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The holy war against Arab-Jewish relations and the Jerusalem lynch

Those who attacked Palestinians in central Jerusalem claimed they wanted to prevent them from speaking to Jewish girls. The fear of interracial relations once found only in the fringes of the right are now turning into a legitimate, mainstream political issue in national-religious circles.

A protest against the attack by a Jewish mob on three Palestinians in Zion Sq., Jerusalem. August 18, 2012 (photo: Activestills)

Jerusalem Police are still carrying out arrests of suspects – mostly teenagers – in Friday’s shocking attack that took place in the city’s center. A few dozen Israeli Jews beat up three Palestinians, leaving one gravely injured and still hospitalized.  According to several testimonies, the attackers also tried to interfere with medical treatment being provided to the wounded. At least one of the suspects was quoted in the Jewish media expressing regret that he and his friends weren’t able to kill their victim.

The event happened only several hours after a firebomb was thrown at a Palestinian taxi, leaving six people wounded. The events were unrelated, but they brought back fears of Jewish terrorism against Palestinians. As Roi Maor notes, unlike Palestinian attacks on Jews, attacks by Jews are under-reported, under-investigated, and under-prosecuted by the authorities.

The latest attack was rightly condemned by left-wing and (few) right-wing politicians. Less discussed was the motive given by some of the suspects for their attempted lynch. According to an eyewitness account published by Yedioth Ahronoth, the attackers claimed that the Palestinians tried to talk to a Jewish girl. Other reports claimed the attack had to do with the desire to prevent contact between Palestinian teenagers and Jewish girls.

There are several organizations promoting ethnic segregation in Israel, with a special emphasis on preventing relations between Jewish girls and Palestinian men. The most vocal is Lehava, an NGO that calls upon citizens to inform them of any case of mixed marriage or relationship. Their low-tech internet site, filled with racism and hate-talk, has a section titled “shame page,” which features the pictures of women, mostly public figures, who are in relationships with non-Jews. The head of Lehava, a Kahanist called Bentzi Gopstein, said today that the Jerusalem attackers “have raised Jewish honor from the floor and did what the police should have done.”

Lehava wouldn’t merit much attention if it wasn’t for their legitimacy in right-wing circles. In February 2011, MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) invited Gopstein to a formal session of the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women, along with other members of organizations who work to expose and prevent inter-racial relations. The title of the hearing was “the phenomena of assimilation in Israel – a special session in honor of Jewish Identity Day.”

Gopstein had the opportunity to explain the work of his organizations, and even to complain about “lack of cooperation” from the Ministry of Education; he mentioned the case of a school in Bat Yam “where 20 percent of the girls are dating Arabs.” MK Hotovely turned to a representative from the Department of Education, Dr. Zvi Zameret, for an explanation, and the latter, instead of calling racism for what it is, replied: “This is the first time I am hearing those figures… I made a note to look into that.” A Hebrew protocol of the session can be found here.

A quote from Gopstein was the first one to appear in a press release that MK Hotovely sent following the session, and other Knesset members present at the debate congratulated her for tackling this issue.

A flyer warning the public about an Arab who threatens to “defame” Jewish girls, distributed in a Jerusalem neighborhood in 2011.

The holy war against interracial relationships has been central to the agenda of racist groups throughout modern history. In many places, the first to suffer from attacks (and later, laws) were Jews. An attempt to introduce laws against intermarriage was the main reason the Knesset rejected Jewish supremacist Meir Kahane in the 1980s. At the time, Justice Shamgar wrote that such ideas “remind us of the worst persecution in Jewish history.”

Times have changed. The demand for racial purity is becoming mainstream, re-entering the Knesset through the front door. Leading rabbis, most of them state employees, have signed letters calling on Jewish homeowners to refrain from renting their apartments to Arabs, or warning Jewish girls against dating Arabs.

It’s a form of racism that treats women as the object of the (Jewish) man, his to keep within the tribe. It’s not surprising therefore that the calls to ban women from public life come from the same national-Orthodox circles who want to “save” those women from Palestinian men. But while the attempts to limit the presence of women in public are (rightly) meeting fierce opposition, the revolting attempts to delegitimize, ban or punish interracial relations are endorsed by not-so-marginal circles, and practically accepted as a legitimate political concern within the Jewish mainstream.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. This kind of thing is an example of why feminism is crucial to activism. As it always has been in these situations (the segregated South is the first to come to mind) the great danger is ‘Arab man with Jewish woman’ – never the other way round. The honour concept is poisonously sexist, rooted in the belief that women are actually the property of their fathers, brothers, or their wider community – in this case, other Jews. Fight that, and it will be easier to tackle segregation and occupation. When I first came to Palestine I was interested by the fact that so many of the really hands-on Jewish justice groups – New Profile, Machsom Watch, Coalition of Women for Peace – were avowedly feminist in their outlook. Now I get why.

      Reply to Comment
      • XYZ

        Of course it is “Jewish women and Arab/Muslim men”. Arab men can marry dhimmi women (Jews or Christians) but it is forbidden for Arab/Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men. Muslim women getting involved with non-Muslim men is one of the main causes for the all-too-common “family honor killings” prevalent in Israel and the rest of the Muslim world, including in “progressive” countries like in Western Europe or North America.

        Reply to Comment
        • The honour concept exists cross-culturally and in multiple religions. (It’s also not restricted to religious societies either – go into any emergency shelter for abused women and you will find residents who were beaten to a pulp because a partner or relative got jealous that ‘his’ woman was doing things she shouldn’t, mixing with people she shouldn’t. Even though the assailant might not couch his outrage in religious language, the driving force is the same.) No one society has a monopoly on this, and all religions have problematic issues in their histories and traditions that need to be confronted where women are concerned.

          As Qur’anic marriage laws don’t have much relevance in a discussion on the use of ‘women’s honour’ to justify a lynching, I don’t see what the purpose of your comment was except to say, “But look, they do it too!” and feminists are already well aware of that.

          Reply to Comment
          • XYZ

            The point of “progressives” like those at 972 dwelling on this crime is to show that Israel is supposedly a “uniquely racist society” not fit to be considered part of the “progressive” world. I am simply showing that if you want to consider Israel racist, then you have to consider the Arab/Muslim world as racist, too, and that there is nothing unique about Israel having “hate crimes”. After the US and other Western countries have hate crimes, and they are quite prevalent in the Arab/Muslim Middle East as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Algeria, among others, have shown.

            Reply to Comment
          • the other joe

            This is a bizarre argument. Moreover it is one which is easily proven to be in error and irrelevant. Jewish and Christian men can speak to Muslim women in the occupied Palestinian Territories without religious-backed violence being inflicted upon them.

            There are many problems in Palestinian society, but threatening to lynch someone for speaking to someone of the wrong religion is not one of them.

            Reply to Comment
          • Prometheus

            “This is a bizarre argument. Moreover it is one which is easily proven to be in error and irrelevant. Jewish and Christian men can speak to Muslim women in the occupied Palestinian Territories without religious-backed violence being inflicted upon them.”
            .
            Nonsense.
            Muslim women ARE NOT available to speak to them freely, let alone starting any relationship.
            .
            “There are many problems in Palestinian society, but threatening to lynch someone for speaking to someone of the wrong religion is not one of them.”
            .
            Utter nonsense. Obviously no-one would be bothered with mere speaking. No. That Arab kid wanted to sleep with the girl.
            .
            You see, while Muslim prefer to punish women for such offenses we, Jews, prefer to punish other men.
            You have problem with that?

            Reply to Comment
          • Yes, Prometheus, because terrifying and inconceivable as it may sound to your male ears, Jewish women aren’t your property and therefore you’ve got no business to punish these mysterious ‘other men’ who might have a romantic or sexual interest in them. For consistency’s sake, I presume that you would have supported the assailants had they chosen to lynch a white American Protestant boy who looked at a Jewish woman?

            Except that this scenario would never arise. The assailants didn’t attack the Palestinians boys because they were flirting with girls. There is no evidence that these boys so much as looked at a girl. The mob attacked the boys because they were Arabs, and girls were invoked later, as a defence – because the assailants know enough to realise that ‘pure Jewish rose threatened with defiling filth’ is an image that people like yourself will find sympathetic.

            Reply to Comment
          • the other joe

            I’ve been to the occupied Palestinian Territories and I’ve spoken to numerous Muslim women. You haven’t.

            Reply to Comment
        • XYZ

          When I referred to “family honor killins prevalent in Israel”, I, of course, meant prevalent among Israeli Muslims.

          Reply to Comment
      • Prometheus

        “Fight that, and it will be easier to tackle segregation and occupation.”
        Hell, no.
        Until Arabs make their women a least as free as Jewish women are – there MUST be no equality.
        .
        What’s bizarre is that you are not upset by the fact that in Arab world the poor girl could be beaten or even killed if she is careless enough to sleep with non-Muslim.
        Certainly, Arabs have rights to do what Jews can not.

        Reply to Comment
        • “Until Arabs make their women a least as free as Jewish women are – there MUST be no equality.”

          Your conviction that Jewish women are apparently the physical property of Jewish males such as yourself and that it is your responsibility to violently police their romantic lives isn’t a marvellous advert for your support for gender equality.

          As I pointed out, ‘honour’ violence is not constrained to any particular culture – male jealousy over women’s supposed sexual trespasses is a leading cause of domestic violence worldwide. This is the ‘honour’ concept in action, even though in secular societies it obviously isn’t phrased in religious language. But in this particular instance we are not talking about domestic violence in either secular societies or Muslim ones, we are talking about the racially motivated lynching of a young man in Jerusalem, which left him in a critical condition in hospital – and which you have supported, on the basis that it’s right to ‘punish other men’ for looking at Jewish women. This puts your apparent concern for Arab women at risk of violence in rather a different light. The ‘support’ of a violent misogynist is not something that any feminist particularly wants.

          Reply to Comment
        • Oriol2

          So if I have understood well, Prometheus, you think that Jewish males have to avenge their frustration at no having the possibility of mating Arabic girls by restricting the personal freedom of Jewish girls -and of Arab boys in general, regardless of their personal options-. And of course this curious law should be enforced by lynching mobs and juvenile gangs.
          It is pathetic.

          Reply to Comment
          • Prometheus

            Oriol,
            “So if I have understood well, Prometheus, you think that Jewish males have to avenge their frustration at no having the possibility of mating Arabic girls… regardless of their personal options”

            1 – Arab (Muslim) men persecute Arab (Muslim) women who mate outside their communities – anywhere in the world
            2 – This is as racist as it gets.
            3 – You do not oppose this situation.
            4 – You are a racist as well.

            Reply to Comment
      • Rorr

        That’s because when a Moslem girl goes “outside” she is “dead meat” literally.

        Reply to Comment
      • Prometheus

        Vicky,
        “As it always has been in these situations (the segregated South is the first to come to mind) the great danger is ‘Arab man with Jewish woman’ – never the other way round.”

        Why would you say that?
        Arab (Muslim more than Christian) girls are not allowed to meet/flirt/mate/marry non-Arab men and are persecuted for doing it.
        Ways are numerous: beginning with ban to travel alone through family pressure if any kind of unwanted relationship starts and ending with most grave consequences to those women who prefer liberty.

        You should have been interested by the lack of such organizations of the Palestinian side.

        Reply to Comment
    2. aristeides

      While this looks like universal racism, there’s a factor that’s exclusive to Jews. Because of halacha, only the children of Jewish women are regarded as Jews.

      This means that Jewish men have a particular reason to want to keep “their” women for themselves, as without them, they can’t have Jewish children. It adds an extra dimension of fanaticism to the issue.

      Reply to Comment
      • XYZ

        While this looks like universal racism, there’s a factor that’s exclusive to Arabs/Muslism. Because of sharia law, only the children of Muslim men are regarded as Muslims

        This means that Muslim men have a particular reason to want to keep “their” women for themselves, otherwise it leads dishonor and disgrace for them. This is why there are all-too-prevalent family honor killings in the Muslim world. It adds an extra dimension of fanaticism to the issue.

        Reply to Comment
        • Firas

          False. Anyone believer in Islam is a Muslim.

          Reply to Comment
          • XYZ

            Correct. Anyone can convert to Islam just as anyone can convert to Judaism. But, Sharia Law recognizes the child of a Muslim man as automatically being born Muslim, and if they leave Islam, then they have the status of being apostates, which is not so good in Muslim societies. Thus, a girl born to a Muslim father in a country that bases personal status on Sharia law, such as the Arab states of the Middle East is forbidden to marry a non-Muslim man. The father is obligated to keep his children in the fold and it is a disgrace if they become apostates. This is the source of fanaticism.

            Reply to Comment
          • the other joe

            How about allowing Muslims to condemn outrageous sexism in Palestine? How is it relevant to religious violence in Israel? If you have some guts, condemn the actions of those that drag your side further into the gutter before trying to deflect the argument onto someone else.

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            So XYZ is now a birther? This is the birther claim that Obama is a Muslim because his father was. But Muslim authorities have denied this claim. People born to Muslim fathers but brought up in another religion from childhood are not considered Muslims.

            At any rate, XYZ’s argument fails to establish the parallel he thinks it does and doesn’t address the issue of the status of Jewish females. It’s just another excuse to spout Islamophobia.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Haaretz had this wonderful story last year.
      “An Arab resident of Jerusalem who had consensual sex with a woman who believed him to be Jewish, was convicted yesterday of rape by deception and sentenced to 18 months in prison by the Jerusalem District Court.”
      In this case it was the woman herself who turned him in. Probably because he refused to stay for breakfast.

      Reply to Comment
    4. ToivoS

      I am struck by the similarities in this case and the Emmett Till murder in Mississippi in 1956.

      The murderous rage was set off by sexual fear of a 14 year old black boy. The killers were caught, admitted their crime and were acquitted by a white jury (boy deserved what he got because he whistled at a white woman, I would expect Israeli justice will show the same leniency). The first hit after googling emmett till is a long story defending the white killers using justifications similar to Gopstein’s.

      That era has disappeared from America. It looks like it is coming into bloom in Israel. Does anyone think that a country based on such deep racism can survive in the 21st century?

      Reply to Comment
      • XYZ

        You think Israel is bad? What do you think about what is going on in Syria? Or how about the Christian-Muslim riots in Egypt or the bloody bombing of the Christian church there? Or, are you like many “progressives” going to ignore those for the sake of anti-Israel propaganda?

        Reply to Comment
        • aristeides

          Obviously, XYZ is prepared to ignore Israeli Jewish crimes as long as he has Muslims to point to, instead.

          It’s really disgusting to see this Muslim bashing used as an excuse to justify, by implication, murderous Jewish racism.

          Reply to Comment
          • XYZ

            Jews have no obligation to be better than Arabs just to make Aristeides happy.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Carl

      Judaism is unusual in that it’s got an inherited identity. The idea of a secular religious identity is common (Catholic/Protestant in NI for example), but being born with a secular identity that’s determined according to religious laws is unusual: maybe unique.

      While crazy racists will rant about ‘blood line pollution’ the real battle in Israel will likely end up between the ‘true believers,’ ie. who’s a ‘real’ jew or not, and who decides. Same as with the Sunni/Shia schism ripping Syria and Lebanon apart currently, or al-Qaeda targeting mainly other Muslims as the chief infidels.

      There’s a lot of worrying trends in Israel heading that way, though still some way off. Something about Modiin and Modiin Illit facing off over secular and orthodox access to parks today I recall (thank Ha’aretz pay-wall).

      Not much consolation if you’re getting your head kicked in for being an Arab, but still.

      Oh, fair point about feminism and activism Vicky. Machsom Watch were about as hostile to me as the soldiers on the checkpoint though. Could’ve been my genes, though my jeans are filthy too.

      Reply to Comment
      • XYZ

        Carl-
        As I stated above, personal status in the Arab countries in the Middle East are determined as they are in Israel, by the religion one is born into, whether one is a “believer” or not. This applies to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Alawites, Zoroastrians, etc, etc.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Palestinian

      Interracial ? Race ? Jews don’t make a unique race , it seems even the so-called left in Israel believe in fairy tales and delusions !

      Reply to Comment
    7. Mitchell Cohen

      These lynchings should be condemned across the board, from left to right, with no excuses.

      It does seem like Jews/Judaism is being singled out as far as parents not wanting their kids to inter-date/marry. Surely, you are all aware that religious Christians only want their children to marry Christians and religious Muslims only want their children to marry Muslims. Yes, there are also atheists that would eat their hearts out if their child became religious (in any religion) and married a religious whoever.

      Intimidation, physical or otherwise, should be condemned, but I don’t see a need for religious Jews being apologetic for wanting their children to marry within the faith.

      Reply to Comment
      • XYZ

        Rose Kennedy, mother of the sainted liberals John F Kennedy and Robert F Kennedy disowned her daughter Kathleen (the Kennedy’s are Catholics, for those of you who don’t know) for marrying a English Protestant, Billy Hartington.

        Reply to Comment
    8. Piotr Berman

      It reminds me that there was an ad in NYC that advocated emigration to Israel, and availability of Jewish dating partners was given as one of reasons. This ad met with complaints and was dropped immediately. My conjecture was that one complaint was from Michael Bloomberg, mayor of the city and billionaire who has a gentile partner. Previous mayor of NYC had a Jewish partner, but Guliani was definitely a Catholic (I do not know his current status). Thus in “poor galut Jews” cannot coordinate dating: why Giuliani and Bloomberg do not swap their girlfriends?

      From what I understand, in the galut the rot even reaches to Rotschild clan (“those Rotschilds”). But now, Bat Yam is falling. I suspect that cheapskates running the school district there did not properly segregate the highschools.

      This is a valid concern for the Ministry of Education. One of the pet projects is apparently organizing educational trips to Hebron. But this can be tricky to send mixed school excursions to the rambunctious setters of Hebron. It was reported that Jewish girls who dressed in Palestinian costumes were pushed by IDF to Area A. I cannot even guess what IDF would do to pairs of teens dressed in the respective ethnic costumes, some troops could collapse from cognitive dissonance.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Oriol2

      Just one question… Lehava’s “shame page” would be clearly illegal in any Western country… you cannot inform about anyone’s relationships against his/her will. How is it possible for a democratic Israel to allow this?

      Reply to Comment
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