Unfortunately, it’s not unusual to read about violent acts of anger and vengeance by extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians. Such attacks are part of what seems like an endless cycle of revenge in the territories where one side attempts to attack what they view as injustices. But what is unusual was the recent news that four young women were arrested for allegedly setting Palestinian cars on fire in Hebron.
This one gender barrier that women definitely shouldn’t applaud being crossed.
In fact, most of the suspects appear to be girls, not yet women. Only one Yaska Weiss, 20, of Kiryat Arba, was identified in the press as her co-conspirators were minors. Police theorize that the acts were part of what Jewish extremists call a “price tag” policy — presumably forcing Arabs to pay a price for attacks against Jews.
Until now, women have almost never participated in Jewish vigilante violence against Palestinians. In the very Orthodox social fabric of the territories, the women were busy keeping the house, raising the babies, and supporting the family, and holding the communities together. They have vocally and assertively defended such actions, but there has been little evidence of them having participated in it.
Certainly, women from the extreme Jewish right, including very young women and girls, have clashed with Israeli authorities, but their arrests have nearly always been in acts of resistance, demonstrating or sitting in and refusing to be evacuated from their settlements, as they were in the Gaza disengagement. After their arrests, they are generally portrayed by their communities as victims and their prosecution and imprisonment condemned as overly harsh and insensitive.
This brand of complaint was echoed in the comments of the girls’ lawyer, Naftali Wertzbiger, who told Ynet that the girls were merely teens finding a way to relieve their stress and that instead of being punished by the law, they needed to be “educated.”
He argued that “welfare and prosecution officials must understand that there is frustration and rebellion here that require positive treatment. Arresting them and cuffing them will only cause identification and increase in these crimes, which no doubt have no justification.”
Downplaying such violence as teen pranks is outrageous. If these were female Palestinians teenagers committing acts against Jews, would their actions would be explained away in this manner? Certainly not - they would be called female terrorists. Even Jewish men attacking Palestinian property wouldn’t be excused this way.
Wertzbiger has it backwards. In fact, these girls need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, in a manner appropriate for their age — the government needs to send a strong message that being female is not a mitigating circumstance for crime.
If they are allowed to get away with behavior that their male counterparts are not, then exactly what Wertzbiger fears will ensue: More young women will engage in such acts, precisely because the authorities would be expected to be more lenient.