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.
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.”
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.
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.
Yitzhak Shamir led Lehi after the British killed Stern.
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.
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.
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.
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- Muhammad Abu Khudair
- Saad Dawabsha
- Shlomo Ben-Yosef
- Menachem Begin
- Orde Wingate
- Eliyahu Hakim
- Eliyahu Bet-Zuri
- Olei Hagardom
- Avraham Stern
- Stern Gang
- David Ben-Gurion
- Ilan Pappe
- Lydd Death March
- Moshe Marzouk
- Lavon Affair
- Yitzhak Shamir
- Deir Yassin massacre
- Ariel Sharon
- Sabra and Shatila massacre
- Baruch Goldstein