizens according to the Oslo Accords and placing CCTV cameras to watch for threats from Jewish communities is not permitted by the Israeli Army.

Spokesperson Ovadia, meanwhile, added that if she knew who the assailants of the Dawabsheh family were, “of course I would hand them over.”

Why do Jews embrace shame?


Maybe by the time you read this, Israeli authorities will have identified a Jewish suspect in the horrible attack in Duma that left a Palestinian toddler dead and other family members severely injured.

But as of now, all we know is that after several days of investigation by the Israeli police and secret service, the only sign that the attacker is Jewish is the Hebrew graffiti at the crime scene. No suspects have been identified and no leads have been reported.

This hasn’t stopped the Jewish world from emoting in a loud and public display of shame and soul searching. The revulsion at the Duma attack, in fact, has been no less severe than the revulsion expressed a few days earlier when a religious Jew blatantly committed murder at the gay pride parade in Jerusalem.

In each case, our rush to shame was immediate. We expressed our shock and horror at the depravity shown by one of our own. This is the standard Jewish response. When a Jew kills, the first people who cry out are the Jews. It’s the eternal Jewish instinct — to look inward.

Where does this instinct come from? When did it start?

“It started at the very beginning with Adam and Eve,” my friend Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller said. “They felt shame at being naked and exposed, so when they heard the sound of God, they ran away and hid. When they learned that you can’t hide anything from God, especially not shame, that was the beginning of Jews embracing shame.”

The sober nature of shame is what creates a mindset for solutions. Don’t be fooled by the loudness and the hysterics coming out of Israel. Beneath all the public flogging and recriminations is a quiet engine of self-correction. It’s cumbersome, halting and flawed, but it’s there.

According to Rabbi Berel Wein of Jerusalem, shame is one of the three main character attributes that the Talmud ascribes to Jews. “As long as shame existed,” he writes on his blog, “the possibility for repentance and self-improvement also existed. Therefore the prophets of Israel exhorted the leaders and people to at least ‘be ashamed of your behavior, O House of Israel!’ Only when the sense of shame disappears does hope wane for a change for the better.”

Tova Hartman, a scholar from Jerusalem, goes even deeper. She sees emotions like shame and guilt as rooted in what she calls the “trauma of randomness.” It’s too painful, she said, “to imagine a world where everything is arbitrary, where good or bad things happen at random.”

So we must embrace a certain amount of guilt, of responsibility, to create a semblance of order. “If we can’t connect our actions to our circumstances,” she said, “we feel helpless.”

This instinct for taking responsibility transcends even the facts of history. The Romans may have destroyed the Second Temple, but the Jewish tradition places primary blame for that destruction on the “baseless hatred” among Jews. The Musaf prayer we’ve been reciting for the past 19 centuries during the festivals of Pesach, Sukkot and Shavuot picks up on this theme of Jewish guilt with one fateful phrase: “Because of our sins, we were exiled.”

The very act of Jewish prayer is intertwined with self-correction. The root of the Hebrew word for prayer is judgment. “Our daily prayers are an act of self-evaluation,” Rabbi Kalman Topp of Beth Jacob Congregation told me. “We humble ourselves before God so we can self-reflect and work on ourselves.”

Our tradition holds us responsible, even when we’re really not. In the biblical story of a corpse being discovered between two towns, the talmudic lesson is that we accept moral responsibility because we failed to accompany him out of town.

Rabbi Norman Lamm, the former chancellor of Yeshiva University, commented on this unusually high standard of responsibility:

“How wise were our Sages! With their insight into human nature, they realized that this man had not successfully resisted his attacker because he left that town demoralized. The elders of the town failed to walk that man out onto the highway, they failed to encourage him on his way, they failed to make him realize that his presence in their community was important to them, and that his leaving saddened them. They simply did not take any notice of him.”

If there’s one thing Jews have become good at, it’s taking notice of other Jews. Whether regarding high-profile disasters like the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scam or more petty issues like an annoying neighbor, we notice. For all the evils of gossip, it does have the redeeming value of serving as a self-correcting mechanism. As professor Adrian Furnham writes in Psychology Today, gossip “sets the limits of the clan, culture and tribe.”

These limits are invariably related to shame. If a rabbi knows that he will drown in shame in front of his family and community if he’s caught in a flagrant ethical or criminal violation, does that not serve as an incentive to behave?

Because I come from the world of “Let’s not air our dirty laundry in public,” it’s sometimes painful for me to see stories of public Jews who mess up. But I’ve come to appreciate how shining a light on our warts and sinners is what helps us grow and improve, both individually and collectively.

I confess that it turns my stomach when I see our adversaries take this wrenching self-criticism and turn it against us, as when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced he would take Israel to the International Criminal Court because of the attack in Duma. What chutzpah! This is from the same man who names roads and stadiums after terrorists.

“Shame and guilt can be undervalued in our community,” Seidler-Feller said. “That may be the assimilationist impulse. But the positive dimension to shame is that it activates a search for repair.”

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks makes a distinction between shame and guilt, noting that guilt is the more productive emotion of the two. As I see it, they both play a role — Jewish shame has fueled the Jewish sense of guilt.

It’s true that self-flagellation can sometimes go too far, but then again, so can over-protectiveness. This is especially true in the case of Israel, when our community is often divided between those who brazenly criticize the Jewish state and those who instinctively defend it.

No Jew on the planet right now is defending Yishai Schlissel, the religious zealot who killed Shira Banki at the Jerusalem gay pride parade, bringing shame not only on himself, but on the very Torah he claims to defend.

The horrific nature of Schlissel’s act has unleashed the full force of collective Jewish emotion, as if that little seed of shame that was planted 5,775 years ago in the Garden of Eden has now come into full bloom.

The cliché is accurate: Jews feel responsible for one another. When a Jew goes horribly bad, we take it personally — all of us.

I confess that it turns my stomach when I see our adversaries take this wrenching self-criticism and turn it against us, as when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced he would take Israel to the International Criminal Court because of the attack in Duma. What chutzpah! This is from the same man who names roads and stadiums after terrorists.

I know, it’s tempting at this point to suggest that other religious groups ought to emulate the Jewish way. After all, can you imagine the power of a billion Muslims expressing collective shame each time a Muslim committed a violent act? 

The problem is that once we start flaunting shame, it loses its integrity. It’s like being arrogant about the fact that you’re not arrogant. 

The sober nature of shame is what creates a mindset for solutions. Don’t be fooled by the loudness and the hysterics coming out of Israel. Beneath all the public flogging and recriminations is a quiet engine of self-correction. It’s cumbersome, halting and flawed, but it’s there.

I have no doubt that after all the crying and yelling is over, Israeli society will come out ahead, bruised and humbled, but still resilient.

I also have no doubt that plenty of sober minds in Israel right now are working to prevent more shameful episodes of Jewish terror. And they’re not even waiting for the evidence to come in from Duma.

Palestinian baby burned to death, Israel searches for Jewish extremists


After a Palestinian baby was burned to death in a West Bank arson attack by suspected Jewish extremists, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a manhunt to track down the perpetrators.

Netanyahu said in a statement that the arson Thursday night in the Palestinian West Bank village of Duma near Nablus was “a terrorist attack in every respect.” Ali Saad Dawabsha, 18 months old, was killed when flames engulfed one of two homes that the arsonists set ablaze.

His parents and 4-year-old brother were severely injured in the fire, which police suspect was started by Jewish extremists. The Hebrew words “Revenge” and “Long live the king messiah” were spray-painted on walls at the site of the attack, alongside a Star of David, according to Army Radio.

“I am shocked over this reprehensible and horrific act,” Netanyahu said.

Israel “takes a strong line against terrorism regardless of who the perpetrators are,” he said. “I have ordered the security forces to use all means at their disposal to apprehend the murderers and bring them to justice forthwith.”

Israel Defense Forces troops beefed up their presence in the West Bank in anticipation of disturbances.

B’Tselem, a human rights group, said the fatal attack came after a string of arson attacks in the West Bank and accused Israeli authorities of not doing enough to track down the perpetrators.

“Since August 2012, Israeli civilians set fire to nine Palestinian homes in the West Bank,” B’Tselem said. “Additionally, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a Palestinian taxi, severely burning the family on board. No one was charged in any of these cases.”

A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the Israeli government’s support for settlements drove the attack, and urged the international community to respond. The killing will be among issues brought to the International Criminal Court against Israel, said spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh.

The arson in Duma follows a string of non-lethal attacks on Palestinians and other victims attributed to Jewish extremists. On Thursday, six people were stabbed at the Jerusalem gay pride parade by an Orthodox Jew who was released from jail last month after having served his sentence for stabbing three people at the 2005 edition of the same event. One of the victims, a young woman, is in critical condition.

Itzik Shmuli, a relatively new but prominent lawmaker for the opposition Labor party, revealed in an interview for the Yedioth Ahronoth daily that he was gay, explaining he “could no longer remain silent after the attack.”

Also on Thursday, Israeli prosecutors charged a third Jewish suspect in connection with an arson attack last month at the Church of Multiplication in the Galilee.

Yair Lapid, Israel’s former finance minister and an opposition lawmaker for the secularist Yesh Atid party, called on Netanyahu to hold an emergency cabinet meeting to address these and other acts of violence.

Hiding in Beverly Hills


Why would a wealthy Russian businessman with ties to his country’s notorious ultranationalist party known for its anti-American and anti-Semitic positions flee to Beverly Hills?

Ashot Egiazaryan, the fugitive Russian who can afford to go just about anywhere, isn’t talking. 

Last November, the Duma, Russia’s parliament, stripped him of his immunity, and state prosecutors opened a criminal case against him on charges that he defrauded business partners in a multimillion-dollar real estate deal that went south.

Egiazaryan has been placed on the Russian federal and international wanted list, according to Forbes’ Russian edition, which reported that he is wanted for fraud and is traveling on an invalid Russian passport. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

Egiazaryan’s attempts to compare his case to that of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of Yukos Oil Co., are flat wrong, according to prominent Russian human rights watchdogs, including the Memorial Human Rights Center and the Moscow Helsinki Group, as well as lawyers for Khodorkovsky, who is widely believed to have been jailed for his outspoken criticism of the Putin government.

Egiazaryan claims he is fleeing persecution, but the real reason appears to be that he is fleeing prosecution. His lawyers are reportedly seeking political asylum for their client.

In a recent piece published on the Web site of Russia’s only remaining independent radio station, Ekho Moskvy, a number of prominent Russian opposition leaders and civil society activists have rejected political motivation as a reason for Egiazaryan’s criminal prosecution.

Boris Nemtsov, an outspoken critic of the Kremlin who recently spent two weeks in jail for organizing an anti-government protest, said, “I have never heard about Egiazaryan ever being involved in politics. … I think he will have a very hard time proving his political refugee’s credentials.” Yuri Shmidt, a prominent human rights lawyer who represented Khodorkovsky, expressed his incredulity at the parallels that have been drawn between the plight of his client and that of Egiazaryan, calling them “blasphemous.”

To be eligible for asylum, an applicant must be able to demonstrate that he has suffered persecution in the past or could fear future persecution by the Russian government or by a group Moscow is either unwilling or unable to control, because of his political opinion, race, nationality, religion or membership in a particular social group.

None of those conditions appears to apply to Egiazaryan. Since 1999, he has been a prominent financial backer and member of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), headed by his friend Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

Zhirinovsky, who is infamous for his outspoken anti-American and anti-Semitic attacks, faces no such risk of persecution for his reprehensible views. In fact, he remains the vice chair of the Duma and continues to speak out freely on any and all subjects — often repugnant — without threat of retribution by the state. 

Under U.S. law, escaping prosecution for a felony or convictions and arrests for serious crimes would likely render an application statutorily ineligible for asylum.

Jewish groups in American and Russia have repeatedly condemned the LDPR and its leader as anti-Semitic and have urged Americans, as a form of protest, to avoid any meetings with members of Zhirinovsky’s party who may visit the United States.

Zhirinovsky denies his party is anti-Semitic, while blaming the Jews for sparking both the Bolshevik revolution and World War II, provoking the Holocaust and masterminding 9/11. 

The Zhirinovsky-Egiazaryan party’s racism and bigotry has contributed significantly to Russia’s growing climate of ethnically based intolerance and xenophobia. Anti-Semitism remains pernicious and insidious, as the recent scandal with Christian Dior’s John Galliano has demonstrated so vividly. The fashion label must be commended for the swiftness with which it condemned its bigoted designer’s rant and distanced itself from him. The U.S. government must likewise put anti-Semites worldwide on notice:  You are not welcome in this country.

Peter Zalmayev is director of the Eurasia Democracy Initiative, a U.S.-based international nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and xenophobia and to promoting democracy and rule of law in post-communist transitional societies of Eastern and Central Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.