Home  Principles & Statements  Positions of the ACJ  Articles  DonationsAbout Us  Contact Us  Links                                         

American Jewish Groups Are Urged to Speak Out Against Jewish Violence in Israel

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
November - December 2008

“American Jewish leaders have been quick and correct to call upon Muslim leaders in this country to condemn Islamic terrorism forcefully, particularly when it’s against Jews, and to mobilize their followers to oppose all such violence,” writes Douglas M. Bloomfield in Washington Jewish Week (Oct. 16, 2008). “But when it comes to Jewish violence and terrorism, they are strangely silent.”  
Citing Jewish-Arab violence in the northern city of Acco which began when an Arab father and his son drove into a predominantly Jewish neighborhood on Yom Kippur and had their car stoned. Word spread to Arab neighborhoods, where youths rampaged into the Israeli parts of the city. Israeli police had to evacuate some Arab families, when their homes were torched by ultra-Orthodox Jewish rioters. Houses, businesses, and cars were vandalized, burned, and looted on both sides.  
“This is not an isolated problem, say Israeli army and police officials, but part of a spreading problem of violence by fervently Orthodox Jews and radical settlers. It’s not just in the West Bank, but also in Israeli cities like Acco and Jerusalem,” noted Bloomfield. “But you wouldn’t know it unless you spent a lot of time on the Internet reading the Israeli media.”  
In September, a prominent Israeli peace activist and critic of the settler movement, Ze’ev Sternhell, was wounded in a pipe bombing of his home. Leaflets at the scene offered a bounty to anyone killing a leader of Peace Now, the movement that is highly critical of Israel’s settlement policy.  
Bloomfield declares that, “Only two major Jewish organizations condemned the bombing — the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League — but they made no mention of the larger problem nor of leaflets at the scene calling for the murder of peace activists and declaring ‘the State of Israel has become our enemy’ and its leaders are ‘a mob of wicked people, haters of the Torah who want to erase the laws of God.’”  
While Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, wrote to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert urging a crackdown on the violence and the honoring of its commitments to freeze settlements and dismantle illegal West Bank outposts, Bloomfield points out that, “The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organ¬izations, the community’s leadership umbrella, not only has failed to condemn the Jewish terrorism and settler violence, but it has failed even to acknowledge the problem in the Daily Alert, a news summary prepared for it by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.”  
Prime Minister Olmert called the settler rampage in a West Bank village in September a “pogrom.” Fervently Orthodox zealots have formed “modesty patrols” which are described by Bloomfield “as likely something straight out of Iran or Saudi Arabia. Shops have been looted, people harassed and stoned. … Many haredi religious leaders reportedly approve of such behavior and even encourage it as defending the faith against secular encroachment. ... The growing violence by ultra-Orthodox zealots and vigilante settlers against fellow Jews as well as Arabs threatens to explode in Israel, but gets scant attention here. Yet, it could be a greater threat to Israeli democracy than the Islamist zealots. Olmert has warned that this ‘evil wind of extremism, of hatred, of malice ... threatens Israeli democracy.’ And it is being ignored by the American Jewish establishment.”  
Writing in The Forward (Oct. 10, 2008), columnist Leonard Fein discusses the attack upon Professor Ze’ev Sternhell and a flier distributed in Jerusalem declaring; “a prize of 1.1 million shekels is offered to anyone who kills a member of Peace Now. The State of Israel has turned into our enemy. The time has come to establish a Halachic state in Judea and Samaria. It is time for the King¬dom of Judea.”  
Fein notes that, “Some of us well remember the name Emil Grunzweig, a Peace Now activist who was killed by a hand grenade while attending a rally in 1983. Now, we learn, according to Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s largest newspaper, that Emily Grunzweig, age 24, niece (and namesake) of Emi1, has been receiving threatening phone calls. She is a law and political science student, and was until recently an organizer of Peace Now. … ‘At first there were violent and threatening phone calls ... When my full name appeared on the Peace Now statements, the phone calls became much more blatant, threatening and specific. The anonymous people who made the threats promised me that my end would be the same as Emil’s, if I didn’t stop my activity in Peace Now. I receive a threat at least once every two days.’ In other words, the attempted murder of Prof. Sternhell did not take place in a vacuum.”  
The Jerusalem Report (Oct. 27, 2008) writes that, “To some Ze’ev Sternhell, 73, is the embodiment of what is good and right about Israel. His biography reflects the historical justice of the Zionist endeavor; his personal achievements record the success of an enlightened society. A Holocaust survivor, orphaned by the age of 7, Sternhell immigrated to Israel alone at the age of 15 … A charismatic commander in the Israel Defense Forces who served in four wars, he is a professor of political science at Hebrew University. An Israel Prize laureate and an internationally renowned authority on the roots of fascism, he was a founding member of Peace Now. … Sternhell … is a scathing critic of the Israeli occupation of the territories conquered in the 1967 Six Day War. … On Sept. 25, Sternhell was the target of the highest-profile political act of political violence Israel has seen since Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995.”  
As an expert in Fascist movements, The Report asked Sternhell if he thinks Israel may be declining into fascism. He replied: “I do believe that this violence is eating away at our democracy. Historically, democracies don’t fall because of military coups — they fall when the democratic society loses faith in itself. A democracy that doesn’t know how to protect itself from within cannot survive. ... There can be no doubt that messianic national movements, like the move¬ment for the Greater Land of Israel, always pose a threat to democracies.”  
Addressing American Jews, Sternhell declared: “I want to tell them that if they really want to serve the State of Israel, then they shouldn’t blindly support any government. They should be supporting the true, national interests of the Jewish people by helping us to put an end to the occupation. When they support the right wing and the settlers, they are undermining the state, even though they don’t mean to.”  
The Report concludes: “The interview reveals a terrible irony: Sternhell, a victim of and scholar of European fascism, was attacked in his own home by Jewish fascists.”

< return to article list
© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.