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Why Does Israel Celebrate Its Terrorists: Ben Uliel and the Murder of the Dawabsheh Family

The Palestinian village of Duma from the west with the Jordan valley in the background. Photograph Source: Oren Rozen – CC BY-SA 3.0

Israeli media and Zionist apologists everywhere are busy whitewashing Israel’s globally-tattered image using the rare indictment of an Israeli terrorist, Amiram Ben Uliel, who was recently convicted for murdering the Palestinian Dawabsheh family, including an 18-month-old toddler in the town of Duma, south of Nablus.

The conviction of Ben Uliel by an Israeli three-judge court on May 18, is expectedly celebrated by some as proof that the Israeli judicial system is fair and transparent, and that Israel does not need to be investigated by outside parties.

The timing of the Israeli court’s decision to convict Ben Uliel of three counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder was particularly important, as it followed a decision by the the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to move forward with its investigation of war crimes committed in Occupied Palestine.

Considering how Israel’s extremists, especially those living illegally in the Occupied West Bank, are governed through a separate, and far more lenient system than the military regime that governs Palestinians, the seemingly-clear indictment of the Israeli terrorist deserves further scrutiny.

Israel’s apologists were quick to celebrate the verdict by the court, to the extent that Israel’s own internal intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, known for its notorious torture methods of Palestinian prisoners, described the decision as “an important milestone in the battle against Jewish terror”.

Others labored to separate Ben Uliel’s grizzly attack from the rest of Israeli society, implying that the man was a lone wolf and not the direct outcome of Israel’s unhinged racism and violent discourse directed at innocent Palestinians.

Despite the clear indictment of Ben Uliel, the Israeli court was keen on accentuating the point that the Israeli terrorist acted alone and that he was not a member of a terrorist organization. Based on that logic, the court argued that the judges “could not rule out that the attack was motivated by a desire for revenge or racism without Ben-Uliel actually being a member of an organized group.”

The verdict was a best case scenario for Israel’s image under the circumstances, as it deliberately absolved the massive terrorist network that spawned the likes of Ben Uliel and the Israeli army that protects those very extremists on a daily basis, while whitewashing Israel’s deservingly bad reputation as a violent society with an unjust judicial system.

But Ben Uliel is, by no measure, a lone wolf.

When the Israeli terrorist, along with other masked assailants, broke into the house of Sa’ad and Reham Dawabsheh at 4 am on July 31, 2015, he was clearly on a mission to elevate his name within the ardently racist, extremist society which has made the murder and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians a sort of a divine mission.

Ben Uliel achieved his objectives completely. Not only did he kill Sa’ad and Reham, but their 18-month-old son, Ali, as well. The only surviving member of the family was 4-year-old Ahmed, who was severely burnt.

The murder of the Palestinian family, little Ali in particular, quickly became the source of joy and celebration among Jewish extremists. In December 2015, six months after the murder of the Dawabsheh family, a 25-second video clip that went viral on social media showed a crowd of Israelis celebrating the death of Ali.

The video showed a “room of jumping, dancing men wearing white skullcaps, many with the long sidelocks of Orthodox Jews. Some of them are brandishing guns and knives,” The New York Times reported.

“Two (of the celebrating Israelis) appear to be stabbing pieces of paper they hold in their hands, which the television station identified as pictures of an 18-month-old child, Ali Dawabsheh.”

Despite Israeli police claims that they were ‘investigating’ the hate fest, there is little evidence to suggest that anyone was held accountable for the unmitigated celebration of violence against an innocent family and a toddler. In fact, Israeli State prosecutors later claimed that they had lost the original video of the dancing extremists.

The celebration of Israeli terrorism carried on unabated for years, to the extent that on June 19, 2018, Israeli extremists chanted openly, taunting Ali’s grandfather as he was leaving an Israeli court, with such obscene slogans, as “Where is Ali? Ali’s dead,” “Ali’s on the grill”.

The heinous murder of Ali and his family, and the subsequent trial were added to an array of other events that starkly challenged Israel’s carefully concocted image of being a liberal democracy.

On March 24, 2016, Elor Azaria killed a Palestinian man, Fattah al-Sharif, in cold blood. Al-Sharif was left bleeding on the ground while unconscious after, per Israeli army claim, trying to stab an Israeli soldier.

Azaria received a light sentence of eighteen months, soon to be freed in a massive celebration, like a conquering hero. Israel’s top government officials, including Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, supported the cold-blooded murderer throughout the trial. It will not come as a complete surprise if Azaria claims a top position in the Israeli government at some point in the future.

The celebration of murderers and terrorists like Ben Uliel and Azaria, is not a new phenomenon in Israeli society. Baruch Goldstein, the Israeli terrorist who killed scores of Palestinian worshippers while kneeling for prayer at Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil (Hebron) in 1994, is now perceived as a modern martyr, a saint of biblical proportions.

In such cases, when the nature of the crime is so overwhelmingly violent, the extent of which forces itself on global news media, Israel is left with only one option – to use the indictment of ‘Jewish terrorism’ as an opportunity to reinvent itself, its ‘democratic’ system, its ‘transparent’ judicial proceedings, and so on. Meanwhile, Israeli media and its affiliates worldwide labor to describe the collective ‘shock’ and ‘outrage’ felt by ‘law-abiding’, ‘peace-loving’ Israelis.

The murder of the Dawabsheh family, although one of numerous acts of violence perpetrated by Jewish extremists and the Israeli military against innocent Palestinians, is the perfect case in point.

Indeed, a quick look at the numbers and reports produced by the United Nations indicates that the Jewish settlers’ murder of the Palestinian family was not the exception but the norm.

In a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in June 2018, UN investigators spoke of an exponential rise of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians.

“Between January and April 2018, OCHA documented 84 incidents attributed to Israeli settlers resulting in Palestinian casualties (27 incidents) or in damage to Palestinian property (57 incidents),” the report read. That trend continued, at times markedly increasing, with very little accountability.

The Israeli rights group, Yesh Din, has been following up on the small percentage of settler violence cases that were opened by the Israeli military and police. The group concluded that, “of 185 investigations opened between 2014 and 2017 that reached a final stage, only 21, or 11.4%, led to the prosecution of offenders, while the other 164 files were closed without indictment.”

The reason for this is simple: the hundreds of thousands of Jewish extremists who have been transferred to permanently settle in the occupied territories, an act that starkly violates international law, do not operate outside the colonial paradigm designed by the Israeli government. In some way, they too, are ‘soldiers’, not only because they are armed and coordinate their movement with the Israeli army, but because their ever-expanding settlements lie at the heart of the Israeli occupation and its continued project of ethnic cleansing.

Therefore, Jewish settler violence, like that committed by Ben Uliel, should not be analyzed separately from the violence meted out by the Israeli army, but seen within the larger context of the violent Zionist ideology that governs Israeli society as a whole. It follows that settler violence can only end with the end of the military occupation in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, and with the demise of the racist Zionist ideology that spews hatred, embraces racism and rationalizes murder.

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Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

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