Saturday, August 08, 2015

The War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness

There are times when studying the history of Jews and Judaism in late antiquity comes in handy in the face of contemporary events. The radical settlers who have been arrested for committing arson at the Church of the Loaves and the Fishes, including a man named Meir Ettinger, are engaged in trying overthrow the state of Israel and replace it with the Kingdom of Israel. I'm reminded of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, usually called the War Scroll by scholars - "The War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness."

Ynet has just published an extensive article about the murderous attacks committed by these radical settlers (none of whom have yet been arrested for the murders at Duma) and their ideology, which may set the West Bank aflame.

Main points of the article:
The rising tensions are evident everywhere. In Meir Ettinger's fanaticism; in Palestinian villages where night watchmen groups are formed; in Givat Ronen outpost where "the most hotheaded guys are drawn," and in the police, where investigators are trying to solve the arson in Duma and prepare for possible Jewish retaliation.
While we were all paying attention to other things, there have been several murderous attacks on Palestinians by settlers in the past year. The house of Huda Kumail, who lives in Khirbet Abu Falah, was firebombed nine months ago, on November 23, 2014, and she and her three daughters barely escaped with their lives.

A year and a half ago, the home of Khaled Dar-Khalil from Sinjil, north of Ramallah, was also bombed, but the family was saved by Palestinian firefighters from Birzeit. Fortunately, none of them were hurt.

I presume that I did not hear about these two bombings because no one died in the attacks, but it's obvious that the Israeli government should have been paying much closer attention to attacks on Palestinians by settlers, because the whole situation in the West Bank is in danger of completely blowing up.

There is also constant harassment of Palestinian farmers by settlers, who try to prevent the Palestinians from working the land and harvesting olive trees. One example is provided by Adnan Nasser, who lives close to the Adi Ad outpost, one of those places settled by radical Jews.
"I'm suffering from the settlers, and I'm not the only one," he told us. "They harass and hurt all of the farmers in the village. They uproot trees, burn agricultural machinery, attack us in the fields." 
We drove on a dirt road leading to an agricultural field, and from there to the hill atop which Adi Ad is located. The same road, by the way, also leads to the home of Mrs. Kumail from Khirbet Abu Falah, 2.5 kilometers away from here. 
On the edges of the Palestinian field we found a small military tent with four soldiers observing the outpost. They were stationed there to separate the two sides. 
On the opposite ridge there was a group of teens and children who noticed us standing there and looking at them. They instantly covered their faces and started making their way down the ridge towards us. But the soldiers assured us we had nothing to worry about, they will protect us. The Palestinian who was with us was not assured by this. We left.
Meir Ettinger, who has just been arrested for suspicion of his involvement in the attack on the Church of the Loaves and Fishes (and perhaps also about the murderous arson in Duma), was arrested in early March of this year because he was suspected of being involved in the attack on Huda Kumail and her family. He was questioned at the Ma'ale Adumim police station but then released because they didn't have evidence against him. He was then barred from entering the West Bank and Jerusalem. The article provides more information on Ettinger and his violent acts against Palestinians, which he justifies by resort to the higher law of the Torah. This is the letter that Ettinger wrote to the judges in his case:
"Two weeks ago, I received a restraining order barring me from my home in Givat Sneh Ya'akov near the holy city of Nablus. This order forces me to leave my home, the righteous Jacob's land, my parents’ house in the holy city of Jerusalem, the city of the Temple, and my in-laws' house in Shiloh, where the Tabernacle resided thousands of years before the strange and bizarre laws that this court adheres to were made," he wrote. 
"Unfortunately, the Land of Israel is dominated by a government that is not loyal to the laws of Torah and the commandments, to whom the sanctity of the Land of Israel is foreign, and the fact it is called a Jewish state is merely lip service. This is the situation that brought me to stand here, in front of this court, that in my eyes is the same as those who are barring me from my home and the land of my ancestors, whose goal is to promote assimilation and erase the unique nature of the people of Israel, and to whom the state's security is not the same as the security of Jews... 
"This court calls itself a high court of justice, but to us it is the symbol of the injustice and the theft of the name 'Israel'... the order I received cites 'reasons of state security and public safety.' This is the time to say - it is not I who destroyed Israel, but you who sit here, and your predecessors, who endanger the Jews' security over and over again..."
He also said in an interview with the Kol Yehudi (Jewish Voice) website:
"I didn't get this order because I'm suspected of murder or robbing banks, but because we all want to see the Kingdom of Israel rise here as soon as possible," he said, and then elaborated: "We don't recognize the authority of the government that controls the Land of Israel today, to tell us what to do and how to do it... We shouldn't even pay heed to the persecution and the restrictions they put on us. We must act with all of our might to change the situation and do everything we can to form the Kingdom of Israel."
A comrade of Ettinger, Efi Haikin from Yitzhar (an extremist settlement in the central West Bank), said of Ettinger:
He defined Ettinger as "the flag bearer of those who believe that the State of Israel should disappear and that we need to establish the Kingdom of Israel as soon as possible, as God commanded us." 
Later, Haikin touched upon one of the key points in the ideology that leads the extremists in the outposts: "The State of Israel is financing churches in the Land of Israel even though one of the main commandments given to the people of Israel as they entered the Land of Israel is to uproot any idol worship."
And what has the government being doing with people like Ettinger? They issue orders to prevent them from entering Jerusalem or the West Bank. If Ettinger and his comrades were Palestinians suspected of the same kind of attacks against Israeli Jews in the West Bank, they would now have been sitting in jail for a long time in administrative detention. But there was no such harsh treatment for these coddled radicals.

Udi Levy, who is the head of the "Nationalistic Crime Unit at the Judea and Samaria District," says of them:
"They have no rabbinical authority. These guys are of the opinion the rabbis have become moderate, that they are groveling to the state, and if there is any authority, it's guys from among them. Guys like Ettinger, Yinon Reuveni, Moshe Orbach. Guys who don't study. All of the official bodies tried to deal with them, offer help - the welfare services, the council - nothing worked. Even the army. The Commander of the Binyamin Regional Brigade, Col. Yisrael Shomer, tried to go to these groups, talk to them, and they weren't happy to see him. He wasn't welcomed there."
So instead of arresting and prosecuting them, the welfare services, the regional council, and the army went and talked to them, as if they were naughty children who just needed to be scolded. The army! Since the attack on the Dawabshe family home in Duma, several Palestinians have been shot and killed by the army in protests. When the army feels in danger from Palestinians who are protesting and/or rioting, they shoot. But when they are faced with people who want to overthrow the state of Israel and replace it with a theocratic kingdom, they go talk to them.

Three of the radicals have now been put in administrative detention, because the cabinet finally decided to do this to Jews in addition to Palestinians. Administrative detention is detention without trial, often because there is inadequate evidence to charge someone, or because the army thinks they're dangerous. It's permitted by the British emergency regulations, which were taken over by the State of Israel when it was founded.

It is a blatantly anti-democratic procedure, which has been often used against Palestinians, and very rarely against Jews. The B'Tselem human rights group, which works to help Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, decried the use of administrative detention against the radical settlers, just as they do its use against Palestinians.

Sa'ad Dawabshe, father of Ali, died today and was buried in Duma

From Haaretz.
Sa'ad Dawabshe, Father of Ali, Dies and is buried in his home village of Duma. 
A Palestinian man who was seriously wounded in last week's West Bank arson attack that saw his 18-month-old son burned to death succumbed to his wounds early Saturday. Thousands attended his funeral in the village of Duma on Saturday afternoon. 
Sa'ad Dawabsheh, 32, suffered severe second-degree burns on over 80 percent of his body and was on life support at the Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva for the past week after firebombs were thrown into his home in Duma last Friday, killing his 18-month-old son Ali and seriously wounding his wife and 4-year-old boy.  
According to the Israeli hospital administering care to the surviving Dawabsheh family members, Sa'ad's wife and son were still facing life threatening wounds.  
A spokesperson for Hamas called for clashes in West Bank in response to Dawabsheh's death. Writing on his Facebook page, Husam Badran said 
"Dawabsheh's death proves the severity of the crime perpetrated by settlers against the family... Nothing will stop these murderous settler attacks […] we cannot wait until they come to our villages… Our people in the West Bank have only one choice: that of open and comprehensive confrontation against the occupation," he wrote.
Fatah called on Palestinian civilians to join "popular guards' committees" in their villages to guard them from settler aggression. 
Early morning on Saturday, unknown persons threw two firebombs at a home near Duma, according to Palestinian reports. No casualties were reported.  
Thousands attended Dawabsheh's funerary procession, which departed from Nablus to Duma, after his body was dissected at the city's forensic institute, and several present called for revenge. Dawabsheh was buried at the village's cemetery next to his son Ali, killed in the attack. According to his relatives, they refused an Israeli offer to have his body dissected in Israel.  
The Israeli army reported several clashes between Palestinians and security forces erupted during the funeral, but were quelled soon after.  
The arson attack, which has been attributed to Israeli extremists and was labeled Jewish terror by top Israeli officials, has fueled unrest in Israel and the Palestinian territories, prompting the government to crackdown on far-right extremists.  
During his time at the hospital, hundreds of people came to visit Dawabsheh, including senior Israeli officials, and the family has even put up thank you signs in both Hebrew and Arabic to welcome the visitors. 
...... Sa'ad's wife Reham and his son Ahmed were still facing life threatening wounds. Reham is suffering from third-degree burns on 90 percent of her body and is on life support in the intensive care unit of Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer. Four-year-old Ahmed suffered second-degree burns on over 60 percent of his body; he too is hospitalized at Tel Hashomer.

Extremist settlers attack another home in Duma

Extremist settlers attack another home in Duma:

NABLUS (Ma’an) - Extremist Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian home with fire bombs and rocks in the village of Duma south of Nablus in the northern West Bank on Saturday morning, Palestinian officials told Ma'an.

Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settler activities in the northern West Bank, told Ma’an that “a number of extremist settlers hurled two fire bombs at the home of Mahmoud Fazza al-Kaabna.”

The fire bombs, Daghlas said, landed at the outer wall of the home near a window, but did not make it inside the house. The attackers also hurled stones at the house, with one of them hitting al-Kaabna in the abdomen.

The settler attack took place a week after the deadly arson attack which killed 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha and his father Saad from the same village. The mother Riham and 4-year-old brother Ahmad are still struggling for their lives after they sustained third-degree burns on most of their bodies.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Posters praising the murder of gay people appear in Jerusalem

I got into an argument with someone on Facebook about whether it was fair to see Yishai Schlissel as a product of the Haredi educational system and Haredi values, which teach contempt and disdain for gay and lesbian people and call for people to repress their sexual orientation. I argued that Schlissel, although he himself appears to be mentally ill, was in fact expressing those values in an appalling and violent way. He, on the other hand, argued that we should not see Schlissel as representing Haredi values in any way, since he was so clearly a great exception to the Haredi rule of seeking to turn away from contemporary Israeli society and becoming an ever more insular society. Instead of ignoring the gay pride march in Jerusalem, which has been the advice of Haredi rabbis for several years, he stabbed six people and killed one of them (Shira Banki z"l).

Schlissel is not as great an exception as my interlocutor argued. Posters have now appeared in Jerusalem praising Schlissel and calling for others also to murder LGBT people. The posters have been put up in Haredi neighborhoods in the city, by extremist elements who call themselves "Faithful Judaism."

One poster (below) says: "Everyone who sheds the blood of these evil people is as if he had brought a sacrifice (to God)." This same poster also says, "Happy are you, R' Yishai who sanctified the name of heaven! You did this not from your own intentions, but you are the messenger of the community and the messenger of God!"

Another poster (below) praised Schlissel with these words: "Happy are you R' Yishai, for you merited much self-sacrifice, and acted like Pinchas, 'who took the spear in his hand,' to act zealously for the Lord of Hosts, who killed the licentious ones within the camp, and did not refrain (from doing this) before everyone."

If I can get over my revulsion at the words on these posters, I will translate the entire text of both of them, but right now I feel too disturbed by them to do so.

Monday, August 03, 2015

The worshippers of Molech, the killers of Ali Sa'ad Dawabshe

Banner near the house, with a photograph of Ali Sa'ad Dawabshe
I've never been inside a house where someone was murdered before.

Yesterday, I went to the Palestinian village of Duma, in the West Bank, to offer condolences to the relatives of the Dawabshe family, who were attacked last Friday early morning in their home. Unknown Jewish assailants threw firebombs into their house, including the bedroom. They killed the 1 1/2 old baby, Ali Sa'ad Dawabshe, and severely injured his brother Ahmed and his parents Sa'ad and Reham.

The bedroom where the family slept.
I went with an Israeli group called "Tag Meir" which means "Light Tag" and is a play on words for the slogan "Tag Mechir," which means "Price Tag." The term "Price Tag" is used by Israeli extremist settlers who take revenge on Palestinians when the Israeli government does anything in reference to settlers that they don't like.  For example, last week the government demolished two illegally built houses in the settlement of Beit El. One possibility is that the Dawabshe family was attacked in revenge for the government action. This possibility is strengthened by the fact that the word נקמה ("Revenge") was written on the wall near the firebombed home.

These extremists also attack churches and mosques, both in Israel and in the occupied territories. Tag Meir goes and visits Christian and Muslim holy sites that have been desecrated by Jewish religious fanatics, as well as other places that have been attacked.

Haaretz has a chilling article in today's newspaper about a Settler Terror Underground that Seeks to Overthrow the Israeli Government.
Investigators into Friday’s murder-by-arson of a Palestinian infant increasingly believe in the likelihood that the extreme rightist operatives responsible for the attack are affiliated with the same ideological group that  has torched mosques, churches and Palestinian homes over the past year.   
The group's core consists of several dozen people whose operations are centered in West Bank outposts but wander all over the country, including within the Green Line.
Unlike in the past, the understanding is that these assailants are no longer attempting to deter the government and security forces from evacuating outposts and settlements. 
Nowadays they have more ambitious aims, like destabilizing the country and overthrowing the government to establish a new regime to be based on halakha, Jewish law. They plan to use violence in a systematic, continuous manner irrespective of police conduct in the territories, investigators said. 
This ideological shift among this gang of violent young Jewish fanatics once referred to as “price tag” activists or “hilltop youth” was identified by the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Police late last year. The terrorists came to the conclusion that mosque fires were old hat, and that a broader approach was needed. 
Some of these ideas were expressed in a document confiscated from Moshe Orbach, 24, of Bnei Brak, who was charged last week in the torching of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes on the Kinneret shore. He had written the document, titled “The Kingdom of Evil,” which lays the ideological foundation for escalating the attacks against religious sites and Arabs, and offers practical suggestions for how to avoid surveillance and questioning....
The ideological change that was identified last year provided a new framework for attacks against Palestinians and religious institutions. According to the agencies monitoring them, the operatives present an "anarchist, anti-Zionist" world view and justify violent attacks, including ones that cause casualties, as means toward destabilizing the state, undermining Israel's  social institutions and democratic government, and advancing a revolution that would set up a new Israeli "kingdom" that would operate in accordance with Jewish law.  
The drafters of this new Jewish insurgent ideology are not in regular contact with rabbis and do not feel the need for halakhic rulings to justify their actions. They see rabbis once perceived as extremist as having become too “establishment.” They stress the need for emotional resilience, both as they act and if they are subject to police and Shin Bet interrogations. They reject any attempt to impose on them any authority. 
Another dangerous change is that they now justify the killing of Arabs during attacks on houses and religious institutions, and are willing to demonstrate “self-sacrifice,” including the acceptance of long prison terms, to promote their goals. Some have even been saving money in case they are imprisoned for a long period. When a Palestinian home was torched near Dura in the South Hebron Hills six months ago (the family managed to escape), a structure on the grounds of the Dormition Church in Jerusalem was burned, and the church along the Kinneret was set alight, it seems the arsonists knew that people were inside, unlike in most past arsons, which were committed at night when the buildings were empty. 
In various documents and statements, these young settlers speak of creating chaos in the country by intensifying the friction over what they identify as the country’s vulnerabilities. While the Jewish terror organization that operated in the West Bank in the beginning of the previous decade (whose members were never put in prison) dealt with shooting attacks targeting Palestinian cars, the new Jewish terrorists are looking for targets that they describe as “explosive”: the Temple Mount, “eliminating idolatry” by torching mosques and churches, and “expelling the non-Jews” by systematically attacking them. The assailants also talk about inciting against government systems and imposing religious strictures in public spaces, particularly with regard to women’s modesty.
"May the king Messiah live" - this is a slogan of messianist members of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement who believe that the last Lubavitcher Rebbe is the Messiah, even though he died in 1994.
Today's visit was originally intended to include going to the mourner's tent to offer our condolences to the relatives of the Dawabshe family. Instead, we went to the burned house itself, and were able to enter and see the burned remains of the interior, including the living room, where all the furniture was tossed about, the entry room, where the television had been partially melted, the kitchen, which was black with smoke, and the bedroom, where the partially burned bedding was strewn about.  The murderers threw firebombs into the bedroom, where the family was sleeping.

Standing in the bedroom, looking at the burned up bedding and the springs from the bed, I had the same feeling as when I visited Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks - just blank incomprehension. How could people do such an evil thing? Firebomb a sleeping family in the middle of the night - an attack that was bound to severely injure and kill the people there. How could anyone do such a thing?

The people who did this undoubtedly think of themselves as religious Jews, as worshipping God in the correct manner. After the murder, they probably read the Torah reading for this past Shabbat, including the commandment: "You shall not murder." How could they read those words without thinking of themselves? The god they really worship is Molech, who demanded the sacrifice of children.

The door to the living room, thrown down.
The living room - sofas, and a child's carriage.
The burned out kitchen.
Onions, spilled out on the floor of the kitchen.
The destroyed bedroom, with a photographer from a news organization in the corner.
The attackers also threw firebombs into the house next door, but fortunately injured no one because the house was empty. The damage was, however, also quite extensive.

Front of the house next door - the room thoroughly destroyed by fire.
Another view into the same room.
Further inside the house next door - chairs and a table still in place.
After we visited the two houses, the leader of Tag Meir, Gadi Gvaryahu, and one of the village leaders (I don't know his name) spoke together. The village leader spoke about how the village was constantly subject to attack by settlers from nearby settlements, and Gadi spoke of the sense of shame that he and other Jews had over the murder of Ali Dawabshe.

Conversation outside the house.
After this conversation, Gadi said that we should leave Duma before going to the mourning tent, because there were people in the village who were angry that we Jews had come into the village.  So we went on our way out.

Banner outside the Dawabshe house, with two men from the village council depicted.
But just before I got on the bus, a girl from a family who was watching people coming from the burned house offered water to those passing by. She came up to me and pressed the bottle into my hand, and I went over to the other members of her family to say thank you, and apologize, and we had a short conversation. It was clear that they, at least, were glad that we had come.

Leaving the village.
Olive trees along the road from Duma.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

"A Short History of Humankind"

I'm visiting Israel right now for a little over a week, to have a vacation and see friends and go to interesting places.  I have been spending time with friends, and I went to a wonderful new exhibit at the Israel Museum called קצור תולדות האנושות ("A short history of humankind"), inspired by the book of the same name by Yuval Noah Harari. The exhibit told the story of human history using objects from the museum and modern and contemporary art and video installations that reflected on the themes developed in the book. The "short history" exhibit began with the Big Bang and eventually came to the present.

This is a model of a house, found in an archaeological excavation in Arad, Israel. It dates from the early Bronze Age, between 3,000-2,650 BCE. From the explanatory plaque: "Though we do not know to what purpose it was built, this rare model allows us a glimpse of the structure of houses in the ancient city of Arad. Rectangular in shape, with a flat roof that had grooves to collect rain water, they contained a space that served as bedroom, utility room, and kitchen, as well as side rooms that were sometimes used as kitchen and sometimes as living rooms. The animals were kept in the courtyard, where most of the house chores were carried out, including weaving, sewing, and the preparing of flint tools."
From the section of the exhibit on divinities - on the left, deities represented as rocks with holes in them, also from the Bronze Age in Israel, and on the left, a modern portrayal of Jesus, facing Pontius Pilate, titled "Ecce Homo" ("This is the man").


The last two images show the original moon landing in 1969 and a playful reenactment.