Israeli leaders lit the match that burned baby Ali Dawabsha

Relatives carry the body of 18-month-old Palestinian Ali Dawabsha at the toddler’s funeral in the occupied West Bank village of Duma. The boy died and his parents and 4-year-old brother were critically injured when Israeli settlers set fire to their house.

Oren Ziv ActiveStills

The savage burning alive of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsha in the occupied West Bank village of Duma has elicited energetic condemnations from Israeli leaders.

To anyone paying attention to the widespread expressions of hatred emanating from many quarters of Israeli Jewish society, these stern platitudes are not only unconvincing, they are an obvious handwashing performance meant for external consumption.

It is difficult to find a single Israeli cabinet minister who has not encouraged or perpetrated racist violence against Palestinians, largely because this kind of incitement – and worse – gets them elected.

Ali was killed in the middle of the night, early Friday, when persons, later seen by witnesses fleeing back to the settlement of Maaleh Efraim, smashed the windows of the child’s family’s home and threw Molotov cocktails and flammable liquid inside.

His parents and 4-year-old brother barely survived the attack – they are fighting for their lives with burns covering almost their whole bodies.

An autopsy found that Ali’s “body was completely blackened, his features had melted, parts of his extremities disintegrated from the burns, while parts of the lungs and rib cage had melted,” Ma’an News Agency reported.

Burning children, from Gaza to Duma

The attackers spray-painted a Star of David and the Hebrew words for “Revenge” and “Long live the Messiah King” on the walls of a neighoring house which they also burned – no one was injured in it – leaving no confusion about their motive.

Similar nationalist and racist graffiti was found on the walls of homes occupied by Israeli soldiers in Gaza during last summer’s military assault.

This is just one of many reasons the award for most disingenuous posturing goes to the Israeli army, which issued statements condemning “this barbaric act of terrorism” and vowing to intensify efforts “to locate those responsible.”

The notion that the same Israeli army that protects and allows settlers to harass and attack Palestinians with impunity is going to hold the Dawabshas’ attackers accountable is far fetched.

This is also the army that completely destroyed or severely damaged more than 25,000 homes in Gaza last summer, wiping out entire families sheltered inside, “including 19 babies and 108 preschoolers between the ages of 1 and 5,” according to an AP investigation.

The only thing that separates the Israeli soldiers responsible for those killings from the settlers who burned baby Ali is a uniform and explicit orders from the state.

Less than 24 hours since vowing to bring the killers to justice, the Israeli army has shot dead two Palestinian teens – Muhammad Hamid al-Masri in Gaza, and 17-year-old Laith al-Khaldi in the West Bank – while the killers of baby Ali remain at large.

From killer to leaders

As for the Israeli officials who rushed to denounce the Duma attack as “terrorism,” all have well-documented histories of engaging in anti-Palestinian incitement. Some have even killed Palestinians themselves and later bragged about it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the architect of last summer’s 51-day assault that killed 551 Palestinian children in Gaza, responded to the settler attack with a statement that his government is “united in strong opposition to such deplorable and awful acts.”

This is the same man who, following the discovery of the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teens one year ago, issued a call for blood vengeance, essentially lighting the match that burned alive 16-year-old Palestinian Muhammad Abu Khudair.

As journalist Dan Cohen observed, it seems vigilante burnings of Palestinian children have become a yearly Israeli ritual.


Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Habeyit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party, said, “Arson against a house in Duma and the murder of a baby is a disgusting act of terror.”

This is the same Bennett who famously bragged, “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.”

Perhaps the settlers who murdered baby Ali were following in the footsteps of Bennett, who rose to prominence after playing a key role in triggering Israel’s April 1996 massacre of more than 100 civilians and UN peacekeepers sheltering at a UN base in Qana, Lebanon, during that year’s Israeli invasion.

More than half of those killed in the attack were children.

Had the settlers who burned baby Ali been wearing Israeli army uniforms when they set fire to the Dawabsha house, Bennett would likely be praising rather than denouncing them, much like he did in response to international outrage at the Israeli massacre of the four Baker boys on the beach in Gaza last summer.

Appearing on CNN at the time, Bennett accused Palestinians of “conducting massive self-genocide” to make Israel look bad.


Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon referred to the killing of baby Ali as “horrible terror attacks that we cannot allow” and promised to “pursue the murderers until we bring them to justice.”

This is the same Yaalon who guaranteed that Israel would not hesitate to kill Palestinian and Lebanese civilians including children, if it felt it had to, in any future war between Israel and its neighbors.

Like most Israeli leaders, Yaalon has a pattern of engaging in violent incitement and of acting on it.

During his stint as Israeli army chief of staff, he likened Palestinians to a cancerous threat that can only be eliminated by “applying chemotherapy.”

If the murderers of baby Ali are anything like Yaalon, they will evade justice and advance their careers while doing it, as Yaalon has successfully done time and again despite his participation in war crimes.

In Israel, killing Palestinians and advocating for genocide builds political careers.

Violent demagogues occupy key positions in government, not in spite of their anti-Palestinian incitement or the killings they have perpetrated, but because of them.

After endorsing a call last June for Palestinian mothers to be slaughtered in their beds to prevent them from birthing “little snakes,” Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked was rewarded by being appointed justice minister.

Killings babies permitted

Eli Ben-Dahan, the settler rabbi in occupied East Jerusalem who decreed that “[Palestinians] are beasts, they are not human,” is Israel’s recently appointed deputy defense minister.

He is now in charge of the “Civil Administration,” the name Israel gives to the military body that rules Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

It is no accident that clerics like Ben-Dahan have been largely silent about baby Ali. After all, they inspire an extreme messianic, eliminationist version of Judaism that drives settler violence.

Two of the most notorious are Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur, who in 2009 co-wrote Torat Hamelech (The King’s Torah), a guidebook on when it is permissible to kill non-Jews.

The authors claim that Jewish law permits “killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.”

Elitzur and Shapira run a hardline yeshiva – Jewish religious school – in the settlement of Yitzhar, home to some of the most violent settlers, not far from the Palestinian village of Duma.

In July 2014, Dov Lior, a leading West Bank settler rabbi who has endorsed Torat Hamelech, issued his own ruling that the complete “destruction of Gaza” was permissible.

“At a time of war, the nation under attack is allowed to punish the enemy population with measures it finds suitable, such as blocking supplies or electricity, as well as shelling the entire area … to take crushing deterring steps to exterminate the enemy,” Lior wrote.

Israeli settlers, who see themselves in a perpetual state of war against an “enemy population,” would certainly take heed of such clerical guidance.

In February, the Israeli army raided Yitzhar and confiscated weapons that settlers there planned to use against Palestinians, including flammable liquids, tear gas canisters and black face masks.

Despite the horror expressed by Israel’s most prominent politicians, they have yet to utter a word against the rabbis who incite attacks on Palestinians in the name of their extreme version of Judaism.

Growing racism

Meanwhile, this broad ideological spectrum of hate has consequences that extend beyond the settlements.

A recent report by the Coalition Against Racism in Israel revealed a sharp rise in anti-Arab attacks since 2013, which coincided with racist incitement by Israeli elected officials and decisionmakers during last summer’s attack on Gaza and the February elections.

Over the last year, the report documented 237 racist attacks, with 192 of them directed at Arabs, up from 113 in 2013.

This tally excludes settler attacks in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The culture of hate and extremism that led to Ali Dawabsha’s slaying is rooted not just in the settlements, but within the very fabric of Israeli political culture, its discriminatory regime and the Zionism that underpins them.

Politicians that rule a society where Palestinian babies are routinely called a “demographic threat,” and where many joyfully celebrate their slaughter, cannot claim innocence and purport to be “shocked” when settlers burn Palestinian children alive.




Rania Khalek delivers a succinct and devastating demolition of the hypocrisy of Israeli Ministers claims to be 'shocked' when settlers burn Palestinian children alive.
This piece should be obligatory reading for every Establishment politician in the U.S. and Europe and their docile press corps whose endless and uncritical regurgitation of hasbara formulas - 'only democracy in the Middle East' and 'Israel's right to self defence'- simultaneously enables and masks the steady drift to fascism in this Apartheid and Colonising State, protege of the West.


I agree entirely with you. I think that sending this article en masse, to members of governments in our successive countries and to local organisations who have access to a lot of people to encourage them to support BDS could have some effect, hopefully.


Yes indeed it should have comforted baby Ali no end, as he was being burned to death, to know that the local members of the Zio-Klan were LGBT friendly.

As to Benny's "plausible deniability", concerning this gruesome crime, that cliche doesn't cut it.

The racism that is Zionism must end. The victims and families of the Nakba pogroms of the 1940's must not be hindered returning to their homes.

No equality, no peace!


My friend, I don't believe that Zionism is racism.
Zionism is simply the sovereign right for Jewish people to have a homeland-when extremists commit this savagery, they pervert the name of Zionism and make enemies of the state of Israel.


"Jewish people .. homeland" -- at the cost of others. Your Zionist homeland is killing Palestinians for being not Jewish.


My Jewish homeland? I'm happy in England for the time being thank you.
And with regards to Palestinians being killed for not being Jewish, that's just scaremongering, lock, stock and barrel.
Killed for acts of terrorism? Certainly. Subjugated unreasonably? Perhaps. Discriminated against? I've seen it.
But killed for not being Jewish? Absolutely not.


That is a behavior that is going to lead to a bad end for far more people than the alternative.

Time to repudiate and end the racism (and political disease) that is Zionism. Time embrace inclusion and equality.



Palestinians are being killed by the self-proclaimed Jewish state every day, just for existing. This would not be happening if they were jewish.


The savagery of removing indigenous people from their land because they are not Jewish is racism - and zionism. Anything that does not confer equal human rights on people of any color or religion is racism. The savagery and extremism of locking the refugees of zionism in Gaza and bombing their homes is absolutely racism.
zionism is absolutely racism.


I don't know where you get the idea that there exists a 'sovereign right' of Jewish people to Palestine, let alone a sovereign right to a homeland.
The idea of a homeland in Palestine was invented by Zionists and arose, in part, out of the understandable desire to be safe from persecution. However, if you care to read 'The Idea of Israel' by Ilan Pappe, you will find that the basis of Zionism was racist. From the very start, settlers in Palestine thought, behaved, and wrote as racists. I am sure there were and are Zionists of nobler nature, but in order to be noble at all, they needed to deceive themselves about fundamental Zionism and its crimes, which we witness every single day. To pretend that there is a minority who do not support the oppression, expulsion, harassment, false imprisonment and murder of Palestinians is simply self-delusion.


I should have written: to pretend that there is a majority who do not support the oppression, expulsion, harassment, false imprisonment and murder of Palestinians is simply self-delusion.


Intended to exclude Jews (and other "foreigners" and "aliens") Pan-Germanism
was summarized by Hans Kohn as follows:

"According to the German theory, people of common descent...
should form one common state. Pan-Germanism was based on the idea
that all persons who were of German race, blood or descent wherever
they lived or to whatever state they belonged, owed their primal
loyalty to Germany and should become citizens of the German
state, their true homeland. They, and even their fathers and fore-
fathers, might have grown up under 'foreign' skies or in 'alien'
environmentsm, but their fundamental inner 'reality' remains

Substitute "Jew/Jewish" for German and one has the core
of Zionist belief along with other characteristics of settler colonialism.


Zionism is not ONLY racism. I concedwe this fact but it is not much
of a "concession" at all. Zionism and Israel are a terrorist state.

(Note: The so-called "father of Zionism", Theodor Herzl was a indebted
to Pan-Germanism in his "solution to the Jewish Question".)

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA


Miko Peled whose father was an Israeli army general describes zionism as a racist, apartheid, genocidal ideology and he is proven right every day.


Nora, that sounds so good: 'the sovereign right for Jewish people to have a homeland'. Sounds so great and normal.

But tell me, where should this homeland be? Where should it have been established? On other people's land? Necessitating the huge power of the British from 1917 till 1947 to force that homeland upon the indigenous, who resisted, who wanted their own independent homeland there, from the very beginning? Land whose owners - the Palestinians - had nothing to do with the persecution of Jews in Europe which gave rise to the perceived (Zionist) need for a 'homeland'?

I don't want to get into whether Zionism is racist right now, but I say No: At that time and place, establishing the Jewish homeland by force was unjust, wrong. The is 'right' of the Jewish people does not trump all else, does not justify the British-Zionist history of conquest and expulsion of the last some 100 years. No way.


My friend, you sound like such an intelligent person but whatever your political persuasion, it seems to me a spectacular historical ignorance to proclaim that it was a British-Zionist Conquest.True, there was the Balfour Declaration but all in all the British presence in Palestine was there to serve national interest and was fiercely opposed to Zionist extremism or even settlement (hence the White Paper).
Anyhow I'm straying from my point-anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of Jewish history can detect a coherent line of Anti-Semitism culminating most comprehensively and recently in the Holocaust.We can debate the finer points but one of the primary ways of preventing such vicious Anti-Semitism is for them to have a land of their own away from the baying hands of persecution and resentment.
I'm not blind to the plight of the Palestinians but I stick with my guns-the Jew have a right to a homeland.


Ah! That famous anti-semitic and holocaust card comes out to switch the tone of the argument.
Yes the Jews have a right to a homeland .Whatever happened to compensation and also how much land do they want ?


Nora, I suggest that you read the trilogy written by Alan Hart "Zionism, the Real Enemy of the Jews",
Ilan Pappé's "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine" and Miko Peled's " The General's Son". There are many other excellent books written by Jewish authors eg. Max Blumenthal and Schlomo Sand among others.
I believe that you are sincere but very ill-informed about the true nature of zionism .


I shall endeavour to read those two books (should they be stocked at my library) as despite what some seemingly hypocritical folk might say on this sight, I am to keen to keep an open mind. However, I should warn you that I have just finished Ben-Gurion's biography which expounds on the fundamental tenets of Zionism, in theory and in practise and from my perspective, it seems you too, are trapped in a paradigm, seeing Zionism as a solely oppressive and manipulative force. Whilst I too, am concerned about the treatment of the Palestinian people (assuming of course that they exist as a nation,being a relatively new concept), I should tell you that Ben Gurion notes that it is against political wisdom for one nation to try and subjugate another.He pushed and pushed for a partition and got slapped in the face by the Arabs and the international community time and again.
I know we can't blame the present generation on the sins of the past one but feel my discomfort when you intimate that Zionism is an inherently evil notion.


No one who knows the history of Zionism talks about inherent evil. However, it's fundamental ideology was nationalist, colonialist and inherently racist from the beginning, a fact acknowledged by many Jews in Europe in the 20s and 30s who did not wish to go to Palestine and criticised those who did. Professor Victor Klemperer detailed the day to day exclusion of German Jews from the society and culture they were part of and was bitterly critical of Zionism, comparing it to Nazi German supremacy doctrine. Add to that, not all Palestinian Jews welcomed Zionism, nor all Jewish citizens in the Middle East and North African countries because they felt no connection to it and saw it as a threat.
It is obvious to anyone that there can never be all bad or all good, or all the same. There were clearly Jews who belonged to the Zionist movement who never had the same intentions as Ben-Gurion (I imagine his biography might be a bit of a whitewash and ommits a lot of what is now know about him). There were probably some Zionists who imagined living and working alongside the Palestinians. There were honorable men and women who were appalled by what came about and there are early Zionists who later rejected Zionism and who are saddened and distressed by what they see as a betrayal of their beliefs and values.
Then there are men like Richard Goldstone, a Zionist and internationally respected judge who led the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza bombardment in 2008/2009. The report was very critical of Israel (and to a much lesser extent of Gazans), which aroused the fury of the Israeli government. Enormous pressure was exerted on Goldstone. Eventually he altered one part of the findings (against the will of the other fact-finders), which Israel and its supporters used to declare the entire report inaccurate. Old friends of Goldstone spoke out in bewilderment and sorrow that this honorable man had backtracked. The rest of the report still condemns Israel.


Ilan Pappe's recent book THE IDEA OF ISRAEL is even more explicit in its depiction of the first Zionists (early 1900s) as fundamentally racist. If you read the comments on Amazon. com you will see this: "Without going into too much detail, I can say that many Jews living in the diaspora, as well as apathetic Israelis, will be shocked by what Pappe tells us the Zionists have fostered while building “the only democratic state in the Middle East.”
Of course, Zionism racism was typical of European colonial mentality of the time and in years to follow, in Algeria for instance.
As for Palestine - until Zionists decided that the place for a homeland would be Palestine there were ongoing discussions between Arabs and promises to them by Britain. This is common knowledge (ignored by Israel because of the previous and constantly cited Balfour declaration, favouring a 'homeland' for the Jews, with reservations): 'During a War Cabinet meeting on policy regarding Syria and Palestine held on 5 December 1918, it was stated that Palestine had been included in the areas the United Kingdom had pledged would be Arab and independent in the future.'

Again Ben-Gurion - a cunning man whose words should be carefully checked against historical records: "He pushed and pushed for a partition and got slapped in the face by the Arabs and the international community time and again." Besides, most importantly, as is repeated over and over again, why on earth would anyone accept the partition of a land where people lived and worked and had lives and histories going back centuries? If you don't take for granted that the persecuted Jews of Europe had a right to displace other people, then you must accept that Palestinians and the international community might object. We would if our land was being partitioned and re-settled and we were driven off.


We condemn the unfair and brutal treatment of women, children and minorities by the illegal State of Israel.


I find this article to be shockingly curt and cynical. I firmly believe that the burning of poor baby Ali is not representative of Israelis or Jews but an act perpetuated by one of a minority of despicable extremists.
Israeli politicians are not "handwashing"- they are horrified and disgusted that such an atrocity could take place, unprovoked and without cause.Death in warfare is one thing as there are political motives,aims and goals, however bloody the process.
But this gratuitous murder is treated with revulsion, almost universally, and the writer should recognise that.


Nora Relteis appears unwilling to accept what vast amounts of investigative journalism lays forth: Israeli politicians are liars and 'despicable extremists' are not the exception, but rather disguise themselves as nice, reasonable Israeli citizens.
I despise anyone who accepts the occupation, hates Arabs and believes one-sided 'wars' against the people of Gaza "Death in warfare is one thing as there are political motives,aims and goals, however bloody the process" can be justified in any way.
As many Jews who crossed the threshold, leaving behind a lifetime of indoctrination, have said: it is an extremely unpleasant and painful process. Go for it, Nora Relteis!


I don't know who you are but I'll wager that I was working in Israel whilst you were still stringing conkers and have seen both sides of this conflict.Hence I reject the inference that I am some armchair Zionist brainwashed by the media that needs to have their head turned.Further,I do not advocate for Israeli foreign policy- I know that it can be reckless, aggressive and disproportionate.However, I will not have you slander Israeli citizens like this.They may be a sweaty, irritable bunch but in my experience many just want to live in peace and security.Thus I stand by my earlier comment that there are only a minority of savage nutcases.
And with regards to Israeli politicians, how can you qualify such a ridiculous statement? If your saying that politicians lie in general, that's a separate conversation but although anecdotally there are some slimy ones (who've said some horrible things), others are working for peace and security.Heard of Isaac Herzog? Have a look at him.


Yes, exactly, Israeli peace and security. You go from wobbly point (sovereign right) to the next and never examine your reasoning.
And incidentally, the Israelis I know and respect are convinced that the majority of Israelis couldn't give a damn about the Palestinians and are indifferent to their rights as an occupied population or their right to resist. There is a tiny minority that has the decency to stand up for truth, justice and international law. That is precisely what happened in Germany in the 1930s and everyone should take THAT as the lesson to be learned.


Savagery . Nothing else describes it better . I heard this killing on main stream news .Even main stream can longer avoid reporting the savagery .


A dead lion is getting more attention (and sympathy) in the American media.


It is unbelievable that such brutal acts of terrorism do aoccur at all!

It is equally unbelievable that the international community - including the UN security council - have never seriously acted against the hypocrisy of the Israeli leaders - who, in the end, encourage such acts of terrorism by their support of the settlers!


yes, of course Netanyahu intentionally fueled this annual ritual. There are numerous op-eds going around that claim he is scared of getting in trouble with the international community or scared of too many people paying attention to what is going on, but it seems way more obvious to me that Netanyahu WANTS this kind of shocking violence, 1) because he always did before, 2) because it can whip up more violence which serves his purposes in taking more land and killing more Palestinians (note the increase in IDF shootings and new settlement announcements), and 3) it easily distracts from his monstrous behavior regarding Iran.
I think he is thrilled to see settlers doing this while he can pretend to scold them knowing that scolding settlers has a 'price tag'. If he were the least bit ashamed of the nutty settlers, he might also have trouble supporting his mercenaries in Syria, too. He's a settler, too, in east Jerusalem.

Rania Khalek

Rania Khalek's picture

Rania Khalek is an independent journalist reporting on the underclass and marginalized.