Mosque attack: The speech Netanyahu should have delivered

By Sol Salbe

After the torching of a mosque last weekend in Israel, an anti-occupation activist wrote on Facebook that alongside recent anti-minority legislation passed in Israel, a publication permitting murder on religious grounds, and the appalling role of the army, police and politicians in supporting religious-nationalistic terrorism, Israel today is reminiscent of the 1930s. Other friends of mine rejected this comparison, observing that Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had condemned the perpetrators. “What more response do you expect from politicians,” wrote one.

What more do I expect? Good question. Below is the response that I want.  I would have liked for Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver the following speech on national television to the Israeli people:

“Good evening,

Earlier today I travelled to the village of Tuba-Zanghariyya to see the mosque that was torched there. I was so appalled by what I saw that I called Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni and together we worked out the announcement that I am making here tonight. I’m determined the State of Israel treat attacks on Arabs, whether citizens of Israel or residents of Judea and Samaria in exactly the same way as it treats attacks on Jewish citizens.

I know that foreigners who have studied our track record of light punishments, if any, for Jews who killed or maimed Arabs will treat my announcement with derision. They are likely to remind us of what happened in places like Kafr Kassem, of people like Ehud Yatom who smashed in the skulls of two bound, unarmed teen-terrorists with stones and iron rods, and ended up as a Likud MK without serving a minute of jail time. In fact I know that Jewish terrorists are treated with kid gloves and quickly released if they ever serve any time at all.

Those days are over. From now on our condemnation will be matched with action. Hitherto our police have only made a cursory search for the culprits (if the victims were lucky). If they somehow found the perpetrators, they usually deemed there wasn’t enough evidence, and even if they brought the matter to court, the courts were often reluctant to convict. And if a conviction was deemed necessary in order to maintain our international image with Diaspora Jews, sentences were low and even then they were reduced at every available opportunity. No more. We’ll throw the book at you at in the same way we’ve always thrown it at Arabs.

I now turn to those who idly stand by when Jews attack Arabs, and to their supporters. With Ms Livni’s support I’ve decide to ask the Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch to set up a Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of security forces during this recent incident, and the torching of other mosques, as well as the incident when settlers are alleged to have violently attacked Palestinians and their Israeli supporters at Anatot. All officers who have lent a hand to attacks on Arabs – whether citizens or resident of Judea and Samaria – or who stood by idly, will be dismissed. The investigation will go all to the way up to the Ministers of Defence and Internal Security.

I am also sending a letter addressed to every single police officer in the country telling them that my government will back up the normal investigation of any citizen suspected of wrongdoing. No one should be treated with kid gloves, no matter how much their supporters riot. We know how to deal with rioters and those rioters who blocked roads in Jerusalem ought to know that we will respond with all means at our disposal. There is no law that says that tear gas and “skunk” are for Palestinian demonstrators only.

Those who have given aid and comfort to the lawbreakers, those who defend them and those who justify their activities ought to know that as far my government is concerned such support is unacceptable I’ve already publicly condemned Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar’s suggestion that that villagers may have torched their own Mosque. The Jewish people have heard those suggestions about destroyed synagogues in the past. I’m also forbidding my ministers from appearing on the same platform as anyone who justifies such terrorism.

Just as everyone must see that justice is done, so everyone must hear our public criticism of those who carry out terrorism against anyone. The State of Israel cannot be held to ridicule. With all due respect to our venerable President, less than a week ago newspapers and television stations exposed his own despicable role in covering up the murder in cold blood of two Palestinian terrorists who hijacked Bus #300 in 1984,  and the hounding of the whistle blowers who exposed the cover up by the highest levels of the security establishment. He cannot be the public face of Israel condemning the arson in the Galilee. I’ve approached the President and Mr Peres has agreed to remove his comments from all official websites and YouTube.

There is a long way to go but I’m determined to show what a real politician does when arson and other forms of terrorism take place.”

Sol Salbe is an Israeli-Australian journalist and translator who is on a research and study trip to Israel. He has spent the last 12 years as a full-time monitor of the Israeli media specialising in looking at the differences between Hebrew and English-language coverage of events.