Palestinian toddler dies in “price tag” fire set by Jewish extremists

Four Jewish settlers set fire to two Palestinian homes last night, killing an 18 month old child and injuring four others, The Washington Post reports:

The arson assault was quickly labeled a “price tag attack” in the Israeli media — a phrase used to describe violence and vandalism carried out by settlers and their supporters to extract “a price” for any actions against them, either by the Israeli government or Palestinians…

…Palestinian authorities said the attackers came to the village of Duma, a 20-minute drive northeast of Ramallah, smashed windows and tossed firebombs inside the Palestinian homes as the residents slept.

The actions that led to the “price” to be exacted in this case appear to be the Israeli government’s attempt to demolish the Beit El community, an illegal settlement being built on private Palestinian land. Settlers didn’t have permits to build on the land because, again, it isn’t theirs.

While the Israeli government condemned the arson as an act of terrorism, Palestinians cited statements and actions from the government earlier in the week as incitement that helped spur the incident. Members of the right-wing governing majority had demanded that construction of Beit El continue unimpeded, with Education Minister Naftali Bennet visiting the site and saying that “The answer to Palestinian terror is settlement, not cowardice.”

It appeared as though, at the end of the day, the government agreed with him. Again from the Post:

The two half-completed apartment houses were bulldozed on Wednesday. Immediately after, Netanyahu announced that the state would green light the construction of an additional 300 housing units at the site, mollifying critics.

Given settlers’ subsequent actions, that would seem to be a pretty generous use of the word “mollifying.”

Jewish settlers teaching their kids how to use high-powered weapons, via Bird Eye / Flickr

Jewish settlers teaching their kids how to use high-powered weapons, via Bird Eye / Flickr

One would think that when the government’s response to its bulldozing of a housing complex is to authorize the building of a bigger housing complex, that would suppress any impulse on the part of the settlers to exact a “price” against the Palestinians for what they feel are the transgressions of their government. After all, they’re getting what they want, and then some, in spite of the law and their government and the international community and basic human decency. But that’s not the case. Apparently, in the minds of the settlers, every time the Israeli government does anything that remotely resembles recognizing Palestinian property rights a few Palestinians deserve to die.

And while the Israeli government makes a point to make all of the necessary condemnations following attacks like these, Palestinian leaders pointed out following yesterday’s arson attacks that they almost never follow through to secure justice for their victims. What’s more, the Israeli military has already killed 17 Palestinians in the West Bank so far this year.

This is what happens when religion is strong.

When Islamic extremists do awful things in the name of Islam, there’s an impulse within the American left to contextualize their violence. It isn’t about a particular interpretation of Islam; it’s about Western hegemony and historical power structures that make violence in the name of Islam an identity-based reaction, not a religiously-based offense. But attacks from Jewish extremists in Israel — be they yesterday’s arson in the West Bank or yesterday’s stabbings at Jerusalem pride — show that when it comes to religious violence, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Jewish extremists’ actions this week provide a stark reminder for what happens when literal, outdated interpretations of religious texts are placed at the top of the cultural hierarchy, privileged by the government and tacitly endorsed by secular democracies around the world. If anyone can find a better way to explain these attacks other than people taking the purported word of God at face value, I’m all ears.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

Share This Post

© 2018 AMERICAblog Media, LLC. All rights reserved. · Entries RSS