Thursday, September 17, 2015

Wherein God Establishes an Ethnocracy and Jewish Settlers Commit Murder

Sa'ad and Reham Dawabshe and their son Ali
who were killed in the 7/31/15 fire bombing of their home/family photo
This past Monday I attended a Rosh Hashanah service at a synagogue in San Francisco. It is customary during this service to dwell on Genesis 21:1-19, which tells the story of Sarah bearing a son to Abraham and her banishing Hagar and Ishmael to the desert. Three members of the congregation delivered the Drash (an interpretation/meditation on the Biblical text). These drashers were courageous and well intentioned. The Drash addressed Sarah's unjust banishment of Hagar and Ishmael, God's problematic endorsement of this, and the recent murders of the Palestinian Dawabsha family by religious Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

The point of the Drash was that we should clearly stand against religious settlers who commit violence against Palestinians in the name of God, just like we should clearly stand against Sarah's banishment of Hagar and Ishmael to what Sarah must have thought was their near certain death in the desert.

Why did Sarah do it? She was jealous; she may have been angry because he "mocked;" she did not want the son of this bondwoman to be a rival to her son Isaac. Above all, Hagar and Ishmael were other. Indeed they are the ones that the Dawabsha family would look to as their matriarch and patriarch--along with Abraham, just like Jews look to Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac.
Hagar and Ishmael banished in the desert
During the night of July 31, 2015, near the Palestinian village of Duma, just south of Nablus, four members of a Jewish settlement threw a fire bomb into the bedroom of the Dawabsha family, killing 18 month old Ali Dawabsha, killing his father Sa'ad who died not long after, and killing his mother Reham who died last week, on her 27th birthday. A four year old brother remains in the hospital with burns over 60% of his body.

Eye witnesses to the attack observed four men retreat to the nearby Jewish settlement of Maaleh Ephraim. They left behind graffiti saying "revenge" and "long live the Messiah" next to a star of David.  The New York Times reported that witnesses observed two masked men watching as the family burned.
“The hardest thing for me, was that there were two burning people on the ground, and two people were just standing over them,” said a neighbor, Ibrahim Dawabsheh, who like many in this Palestinian village shared a common last name. “They didn’t even care that the child was still crying inside.”
A senior Israeli army officer told the press last week that the security offices had no doubt that the attack was carried out by settlers. See this report in the Middle East Eye.

After loud profession by Israeli politicians right after the event that the murderers would be brought to justice, on September 10, 2015 Haaretz reported that Israel's defense minister Moshe Ya'alon had told a group of young Likud activists at a closed door meeting in Tel Aviv that the defense establishment "knows who is responsible for the arson attack... but has chosen to prevent legal recourse in order to protect the identity of their sources."

Ya'alon has since said that there is insufficient evidence to make arrests. We are left to choose between believing the statement he reportedly gave to Likud activists behind closed doors, or believing that Israel is serious about wanting to prosecute these crimes but lacks evidence.

According to an Al Haq 2013 report [a Palestinian human rights organization] "Attacks by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank against members of the Palestinian population and their property are an extensive, long-term, and worsening phenomenon." And attackers are routinely not prosecuted.

Haaretz backs this up:

The Defense Minister Ya'alom's statement to Likud supporters behind closed doors would appear to conform to this pattern.

In the meantime, Netanyahu is asking to change police policy so the police can shoot stone throwers with live ammunition. The IDF, of course, has been doing it for years.

The Drash alluded to Israeli security forces who claim that most Jewish terrorists come from one particular Yeshiva where they are under the influence of a zealous rabbi.  We must clearly condemn such Jews and such rationales and such actions, said the Drash, just like we should clearly condemn Sarah's actions in asking Hagar and Ishmael to be banished to the desert to die. The drashers asked for absolution for the Jews who killed the Dawabsha family, for Sarah, and--if he is still with us in these terrible times--for God for condoning Sarah's banishment of Hagar and Ishmael and for putting up with the actions of these Jewish terrorists.

But that is too easy.

The sin of God--not that God thinks he can sin (just ask Job)--is not that he condoned Sarah's banishment of Hagar and Ishmael to near certain death in the desert. After all, he's God, and he promised to make a great nation of Ishmael also, and he magically provided a well to quench the thirst of Hagar and Ishmael. He took care of them.

No, God's sin in Genesis 21:1-19 is that God endorses and creates an ethnocracy. He promised to make a great nation of Isaac to lord it (pun intended) over everyone else; and by making a separate great nation of Ishmael he condemned these two peoples to strife.

The problem with the Dawabsha murders is not 100 Jewish extremists in a nutty Yeshiva in the West Bank. The problem is the occupation and the systematic condoning of attacks on Palestinians by failing to vigorously prosecute these cases. The problem is ethnocracy instead of democracy.

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