- ANALYSIS: The ever-simmering Israeli-Palestinian conflict is again threatening to boil over
- OPINION – SIR ERIC PICKLES: Israel’s leaders must do more to root out the extremists from its society
- Jewish extremists react to crackdown with death threats
Israel began a fightback against home-grown Jewish extremism this week, after murderers killed a sleeping Palestinian baby in the West Bank and a teenage Jewish girl at Jerusalem’s gay pride parade.
Harsher measures on detention and interrogation of extremism suspects were speedily introduced amid a clamour for action, ensuring Jews could face similar penalties faced by Palestinians suspected of terror activity.
It came after politicians across the spectrum joined religious leaders in condemning after unknown assailants, thought to be Jewish settlers, torched two homes in the Palestinian village of Duma in the early hours of Friday morning.
Ali Saad Dawabshah, 18 months old, burned to death, while his father, mother and four-year-old brother were hospitalised in a “critical” condition. The word “revenge” and “long live the messiah” was daubed in Hebrew on the wall of their home. It was the most severe incident of a so-called price tag attack – the name given to attacks by Jewish extremists against Palestinian people and property to exact revenge for demolition of Jewish properties.
A day before the Duma attack, Orthodox man Yishai Schlissel knifed six people at Jerusalem’s gay Pride parade, only three weeks after being released from prison for attacking the same event in 2005. Sixteen-year-old Shira Banki, one of those attacked, died from her injuries on Sunday.
Speaking at the funeral of their daughter, Uri and Mika Banki paid tribute to their “intelligent, beautiful, gentle, curious” daughter, adding: “Now we will go home and try to rebuild our family – to learn how to be five instead of six. We will try to hate less and love more, that’s what we can offer you.”
Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was united against “the criminals among our people” and that the country would fight “hate, fanaticism and terrorism from whatever side”. He added: “This is a matter of basic humanity and is at the foundation of our enlightened Jewish values.”
In the wake of the Duma atrocity, Israel’s security cabinet ordered its forces to “take all necessary steps and use all means at their disposal” to capture the arsonists and “prevent similar attacks”.
In the wake of the Duma atrocity, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s minister of public security, approved indefinite detention of Jewish suspects as well as stronger techniques for interrogations. “Any method is kosher,” he said. “Anything that is done when it comes to Palestinian terrorists, the same thing should be done when it comes to a Jewish terrorist.”
Among those arrested on Tuesday was Meir Ettinger, grandson of Meir Kahane and Shin Bet’s number one most wanted Jewish extremism suspect But there was no comment on whether there is any suspicion of any link between the 24-year-old – who had previously been banned from Jerusalem and the West Bank – and the Duma attack.
Shin Bet, Israel’s internal intelligence agency, last week said he led a new underground network, set up two years ago, but Ettinger, 23, denied the claims, saying the crackdown “only encourages an escalation by Jews”.
On the same day, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon authorised the six-month detention without charge of settler Mordechai Meyer, 18, in connection with two church fires, including one less than two months ago in Galilee.
Thousands took to the streets to protest against the attacks and warn against a radicalised fringe within the country.
President Reuven Rivlin – who also called in the police this week over extremist threats online – told crowds that this was a “wake-up call” for Israelis. “The flames are spreading in our land, flames of violence, of hatred, of false, distorted and twisted beliefs which permit the shedding of blood in the name of the Torah, in the name of a love for the land of Israel,” he added.
Condemnation also came from Israel’s chief rabbis who said “violence is not the way of our Torah. We condemn any act of violence whatsoever against any person who is created in the image of the Almighty, whether Jew or non-Jew, soldier or citizen”.
In the UK, the Board of deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and Zionist Federation were among those expressing revulsion at the attack in Duma. Chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: ““I unequivocally condemn the brutality & disregard shown for human life that has seen a Palestinian toddler murdered in his home