The Jerusalem Post reports today that Sunday’s torching of a Galilee mosque, believed by authorities to be the work of right-wing Jewish extremists, appears to be the latest sign that Jewish terrorism is “gaining steam” in Israel. The Post’s military correspondent, Yaakov Katz (bio) says the Shin Bet security service is worried that the phenomenon will only grow in the coming months as Palestinian statehood efforts intensify, and that they have “no clear way to stop this violence.”
In recent months, the Shin Bet has recorded a growing number of so-called “price tag” attacks, amounting to several dozen over the past year. These include attacks like the one on Sunday against mosques, the uprooting of olive trees, the puncturing of tires on military vehicles, the harassment of left-wing activists, IDF officers and Shin Bet officials and others.
On the other hand, Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar was quoted after a sympathy visit Monday saying that the attack could be a “blood libel” perpetrated by non-Jews and blamed on Jews (here’s the Arutz Sheva settler radio report on Amar’s comments, in case you don’t trust Ynet), and “in any case, it means nothing.” (Postscript: Look after the jump for some additional Amar quotes I have now learned about that put him in a different light.)
Arutz Sheva also talked to two right-wing Knesset members, Michael Ben-Ari of National Union and Yisrael Eichler of United Torah Judaism, who complain about the “hypocritical” expectation that they condemn the arson (which they promptly proceed to condemn) when “nobody” says anything after Jews are attacked:
The JPost’s Katz raises some curious questions about the arson attack that could be taken to reinforce Amar’s doubts:
The target chosen raises serious questions about the motivations of the alleged perpetrators. While attacks on mosques in the West Bank have sadly become something of the norm in recent years, an attack on a mosque in an Israeli town is quite rare, particularly in a Beduin village like Tuba Zanghariya, whose residents serve in the IDF. Not only do the male residents serve in relatively-high numbers in the military, but there is even a branch of the Acharay (“after me”) Movement in town, where one of the locals, a veteran of the Givati Infantry Brigade, works to increase the Beduin youths’ motivation to serve in combat units. What the perpetrators of this attack were trying to achieve is unclear. Were they seeking to purposely destroy the already fragile and delicate relationship between Jews and Beduin? Did they want to torpedo the local youths’ draft into the IDF? To turn the focus from the West Bank Palestinians to the Israeli-Arabs, or to simply attack an Arab village with total disregard to where it is, or who lives there?
Here’s more from Chief Rabbi Amar:
“We are experienced people. As you know, blood libels about Jews killing a Christian child have been common in all generations. Damage was caused to entire communities, killing and loss, God forbid, because of those false libels. “We don’t know who did it… It could be an insensible person and it could be a non-Jew. We don’t know anything yet. What it says out there, in any case, means nothing. Sometimes people do things and blame them on others.”
Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, on the same sympathy visit, offered an unintentionally revealing comment when he
joined the condemnation but criticized non-Jewish clerics demanding that he condemn such acts while they remain silent after Arab terrorists attack Jews. [My emphasis – jjg] Metzger said he was still waiting for condemnations of the terror offensive on southern Israel in August and the murder of Asher and Yehonatan Palmer last week near Kiryat Arba.
After I posted this on Facebook, Stuart Schnee alerted me to an important quote that I hadn’t seen, which puts Amar in a rather different light:
Something else the chief rabbi said that you sort of left out: “I and my fellow religious leaders are crying out for the police, if they have the alleged criminal in custody, to prosecute the perpetrator to the full extent the law allows,” Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar said. “This is blasphemy, a desecration of the State of Israel, and a desecration of all peoples and religions” [Oseh Shalom Bim’romav]. and more that he said: “We all have to speak loudly against terrorism,” Rabbi Amar added, finishing with the prayer “He makes peace on high.”
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).