In recent weeks the international media has been intensively covering the Netanyahu government’s plans to abolish the independence and professionalism of Israel’s law enforcement authorities. Less known outside the country is the fact that in previous years, the Israel’s extreme right has managed to expand its ranks, thanks also to the severe failures of the law enforcement authorities.

This means that the extreme right has not only reached unprecedented positions of power in the country – including those of senior ministers and individuals with responsibility over huge budgets and important authorities – due to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s need to form a coalition that will rescue him from the criminal proceedings against him, but also because this extreme right underwent a process of normalization and entry into the Israeli mainstream, similar to processes in other countries.

The advent of extreme rightists in the mainstream did not begin with the general election of November 1, 2022. It is a process that began years ago. Among other things, no lessons have been learned from the wild incitement that preceded the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on November 4, 1995, when law enforcement authorities treated extremist rabbis and far-right activists with kid gloves. During the past decade, again, the country’s law enforcement authorities enabled the extreme right wing to wreak havoc, and were indifferent to incitement and to the Israeli-Jewish terrorist acts perpetrated against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. This has been a central component in the normalization process of extreme right-wing Israelis.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who has received control over the Civil Administration, Israel’s governing body in the West Bank, from the Defense Ministry, is now responsible for the daily lives of millions of Palestinians. In an article in December 2015 in the B’Sheva journal, identified with the national-religious public, Smotrich wrote of the deadly incident perpetrated earlier that year by Israelis in a Palestinian village, that “the murder in Duma, in all its severity, is not terrorism. Period. Whoever calls it terrorism is grossly mistaken, [and is] causing serious and unjustified damage to human and civil rights, turning himself into someone from the United Nations in charge of order ‘on both sides’ [by] using the term ‘terrorism,’ and thus at the end of the day, harming the effectiveness of our struggle against it. … Terrorism is only violence carried out by an enemy within the framework of war against us, and only that justifies taking severe steps that are out of place in normal situations. All the rest are serious crimes, abominable crime, nationalist crime, but not terrorism.”

As will be explained, and according to the response to a freedom of information request submitted by the Tag Meir Forum, a coalition of anti-racism and anti-violence organizations, the Israel Police and the Justice Ministry seem to have accepted Smotrich’s position, even if they never publicized this openly.

The helplessness of law enforcement authorities enabled far-right politicians to extend and deepen the hotbeds of hatred and incitement in which their supporters grew, and created a suitable public atmosphere in which to move them into positions of power after the November election. It is no coincidence that Rabbi Dov Lior – who had given his blessing to the book “Torat Hamelekh,” which "encourages the killing of non-Jews – is also the main rabbinical figure supporting Otzma Yehudit, a political party that subscribes to an ideology of fascism and apartheid. For this reason, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir thanked him in a speech following publication of the initial voting results on Election Day, describing him as “the great mentor of our generation.”

Nor is it any coincidence that in the past, Smotrich used the words “genius” and “great scholar” to describe Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, who endorsed the book “Baruch Hagever,” praising Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Muslim worshippers in Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994. Ginsburgh also wrote a book called “Kumi Ori,” supporting the toppling of the state regime so that halakha, Jewish religious law, can be instituted. Lior and Ginsburgh are considered the spiritual mentors of Israel’s extreme right wing. “Torat Hamelekh” and “Kumi Ori” are the inspirational guidebooks for Jewish-Israeli terrorists.

In August 2013, then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon declared the extreme right-wing group Tag Mehir (“price tag” in Hebrew) to be a terrorist organization. A statement issued by his office said that representatives of the Israel Police and the Shin Bet security service had declared retributory or so-called price tag actions by Tag Mehir and other organizations to be comparable to acts by modern terror organizations, inasmuch as both kinds of acts are ideologically inspired, and involve secret activities aimed at preventing the Israeli government from implementing political decisions and enforcing laws in the Palestinian territories.

In spite of that declaration, however, Jewish-Israel “price tag” terrorism still exists. Data shows that since 2009, 66 mosques, churches and monasteries within Israel proper and in the West Bank have been set ablaze and/or have otherwise been desecrated. In addition to the above-mentioned massacre in Duma at the Dawabsheh family home, where two parents and their baby were murdered in their sleep when their house was torched, other homes have been set on fire or stoned in recent years (and their Palestinian inhabitants miraculously escaped); houses have been painted with racist graffiti; thousands of olive trees have been uprooted or vandalized; many hundreds of Palestinian vehicles have been damaged and some set ablaze [this article was written before the recent events in the village of Hawara]; and stones have been thrown at Palestinian vehicles as in the case of Aisha al-Rabi in 2018, who was killed, or in the attack that seriously injured Raed Haraz a few months ago.

In answer to a freedom of information request by the anti-racist Tag Meir Forum, two answers were received: The Israel Police stated that it has never enforced the declaration against the extremist Tag Mehir organization by Ya’alon. Moreover, the Justice Ministry said in a written response that it has no data regarding the enforcement of that declaration, and as far as is known “in the State Prosecutor’s Office, there has never been a case [on file] dealing with membership in or identification with this organization.”

The sad fact that Tag Mehir’s designation as a terrorist organization has never been enforced has far-reaching implications. As far as preventive measures, no use has been made of the authority, defined by Israeli law, that allows confiscation of property that serves the aims of terrorism, or curbing of the organization’s actions in advance. As for enforcement, the Justice Ministry confirmed in a response that no criminal charges have been brought against Tag Mehir. Thus, as long as extreme right-wing activists did not actually act on their plans, the law enforcement bodies sat still and neither investigated nor prosecuted them for mere membership and activity in the organization in question. In fact, the law enforcers gambled with the Palestinians, their bodies and their property. This is especially serious since many of the alleged criminals are “returning actors”: They began as thuggish “Hilltop Youth” and have in some cases continued with terrorism as adults.

As for those who have been prosecuted in related cases, their indictments mentioned racist motives or hostility toward a certain community, according to Article 144 of the Israeli penal code. In general, only those who took direct part in the action were actually charged, but not others who were involved in its planning and organization. All this is despite the stipulations presented in the 2016 Counter-Terrorism Law, which is aimed at potential offenders belonging to broader circles – those who provide transportation, accommodations, food, clothes, information, communications or various other means, as well as “training or counselling for terrorism purposes.”

In answer to the freedom of information request by the Tag Meir Forum, the Justice Ministry wrote that one must distinguish between the use of the term “price tag,” which usually refers to acts of hatred carried out by Jewish Israelis against Palestinians, and the organization of that name, which was designated a terrorist group in 2013. But this is merely an attempt to justify the lack of enforcement of that declaration due to some structural uniqueness of the group in question – it is not convincing and does not withstand the test of reality. Tag Mehir is no different from many other terrorist organizations that have been declared as such, whose members do not pay membership fees and are not organized in trade unions. Such terrorist groups are secretive and decentralized so that their members are hard to identify and their activities are not easy to restrict.

Despite the Shin Bet’s investigative materials and the fact that some suspects’ backgrounds showed membership in Tag Mehir and involvement in possible violations – they still were not investigated nor indicted for terror acts. Thus, for example, in November 2013 three residents of the Havat Gilad settlement outpost torched a truck and another vehicle parked in the yard of a home in the Palestinian village of Far’ata, endangering its residents. The charges that were brought against the perpetrators only included the offenses of arson and conspiracy to commit a racist crime, but not for being members of the terrorist organization Tag Mehir – although various investigations including by the Shin Bet made it unequivocally clear that the group stood behind this act. Not making do with the description of the “racist motives” behind the incident, the Shin Bet described severe charges “against those secretly committing a ‘price tag’ attack,” and explained that “this affair illustrates the horrific potential … of the activity of a small group of extreme right-wing activists who resort to violent methods … even at the price of violating the government’s decisions and terrorizing the Palestinian population, while severely damaging the image of the State of Israel on the international level.”

Thus, the murderers of the 16-year-old Palestinian boy Mohammed Abu Khdeir in 2014 in Jerusalem were not prosecuted for being members of the extremist Tag Mehir organization, although the court’s verdict established that they had acted “to terrorize Arabs as in price-tag actions.” In the case of the Dawabsheh family, their murderer Amiram Ben-Uliel was not found guilty of a terrorism offense (he was convicted of three counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder) or of membership in the Tag Mehir organization, to which he belonged. Instead, the charges included membership in a terrorist organization called Hamered (“the revolt”) – but the court ruled that no such group existed. Still, the indictment did cite acts including “igniting property belonging to Muslims and Christians, especially ritual buildings and vehicles, and spraying provocative graffiti,” and alluded to the fact that “Ben-Uliel took part in price-tag acts in the past,” and that he “chose to commit a terrorist attack in a Palestinian village as revenge for the murder of a Jew at a nearby junction. He chose a house deep inside the village because he wished to sow fear and deter the Arab villagers.”

At present legal procedures are being conducted against a minor accused of throwing a stone at the vehicle driven by Aisha al-Rabi, causing her death. He, too, has not been prosecuted because of his membership in Tag Mehir; his indictment only noted a possible racist motive. Rabbi Lior has called upon the public to donate in order to cover the suspect’s legal expenses.

Apparently, the fact that law enforcement officials have avoided defining organizations as terrorist groups stems from political and practical considerations. Practical because often a significant part of the investigative material gathered in such cases is based on intelligence sources. Furthermore, because of the police’s chronic dysfunction, the force’s prosecutors and state prosecutors often have difficulties handling court cases. By avoiding prosecution of persons who may be members of Tag Mehir and/or may be involved in acts of terror, state and police prosecutors have greater room for maneuver when it comes to agreeing to plea bargains. In terms of politics, this has enabled law enforcers to avoid convicting Jewish Israelis for membership in terror organizations and thus angering both right-wing and extreme right-wing people.

Not only have Jewish Israeli terrorist operatives and members of the communities in which they live internalized these messages, but also young Israelis including soldiers, who served and/or still serve in the occupied territories and voted en masse in the last election for extreme-right parties.

Attorney Eitay Mack helps victims of Israeli-Jewish terrorism, together with Tag Meir Forum.

QOSHE - Israeli Law Enforcement Helped the Far Right Reach Positions of Power - Eitay Mack
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Israeli Law Enforcement Helped the Far Right Reach Positions of Power

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22.03.2023

In recent weeks the international media has been intensively covering the Netanyahu government’s plans to abolish the independence and professionalism of Israel’s law enforcement authorities. Less known outside the country is the fact that in previous years, the Israel’s extreme right has managed to expand its ranks, thanks also to the severe failures of the law enforcement authorities.

This means that the extreme right has not only reached unprecedented positions of power in the country – including those of senior ministers and individuals with responsibility over huge budgets and important authorities – due to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s need to form a coalition that will rescue him from the criminal proceedings against him, but also because this extreme right underwent a process of normalization and entry into the Israeli mainstream, similar to processes in other countries.

The advent of extreme rightists in the mainstream did not begin with the general election of November 1, 2022. It is a process that began years ago. Among other things, no lessons have been learned from the wild incitement that preceded the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on November 4, 1995, when law enforcement authorities treated extremist rabbis and far-right activists with kid gloves. During the past decade, again, the country’s law enforcement authorities enabled the extreme right wing to wreak havoc, and were indifferent to incitement and to the Israeli-Jewish terrorist acts perpetrated against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. This has been a central component in the normalization process of extreme right-wing Israelis.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who has received control over the Civil Administration, Israel’s governing body in the West Bank, from the Defense Ministry, is now responsible for the daily lives of millions of Palestinians. In an article in December 2015 in the B’Sheva journal, identified with the national-religious public, Smotrich wrote of the deadly incident perpetrated earlier that year by Israelis in a Palestinian village, that “the murder in Duma, in all its severity, is not terrorism. Period. Whoever calls it terrorism is grossly mistaken, [and is] causing serious and unjustified damage to human and civil rights, turning himself into someone from the United Nations in charge of order ‘on both sides’ [by] using the term ‘terrorism,’ and thus at the end of the day, harming the effectiveness of our struggle against it. … Terrorism is only violence carried out by an enemy within the framework of war against us, and only that justifies taking severe steps that are out of place in normal situations. All the rest are serious crimes, abominable crime, nationalist crime, but not terrorism.”

As will be explained, and according to the response to a freedom of information request submitted by the Tag Meir Forum, a coalition of anti-racism and anti-violence organizations, the Israel Police and the Justice Ministry seem to have accepted Smotrich’s position, even if they never publicized this openly.

The helplessness of law enforcement authorities enabled far-right politicians to extend and deepen the hotbeds of hatred and incitement in which their supporters grew, and created a suitable public atmosphere in which........

© Haaretz


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