How Israel honors the murderers in its midst

Baby Ali Dawabsha, burned to death in an arson attack on his home, is carried during his funeral in the occupied West Bank village of Duma on 31 July.

Oren Ziv ActiveStills

Two days after Israeli settlers burned to death an 18-month-old baby earlier this summer, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared: “What distinguishes us from our neighbors is that we denounce and condemn murderers in our midst and pursue them until the end, while they name public squares after child murderers.” He made the same claim last year after Muhammad Abu Khudair, another young Palestinian, was burned to death.

Sadly, Ali’s father, Saad Dawabsha, died from his injuries in hospital. Ali’s mother and a 4-year-old brother are still fighting for their lives.

Deliberate killing of civilians and glorification of the killers is disgusting. Yet is it true that the Israeli government denounces and condemns all terrorists and war criminals?

Let’s start small. Take the example of Shlomo Ben-Yosef. He was hanged by the British administrators of Palestine in 1938. He and others threw grenades in a failed effort to kill the the passengers aboard a Palestinian bus. Today there are streets named after him in Akka and Tel Aviv.

Ben-Yosef was part of the Irgun, the Zionist armed group that was led by Menachem Begin, later Israel’s prime minister. The first Irgun attacks began around April 1936 and by the start of the Second World War, as many as 250 Palestinians had been killed by the group.

The Irgun was denounced as “terrorist” by Albert Einstein and other luminaries in 1948.

British brutality

There are a number of memorials in present-day Israel honoring Orde Wingate. He was an active duty British soldier who served in Palestine; he was also a passionate Christian Zionist.

Wingate led raids against Palestinians in the 1930s with squads from the Haganah, the largest Zionist militia. In 2004 The Jewish Daily Forward wrote this about him: “Most disturbing, and most vehemently debated by Wingate’s former colleagues and supporters, is evidence regarding Wingate’s brutality and cruelty. New research alleges that the officer on occasion struck his soldiers and led retribution raids into Arab villages, killing innocent civilians and terrorizing others.”

Israel’s national sport center, the Wingate Institute, was named after him. A square in the Talbiya neighborhood of Jerusalem also bears his name, as does the Yemin Orde youth village near Haifa.

Also honored in Israel is Eliyahu Hakim, who took part in the assassination of Walter Guinness (better known as Lord Moyne), a senior British politician, in Cairo in 1945.

A street is named after Hakim in the French Carmel neighborhood of Haifa.

Eliyahu Bet-Zuri planned to assassinate Winston Churchill, according to files from the British secret service MI5. He also took part in the killing of Guinness.

Israel issued a postage stamp in his honor as it did for all the so-called “Olei Hagardom,” those executed by the British for what the British considered terrorism. A street in a Jerusalem neighborhood is called Olei Hagardom.

Hakim and Bet-Zuri were part of Lehi, the Hebrew acronym for a militia called “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel.” The commander of Lehi was Avraham Stern and the group was more commonly known as the Stern Gang.

It was notorious for its many armed robberies, first of British banks, then Jewish banks and apartment house holdups.

Stern wanted to establish a Jewish kingdom over Palestine and not even the Second World War and the Holocaust brought a pause in his attacks on the British. (Incredibly, he even sought aid from Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.)

A memorial ceremony attended by Israeli politicians and government officials is held each year at Stern’s grave in the Nahalat Yitzhak cemetery in Givatayim.

In 1978, a postage stamp was issued in his honor.

In 1981, the new town of Kochav Yair (“Yair’s Star”) was named after Stern’s nickname. The place where he was shot dead by British forces has become a place of pilgrimage for hard-right young Israelis.

Death march

We should also mention the first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. He was intimately involved in the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from 1947 to 1950.

Historians including Ilan Pappe have documented how approximately 750,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes.

Many Palestinians were killed in notorious massacres, including those at Deir Yassin and Tantura.

Recently found mass graves in Jaffa, now part of Israel’s Tel Aviv municipality, are a reminder that many of the crimes of that period remain hidden.

Take one notorious incident. After conquering Lydd, Zionist forces massacred 250 people inside a mosque. Tens of thousands fled the city in what has been called the Lydd Death March. Those who strayed off the path were shot.

Numerous streets and Israel’s international airport have been named in Ben-Gurion’s honor.

Moshe Marzouk was a Jewish-Egyptian surgeon. He was involved in 1955 in a series of false-flag terrorist bombings of American and British targets in Egypt that were intended to be mistaken for the work of Egyptian nationalists.

There were no deaths caused by the bombings, though of course the consequences for Egyptians could have been grave if the US believed Egypt was behind the attacks that came be be known as the Lavon Affair.

Marzouk was executed by the Egyptian government. An Israeli stamp has been issued in his honor.

Moving ahead by several decades, Israel’s then Prime Minister Menachem Begin ordered the 1982 invasion of Lebanon that resulted in 15,000 to 20,000 Palestinian and Lebanese deaths, mostly civilian. His forces watched an allied Lebanese militia butcher Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

There are streets in Begin’s honor in Holon, Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv, Petach Tikva and Rehovot. There is a Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.

Terror tactics

Yitzhak Shamir led Lehi after the British killed Stern.

In 1948, Lehi had Folke Berndadotte, a UN mediator in Palestine, killed.

By the time Lehi was disbanded in 1948 it had carried out dozens of assassinations.

Lehi (and the Irgun) were responsible for the April 1948 massacre of Palestinians in Deir Yassin, a village near Jerusalem. None of this prevented Shamir from becoming Israeli prime minister.

Last year, Netanyahu officiated at a ceremony to name a Jerusalem highway as Yitzhak Shamir Road.

Ariel Sharon was responsible for Unit 101 in the Israeli military, whose job was “retaliation” — that is to say operations to terrify Palestinians. His unit committed massacres in al-Bureij refugee camp in Gaza (50 dead) and Qibya in Jordan (69 dead).

Sharon was Israel’s defense minister during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and was removed from his post after the Sabra and Shatila massacre. There is an Ariel Sharon Park east of Tel Aviv.

Last year, the Israeli military agreed that a base in the Naqab (Negev) desert should be named after Sharon.

Last, but certainly not least, there was Baruch Goldstein. In 1994, he killed 29 Palestinians and wounded 125 others inside the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. He didn’t stop until he was beaten to death.

A shrine was erected in Goldstein’s memory in Kiryat Arba, an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.

In 1999, the shrine was demolished by the Israeli military. Yet the tombstone and epitaph — describing Goldstein as someone with “clean hands and a pure heart” — were maintained. The site continues to attract pilgrimage-like visits from Israeli settlers.

Mass murderer Baruch Goldstein’s grave in the Kiryat Arba settlement.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler ActiveStills

So Netanyahu’s attempt to prettify his government in its attitude towards Israeli violence fails. The Israeli authorities have named more than a few public places after terrorists and criminals.

Netanyahu made his claim about how the Israeli government goes after murderers and “pursues them til the end” on 2 August.

Yet no one has been arrested for the attack that killed baby Ali Dawabsha. Israel put one or two Jewish extremists in administrative detention after the attack, but no one has been charged in the murders.

Eyewitnesses saw suspects running to a nearby settlement. Yet it does not appear that that settlement or any other suffered the kind of roundups, mass interrogation or ransacking Israel routinely inflicts on Palestinians, as it did after the abduction of three Israeli youths in June 2014.

After Muhammad Abu Khudair was killed last July, several Israeli suspects were arrested within days and were actually put on trial, though the process is proceeding at a glacial pace.

A month has gone by since the attack on the Dawabsha family and there is little indication they will get justice, despite Netanyahu’s grand declarations.

Stanley Heller is host of The Struggle, a TV program aired weekly since 2003.




Gee, you'd think CNN and others would fact-check this talking point by Netanyahu rather than publish it uncritically.


and it doesn't even mention the many plaques in Israel dedicated to noting the most insignificant of terrorist sites along with the very small number of sites where the British actually managed to kill them. I saw one Irgun marker near the Hassan Bek Mosque that marked the spot where there had once been a building where a member of the Irgun made glue to use on posters. It hardly seemed worth the expense of the sign to mark the 'event'.