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Why is Jewish violence always a reaction to Palestinian violence?

The arson attack against the bilingual school in Jerusalem was committed within a broader political framework: it is an extension of institutionalized violence and ought to be traced back to incitement by right-wing Israeli politicians preaching for blind patriotism and hatred of the ‘other.’

By Fady Khoury

A teacher inspects the damage from an arson attack that targeted first-grade classrooms at a Jewish-Arab school near the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa in southern Jerusalem, November 30, 2014. Spray painted on the walls were racist slogans in Hebrew reading: "Death to Arabs" and "There's no coexistence with cancer". (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A teacher inspects the damage from an arson attack that targeted first-grade classrooms at a Jewish-Arab school near the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa in southern Jerusalem, November 30, 2014. Spray painted on the walls were racist slogans in Hebrew reading: “Death to Arabs” and “There’s no coexistence with cancer”. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

After every act of violence perpetrated by Palestinians against Jews, Israeli politicians waste no time framing it as an act of terror that can be traced back to the incitement of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority, some local Palestinian leadership or Palestinians’ “intrinsically violent” culture. The violence is always part of something broader than the act itself.

The arson of a bilingual school in Jerusalem Saturday night will most likely be framed as the doing of Israeli society’s “bad apples.” Israel’s right-wing political leadership will continue to enjoy impunity for its role in the incitement against the Arab-Palestinian population — and the left wing — that leads to such violent attacks. Organizations like Lehava will never be outlawed for their racist discourse. “Price tag” terrorism will continue to be viewed as “just graffiti.”

The narrative within Israeli society, according to which Jewish violence is foreign and exceptional, will continue to be perpetuated. Meanwhile, that same society will continue to present Palestinian violence as an intrinsic cultural characteristic.

Read also: ‘We will overcome’: Arson and mourning at J’lem bilingual school

This narrative, however, ignores the institutionalized violence committed by the Israeli security agencies. Private violence from the Israeli side is not necessary, however, because they have said agencies to carry it out on their behalf. The thirst for harming the “other” is satisfies by the harm inflicted by these officials bodies.

We can therefore conclude that the scope of violent acts committed by Jews against Palestinians is similar, if not broader, to the scope of those committed by Palestinians. It is only that the violence of the former is looked at as legitimate and untainted; it is the violence of the civilized, fighting against the barbarians. History is reset with every act of Palestinian violence, and Jewish violence is always perceived and broadcast as a mere reaction to it.

Damage from an arson attack that targeted first-grade classrooms at a Jewish-Arab school near the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa in southern Jerusalem, November 30, 2014. Spray painted on the walls were racist slogans in Hebrew reading: "Death to Arabs" and "There's no coexistence with cancer". (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Damage from an arson attack that targeted first-grade classrooms at a Jewish-Arab school near the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa in southern Jerusalem, November 30, 2014. Spray painted on the walls were racist slogans in Hebrew reading: “Death to Arabs” and “There’s no coexistence with cancer”. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

It is time we recognize that the arson attack against the bilingual school in Jerusalem was committed within a broader political framework. At the very least, it should be viewed as being inspired by that political framework. This act is an extension of that institutionalized violence and it ought to be traced back to the continuous incitement by right-wing Israeli politicians who preach for blind patriotism, fascism and hatred of anyone who isn’t a Jew who supports their political agenda. It is a privatized violence which signals to the security agencies that their institutionalized violence is insufficient or is not realizing its intended goals. Those goals, despite the common perception, are not strictly security oriented.

I don’t mean to justify any kind of violence committed against anyone. My intention is to refute the accepted narrative — reliant on a colonial mindset — that is so common in the inner-Israeli discourse surrounding the legitimate use of force. That same narrative allows the average Israeli to condemn violent acts — which are becoming more and more common — committed by Israeli individuals in the hopes of preserving their moral superiority over other groups, which are perceived intrinsically and unjustifiably aggressive and violent. That same narrative must begin to calculate the institutionalized violence committed against Palestinians by the Israeli military presence in the occupied territories, and by law enforcement agencies within the Green Line.

Fady Khoury is a Palestinian lawyer in Israel and currently a graduate student at Harvard Law School.

Related:
‘We will overcome’: Arson and mourning at Jerusalem’s bilingual school
How the IDF abdicates its monopoly on violence in the West Bank

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    1. Baladi Akka 1948

      “Why is Jewish violence always a reaction to Palestinian violence ?”
      Easy. Because we, the Palestinians, started the conflict in the first place. Our ancestors travelled all the way to the shtetls of Yiddishland and dragged all those poor Ashkenazi Jews down to dark and hot Palestine so we could ‘antisemitize’ them all day long. The rest is only their “legitimate self-defense” …

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    2. Ben Zakkai

      It should be obvious by now to everyone that those who characterize every Palestinian or Arab act of violence as inherent and/or diabolical, while simultaneously viewing every Jewish or Israeli act of violence as exceptional and/or justified, are living in a childish fantasyland. But even if it was obvious to everyone — which it obviously isn’t — we still need to be reminded regularly of the obvious, for which we thank you Fady.

      Reply to Comment
    3. The state of Israel would not be so fucked up if it weren’t for the tacit complicity of the US, bankrolling the state of israel for decades, providing them military hardware and expertise, which couldn’t be done without the work of the duplicitous US senate and congress, which turns a blind eye to every act of israeli violence, by settler, IDF or police (all the same, different outfits) and the most they can ever utter is “We are concerned”. The KKK is a known terrorist organization which should have been annihilated years ago, but they are given a pass. African Americans and so-called minorities are still second class citizens in the land of their birth, where they work, pay taxes, join the military (volunteer, no draft) and come back to find all they’ve done is secure the inalienable rights of their anglo-saxon brothers and sisters, but haven’t been able to do diddly-squat for themselves. The privilege and rights countless numbers have died to protect are not meant for them. Are there any other nations as corrupt, cynical and anti-democratic as the US and the state of Israel?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Joel

      The State alone, must have a monopoly on legitimate violence.

      Israel has failed to root out and prosecute rightist and racist violence.

      A government that fails to stop illegitimate violence is WEAK.

      Reply to Comment
    5. “legitimate violence” ? Like war, maybe ? Jewish violence ? Palestinian violence ? Nonsense ! It is up to individuals to decide if they want an alternative enough to make non-violence a priority in their lives. What child in any context – family, school or the public place – has ever felt protected and nurtured faced with violence of any sort ? The art of conflict resolution still has far to go – Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent COmmunication is one door worth opening.

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