Friday, August 7, 2015

Soul-Searching in Israel After Bias Attacks on Gays and Arabs

NY Times   On one edge of the Zion Square gathering, an Orthodox yeshiva student was in heated debate with a secular couple over the hierarchy of sin. On the other, young men wearing skullcaps rocked back and forth, reciting the evening prayer. In between, people sat cross-legged on the cobblestones amid an array of memorial candles and banners decrying violence, promoting love, demanding change.

The focal point was a black cloth with simple white chalk Hebrew letters spelling out “Ali Saad Dawabsheh” and “Shira Banki,” the Palestinian toddler burned to death in his West Bank home and the 16-year-old Jewish girl fatally stabbed at a gay pride march in Jerusalem. The back-to-back attacks a week ago, attributed to religious fanatics, set off a national outcry and reflection, with hundreds flocking here each night for a mixture of mourning and protest. [...]

This is a time of deep questioning across Israel, after two deaths that underscored both the endless conflict with the Palestinians and its own internal struggle to balance a rising religiosity with civil rights. Have government policies and rabbinical authorities inspired or at least allowed a radical fringe to reach new depths of depravity? Who interprets Jewish law and Jewish values for the Jewish state? How did it come to this? [...]

For days now, there has been an outpouring of outrage: Israel’s chief rabbis published a newspaper ad declaring, “Violence is not the way of our holy Torah.” Sheikhs and rabbis, as well as politicians from opposing camps, made joint pilgrimages to visit Ali’s badly burned mother and 4-year-old brother in the hospital. Security forces have also reinvigorated their pursuit of right-wing radicals.

There has also been a backlash. The leader of a group that harasses gays and Jewish-Arab couples was recorded declaring that “churches must be burned.” Posters honoring the man arrested after stabbing six people at the pride march — “We pray that all of God’s nation were as filled with awe as you” — appeared in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, where many consider homosexuality an affront to God. Death threats against the right-wing leaders who vowed vengeance against the arsonists have been posted on social media sites.

And there has been blame. Palestinians and leftist Israelis argue that Israel’s nearly half-century occupation of the West Bank and impunity for settler vandals inevitably led to Friday’s firebombing of the Dawabsheh home. Gay rights advocates cannot understand how the police failed to stop the man accused in the knife attacks, Yishai Schissel, who had recently been released from prison for a similar attack at the 2005 pride march and had declared his intention to repeat it. [...]

No comments :

Post a Comment

please use either your real name or a pseudonym.