Lynching “Demographic Threats”

Ahmad Gharabli / AFP / Getty Images

Last week I wrote about the racism involved in Zionism’s constant planning of demographic engineering in Israel and how common such a racist principle is in the mainstream discourse. Three hours after the piece was posted, a lynch mob in Jerusalem ganged up on three Palestinian Arabs and beat Jamal Julani within an inch of his life. Police said it was a miracle he didn’t die.

This is nothing more than the inevitable trajectory of a colonialist ideology, like Zionism, imposing itself on a non-Zionist native population.

Of course, this is not an isolated incident. This occurs in the context of rising Israeli settler terrorism which has reached record levels with every passing year of the last decade. And while settler terrorism is reaching new levels, it is not new. Numerous settler terror attacks took place in the 1980s and 1990s, including many bombings and shootings which left Palestinian civilians dead or injured. The day of the lynch attempt, settlers threw a fire bomb at a Palestinian car near Bethlehem injuring 5 and destroyed olive groves in Hebron. On Tuesday settlers attempted to set a house on fire near Nablus. Arson attempts were repeated the next day in a different Nablus area village where cars were also vandalized and a Palestinian child was hit by a settler vehicle in Hebron’s old city (the second time a Palestinian child is run over in the Hebron area in as many weeks.) All of this, of course, happened in the span of one week.

About 90% of Palestinian complaints against such violence are dismissed or ignored by the Israeli legal system. Sometimes, convictions are handed down, but punishments for this sort of violence are notoriously light. Take, for example, the case of Tzevi Struck. He was convicted of kidnapping, aggravated battery and multiple counts of assault against a 15 year-old Palestinian child who was found beaten unconscious, naked and bound in an open field. In the US, federal sentencing guidelines for kidnapping alone are a minimum 121 months, and if we add the complicating factors of battery and assault plus the age of the victim, here in America the penalty would almost certainly be vastly more severe. Struck, however, was sentenced to only 30 months.

But violence by Israeli Jews does not only happen in the occupied West Bank, despite the false dichotomy some Zionists argue exists between a “democratic” and non-democratic Israel. The reality is this type of violence is not uncommon throughout all of Israeli controlled territory. Another beating, this time targeting 2 Palestinian teens asking for directions in Tel Aviv, took place since I began writing this article. The attitudes which support such animosity and violence are also not uncommon. A 2010 poll found that 33.5 percent of secular Jews, 51 percent of traditional Jews, 65 percent of religious Jews, and 72 percent of ultra-Orthodox opposed equal rights for Palestinian Arab citizens in Israel. A majority of Israeli Jews, 53 percent, believed Arabs “should be encouraged to leave.”

Israeli leaders, as well as “liberal Zionists” who say they support a two-state solution, regularly make the demographic threat argument. What Zionist see as the scary Arab birthrate problem has been part of the discourse on Israel/Palestine since the creation of the state of Israel and before the occupationof the West Bank and Gaza.

The rhetoric of “there is too many of them” easily morphs into “let’s get rid of them,” which is one-Arab-in-the-wrong-neighborhood away from horrific violence.

So there should be no surprise that one of the suspects arrested for nearly beating the 17 year-old Julani to death said, "He could die for all I care, he's an Arab." Or that one suspect’s brother said “They shouldn't be here, it's our area." Is this South Boston in the 1970s? Is it Birmingham, Alabama 1963? No, it is Jerusalem, in 2012.

Arabs are seen as unwanted, unwelcomed, expendable and a demographic threat. Think about that language for a moment; their very existence as part of the population is defined as threatening. So why would the lynch perpetrators care if their victims die? Their leaders and opinion shapers in their media have largely embraced the “demographic threat” rhetoric. The majority opinion in their society does not see Arabs as equals.

One immediate step to correcting this is by calling out anyone who perpetuates the “demographic threat” language, including political leaders and media elites, because it only contributes to the dehumanization of Palestinians who will inevitably fall victim to citizens prone to violence against them and conditioned to believe they are superior.