Someone burned a baby and his father to death and severely injured two other members of the Dawabshe family a little more than a month ago on July 31, in the Arab village of Duma, southwest of Shechem (Nablus).
Beginning on the morning after the murders, as the investigation was just beginning, Israeli officials and media began claiming that the perpetrators were “Jewish terrorists.” The murder was conflated with the vicious knife murder of a 16-year old girl and the wounding of several others by a crazed ‘religious’ fanatic at the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade the same night. Two examples, it was said, of how we are the same as Arab terrorists. Two examples of our depravity as a culture.
Some of the strongest condemnations of “Jewish terror” came from right-wing politicians, like Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Education Minister Naftali Bennett. But the only evidence for it was Hebrew graffiti at the site, and there were persuasive reasons to doubt that Jews had placed it there.
Another hypothesis involves a violent dispute between Arabs in the village. There has recently been a series of at least 4 suspicious fires on property belonging to the Dawabshes in Duma, the latest on August 23. There is at least one other case (in 2011) of an arson probably carried out by Arabs in which Hebrew graffiti was written on walls, the mosque at Tuba-Zangariya. In this case too, “Jewish terrorists” were initially blamed. And also in this case, no one as yet has been charged.
The Internal Security Service (Shabak) has arrested several young “Jewish extremists” who are being held in administrative detention without charges. But despite the use of “aggressive interrogation techniques,” they have not announced any breaks in the case, although officials continue to insist that the those in custody are in some sense ‘responsible’ for the crime.
Others have been issued administrative orders forbidding them to enter the territories. At the same time, there is no indication that Arab residents of Duma are being questioned by Israeli authorities.
Duma is located in Areas B and C, which implies that it is under Israeli security control. It is therefore not only possible for Israeli police and the Internal Security Service (Shabak) to investigate, it is Israel’s responsibility to do so.
In an article published in Ma’ariv (Hebrew) on August 29, Sarah Beck reports that Israeli police claim that when they arrived to investigate the August 23 fire, they were met at the village entrance by army personnel whose job it was to accompany them into the village. The soldiers told them that Palestinian police had already investigated the incident, and decided that the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction. They were told that there was no need for them to open an investigation.
Ms Beck spoke to numerous security officials, and received some very strange responses. When she suggested that maybe an investigation of this latest fire could help in solving the horrific arson/murder that took place last month, she was told that there was an order forbidding publication of details of that inquiry and anyway no progress had been made. She was told the village was in Area A, under Palestinian security control, which is false. She was told that since the Palestinians did not believe the latest fire was nationalistically motivated, there was no reason to investigate it. None of this makes the slightest bit of sense.
Palestinian claims were contradictory. Witnesses first claimed that remains of a firebomb were found in the ruins of the house, but later the official statement said that the fire was of electrical origin.
The soldiers who had met the police at the village entrance told Beck the decision not to investigate was made by the Shabak. And the Shabak presented her with the same non-sequitur: it wasn’t nationalistically motivated, so there was no need to investigate. But what could be more relevant to solving the earlier, murderous, arson case than understanding this similar one?
It seems that the Shabak does not want to consider the possibility that the murders were not committed by Jewish terrorists.
This seems absurd. Surely one would expect Israeli authorities to prefer that it be known if the real murderers were Arabs and not Jews. But apparently they do not. Why?
The background is the phenomenon of nationalistically motivated “price tag” vandalism and alleged assaults on Arabs in Judea and Samaria that have been blamed on a relatively small group of young people in their teens and early twenties called “hilltop youth.” The perpetrators of these attacks are loosely organized and their cells have proven extremely difficult to infiltrate. Officials are frustrated, because “price tag” attacks are cited by Arabs and their supporters to justify Arab terrorism and to demonize Israel.
The Duma murders presented an opportunity to get these ‘extremists’ off the street, and to interrogate them in order to find out the identities of everyone associated with their movement, to break it for once and for all. So the government exploited the national sense of horror at the murders to justify the employment of measures against these youths that even Ya’alon called ‘Draconian’.
If Arabs committed the arson/murder, they will not be arrested, since nobody is looking for them. Even the Dawabshes would probably prefer the official explanation to be Jewish terrorism. They know who their enemies are and can get revenge later. Palestinian officials certainly would like to add another Jewish atrocity to their list.
After a while, when the Shabak has squeezed everything it can out of the young extremists, they will be released (some have already been). The “price tag” phenomenon will be more or less over. The world media will move on and not mention the fact that no Jewish terrorists have been caught.
But vandals aren’t murderers, and justice demands that the real killers be punished severely.
Like the al-Dura affair, it won’t matter that Jews are not guilty of the murders. The “Jewish terror” headlines will have done their work. Yet another blood libel against the Jewish people will be graven into the world’s collective mind.
And the psychological climate in Israel that caused the national breast-beating about “Jewish terrorism” will continue, and even intensify. We, Jews and Israelis, have internalized the accusations – including blood libels – of our Jew-hating enemies in Europe and elsewhere. Officials that chose to accuse these vandals of child murder even suggested that while they may not have actually burned anyone to death, they could have; and therefore they were guilty “in principle” (the actual words of Moshe Ya’alon)!
The price-tag attacks were really very minor as ‘hate crimes’ go. Far worse happens every day all over the US and Europe, not to mention the daily incidents of attempted and sometimes successful murder of Jews by Arab terrorists here. But because they were magnified by anti-Israel media, leftist politicians and governments, because Jews are so prone to obsessive self-criticism and so concerned about the opinions of Jew-haters abroad, they were given weight far beyond their actual importance.
So thanks to the intrepid actions of the Shabak, they won’t have price-tag attacks to decry. Now they will be replaced by references to “Jewish terrorist baby-burners.”
If in fact it turns out that Jews committed these murders, I will apologize to the people of Duma for having suspected that the perpetrators were among them. But if not, then the Shabak and the government of Israel, at the highest levels, owe its citizens an accounting of how such a damaging, unjust and immoral exercise in deception was approved and implemented.