Editor’s Note: The article has been updated as explained below.
The political climate in Israel is so ugly that at least one member of Knesset is quoting an article referring to Palestinian children as “little snakes”—and suggesting that the country is ready to declare war on the entire Palestinian population.
Ayelet Shaked—a Knesset member of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party—took to Facebook to share inflammatory remarks (originally authored by Uri Elitzur, a former Netanyahu associate and journalist) about the Palestinians on July 1, the day before the brutal murder of 17-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khudair, as reported first at Electronic Intifada.
“This is a war,” Shaked quoted Elitzur in the post. She has been routinely denounced in the Israeli press as an extremist. “Words have meanings. This is a war. It is not a war against terror, and not a war against extremists, and not even a war against the Palestinian Authority. These too are forms of avoiding reality. This is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. Why? Ask them, they started.”
The following day, Khudair was kidnapped in Jerusalem and later burned alive. Six Israeli suspects were arrested on Sunday in connection to the murder, which set off a slew of protests throughout the region.
Tensions between Israel and Palestine have reached a fresh peak over the last week since the discovery of the bodies of Yeshiva students Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenk, who disappeared from the Gush Etzion area in June. The Israeli government blamed Hamas for the murders.
Although Hamas alleges that it was not responsible for the deaths of the students, spokesman Abu Zuhri said that his organization is ready and willing to strike against Israel.
“If Netanyahu launches a war against Gaza, the gates of hell will open on him,” Zuhri wrote in a statement on Facebook on June 30.
Since the initial aftermath, Netanyahu has publicly condemned attacks from both sides, saying, “We will not allow extremists, it doesn’t matter from which side, to inflame the region and cause bloodshed. Murder is murder, incitement is incitement, and we will respond aggressively to both.”
But this this wasn’t the first time Shaked has made, or cited, inflammatory remarks—and been condemned for them. In May, a columnist for the Ha’Aretz called her a “representative of an ideology unembarrassed by its racism.”
But Shaked is unapologetic, and wastes no space even suggesting that anyone in Israel is at fault for the recent uptick in violence.
She attributes the content of the July 1 post to an unpublished article originally written by Elitzur, who passed away earlier this year and it goes on to say that the loss of civilian life is purely symptomatic of war, comparing the political climate of Israel to that of WWII-era Europe.
“And the morality of war knows that it is not possible to refrain from hurting enemy civilians. It does not condemn the British air force, which bombed and totally destroyed the German city of Dresden, or the U.S. planes that destroyed the cities of Poland and wrecked half of Budapest, places whose wretched residents had never done a thing to America, but which had to be destroyed in order to win the war against evil.”
The post has collected over a thousand shares and over four thousand likes with about a tenth as many comments, indicating how intense passions sounding this issue have become.
Zuhri has continued to share his thoughts as well, reiterating the sentiment that Hamas is ready for war in a post on Sunday.
“The assassination of a number of enemy al-Qassam Brigades and the resistance is a serious escalation and the enemy will pay the price,” Zuhri wrote.
Human Rights Watch called the Israeli military response to the recent deaths of the three teenagers “collective punishment” to the citizens in the West Bank. Since Shaked shared Elitzur’s words, Israeli police violently beat an American teenager named Tariq Abu Khdeir for allegedly watching the protests that resulted after his cousin, Khudair, was burned alive.
“They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads,” the post reads. “Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”
Shaked was the former head of My Israel, a Zionist activist group she formed in 2010 with Naftali Bennett, the current Minister of the Economy in Israel. The organization opposes BDS (Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions) and aims to increase awareness regarding illegal infiltration of migrant workers. But in the absence of Shaked’s leadership—she stepped down in 2012—the organization hasn’t been as vehemently war-hungry as the Knesset member.
“The families of the seven victims arise today,” My Israel wrote in a statement on their Facebook page Monday. “In case you’ve forgotten: Naftali, Eyal, Gilead. May their memory [rest] in peace.”
As violence escalates and Israeli forces trade rocket fire with Hamas, Shaked appears to have reiterated her initial sentiment, saying, “We will do whatever we can as a group of 12 mandates so that the Israel Defense Forces will protect the citizens of Israel,” in her most recent Facebook post.
Update: Since publishing, the article has been updated to further reflect that Shaked was not the original author of the words she shared in a Facebook post, but that rather Uri Elitzur wrote the words in an unpublished article.