Variants of Vigilantism

 It would be funnier if it wasn’t real life and the stakes weren’t so high: a vigilante who tried to lynch a terrorist is arrested by police and then set upon by a mob which now mistakes him for the attacker. That scene actually unfolded last Monday evening in Netanya, minutes after an attacker stabbed an elderly woman and was shot and subdued by police.

A mourners at a candlelit vigil for Eritrean Haptom Zarhum in Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park on October 21. (credit: BEN HARTMAN)

A mourners at a candlelit vigil for Eritrean Haptom Zarhum in Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park on October 21. (credit: BEN HARTMAN)

The vigilante – who in trying to get to the terrorist scuffled with police – was charged the next day with assaulting a police officer, but as it turns out, maybe there isn’t that much separating him from the rest of Israeli Jews.

According to a poll released last week, 53 percent of Israeli Jews believe that Palestinians who perpetrate terrorist attacks against Jews should be killed at the scene, even if they have already been subdued and no longer pose a threat.

The Israel Democracy Institute poll was based on 600 respondents, 70 percent of whom said that Israeli courts are too lenient with Palestinian terrorists.

Coming weeks after the fatal beating and shooting of an Eritrean asylum- seeker mistaken for a terrorist during an attack at the Beersheba Central Bus Station, the poll reveals that while there isn’t a universal consensus for summarily executing subdued terrorists, there is still a majority – a slim one but a majority nonetheless – that does not shy away from saying that they believe in killing enemy combatants who are taken alive.

This decrease in shame came to mind when watching a video last week of yet another incident of violence caught on tape in Israel.

Compared to the avalanche of snuff videos that has covered Israel since the stabbing Intifada began in early October, the images weren’t too impressive.

There were no knives, no cars slamming into bus stops, no frenzied attackers cut down by gunshots as they chase after victims. Still, the images were troublesome.

Roy Sharon – Channel 10’s correspondent for the West Bank – was attacked, insulted and shoved by a group of far-right extremists, until he and his crew left the scene.

Sharon was one of many journalists in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze’ev last Wednesday to cover the planned demolition of a synagogue that the High Court ruled had been illegally built. The young men at the scene set their sights on Sharon though, calling him a traitor because of his past coverage of settlers and forcing him to leave. The presence of the cameras did not seem to deter them in the slightest from throwing rocks at a Jew and fellow countryman, much less a member of the press.

It wasn’t the first such ugly incident to occur recently. On October 8, Channel 2 reporter Furat Nasser and his soundman were assaulted by onlookers while reporting on a stabbing attack in Afula. Police took the case seriously and arrested the main suspect just a couple of days later, but there was still reason for concern.

Talkbacks online ranged from insulting the thug who attacked the soundman to questioning why Channel 2 had decided to send an Israeli-Arab reporter to the scene of a stabbing attack – the implication being that it was almost to be expected that such a reporter would be attacked.

The press has been a scapegoat many times in Israel, especially during times of escalation. The Second Lebanon War comes to mind, when the media were blamed for broadcasting sensitive information picked up by Hezbollah, if not for outright losing the war.

Still, the incidents in which journalists were attacked, and the cases of Hadas Shteif of Army Radio and Arad Nir of Channel 2, who were labeled “traitors” for comments they made online, perhaps are part of a wider theme during the knife intifada – that of a terrified populace with a failed leadership finding itself at war with “enemies within.”

The press in Israel – with the exception of Israel Hayom and outlets to its right – is seen as overly sympathetic to the Arabs and as agents of an even worse enemy, leftists. The backlash to the press can be seen in the comments online after almost any event, but it’s been particularly noticeable following a recurring feature of this wave of violence – the vigilante attacks and attempted lynches.

In these instances, the press is seen, at best, as a sort of killjoy trying – as part of an anti-Zionist agenda – to dampen the public’s enthusiasm, if not actively trying to make Israelis look bad for taking the law into their own hands.

In comments on Facebook and talkbacks on Israeli websites, the Left and the press are subject to virulent hatred and even calls to violence that, while they may not represent the majority of Israelis, certainly seem to no longer be solely the provenance of some lunatic fringe.

The vigilante actions of a number of civilians and security guards in the past two months have at times stopped attacks and served as examples of true heroism.

Along the way, though, there have also been cases of abuse and unnecessary violence whose images have been hard to shake, adding to the collective trauma of the recent wave of violence.

Watching these scenes of violence – especially the footage from Beersheba – there is a feeling that something primitive has emerged within the fear of the Israeli public. While most Israeli Jews were disturbed by the slaying of the Eritrean man and would not support random terrorist attacks on Arabs, perhaps there isn’t as much daylight between the hatred and celebration of violence in Palestinian society and that of Israeli society as we thought.

Considering these cases – and the celebratory talkbacks written by some Israelis in past cases when journalists have been attacked, or after terrorist victim and coexistence activist Richard Lakin died of his wounds last month, or after Palestinian school children were killed in a school bus crash in the West Bank in 2012 – perhaps there is less that separates us than we think.

There’s something of the night about this terrorist wave, something brutal, vicious and personal that may be with us longer than we think.

Knife bait at the park – watching my daughter’s blind spot

Ask yourself: Could you fend off a crazed attacker armed with only a stick of sidewalk chalk?
My daughter - as seen from my guard post at Hayarkon Park (Ben Hartman)

My daughter – as seen from my guard post at Hayarkon Park (Ben Hartman)

Could you subdue a man with a knife, hold him until the police arrive, and give a man-on-the-street interview that will go viral? Most crucially, could you spend an hour and a half at the park with a group of toddlers, without checking your cell phone even once?
All these questions went through my mind on Tuesday morning, when it was my turn for guard duty at my daughter’s day care.
In light of the recent wave of stabbing attacks, a decision was made to keep the toddlers inside for the time being, and to stop the daily visits to the park. That was, until one father at the day care suggested last week that “as a remedy to continue normally, despite current events, to have one of the parents accompany the group when outside. This will allow the teachers to be with the kids without having to constantly look over their shoulders.”
Now, I’ve never been one to think that “maintaining normality” is a suicide pact, but he had a point. Kids, like plants, need sunlight and fresh air to grow. Also, locked inside a Tel Aviv day care all day they could descend into a sort of toddler “Lord of the Flies.” In this toddler dystopia my daughter would obviously emerge as a malevolent overlord of some sort. I don’t want her to turn out that way.
I was on board, and so were the rest of the parents.
The emphasis was on having the fathers put on guard duty as much as possible, though the moms would also suffice. My wife, eight months pregnant, received a pass, though she did offer that if she somehow managed to sit on a knife attacker she could save the day.
“Guard duty” may be an exaggeration. I’m unarmed (though I have a can of bug spray and a toilet brush at home, both of which I could use if needed) and have little, if any, self-defense training.
If I were intoxicated I’m sure I could pick a fight with a terrorist and then try to befriend him later in the night and bum cigarettes off him. But cold sober in the park on a Tuesday morning? My best bet is probably to be “knife bait,” to either run the other way with my daughter or fall on the attacker and hope he has a seizure.
In recent days, I try to size up my fellow civilians out in public. Will they be of assistance, will they fight back, will they run in the opposite direction forcing the attacker to give chase and allowing me to sneak away? Not to jump to conclusions, but I’ve been operating with the assumption that it depends on where you are.
A friend recently posted on Facebook that she was planning her daughter’s sixth birthday party at a park in the working class suburb of Bat Yam and was concerned about safety. I found that understandable, but also thought, at least in Bat Yam there’s probably a fair number of bystanders who know how to handle themselves in a knife attack.
In the tzfoni north Tel Aviv neighborhood around our daycare though? I’m less confident.
That said, in event of an attack at Park Hayarkon, there are potentially dozens of personal trainers and yoga coaches who could come to the rescue, overpower the attacker, and bind him in those bungee ropes I always see people training with in the park.
Being north Tel Aviv, after the attacker is subdued, he would be scolded, made to feel inadequate, unfriended on Facebook and then subjected to a series of furious Yelp reviews.
In the end, the first shift on guard duty went off without a hitch. My daughter was both confused and overjoyed by my presence during day care hours, and I got to spend the morning in the park doing something approximating exercise.
After Sunday night, when an asylum seeker in Beersheba mistaken for a terrorist died after he was shot and brutally beaten, my faith in fellow citizens facing an attack has ebbed somewhat. There’s an ugly side, a potentially murderous and disturbing potential that can rear its head when terrified, vulnerable people think they’ve turned the tables on an attacker. The chances of finding yourself in one of these events remains minuscule, but I find myself hoping it becomes even more so after Sunday night.
In the meantime though, I find myself doing what many residents are doing these days – keeping my head on a swivel, and hoping this all ends soon and I never have to do guard duty or be knife bait for a toddler again.

Deadly force in deadly times

The video that went viral in Israel on Monday left little room for debate. Three Special Patrol Unit police officers are standing outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, when one of them asks a young man for his ID and all hell breaks loose. The man, later named as Muhammad Ali, 19, from Shuafat, takes a knife and stabs the neck of one of the police officers and then jumps and stabs a second one, before he is taken down in a hail of gunfire and surrounded by at least nine officers training their guns on him.
Muhammed Ali stabbing cops during the attack at Damascus Gate. (CCTV screenshot)

Muhammed Ali stabbing cops during the attack at Damascus Gate. (CCTV screenshot)

The clip went public just a few days after footage of the shooting of a Palestinian woman in a separate attack in Afula began to make the rounds. In the previous clip, 30-year-old Nazareth resident Asra Zidan Abd can be seen holding a knife and a handbag, as several police officers surround her and point their guns at her. She continues to stand still, and within seconds several gunshots ring out and she hits the ground, badly wounded in the lower body and taken to hospital for treatment.
Though she was only wounded, she was not approaching the officers at the time of her shooting, which was quickly seized upon as an “execution” in the Arab sector and elsewhere.
The recent wave of stabbing attacks isn’t entirely new – there was a series of “ramming attacks” and stabbings last year – but this time they are much more frequent and many more of the attacks and their aftermath are filmed and go viral in Israel, with Israelis cheering their security forces and Palestinians mourning “the martyrdom of a shahid killed by Zionists.”
Even in the most clear-cut cases, the shootings will be criticized – especially by those who feel the terrorist attacks are justified; by fringe types who claim that the attacks aren’t even taking place; by those who claim that it’s open season on Palestinians who are being gunned down for no reason; and by those who call the stabbings Israeli “false-flag” operations. This is obviously discounted by the figures – which by midday Tuesday had 11 Palestinian attackers killed and 18 apprehended (most also wounded) in 27 attacks since October 1, though even statistics can be subjective in the Middle East.
So far, even with all of the footage floating around, there doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut case where a police officer could be charged with the wrongful death of an attacker. As much as the police are on high alert, over-stressed, and also, to some extent afraid like the rest of us, there hasn’t been a “Bus 300”-style incident. (In 1984, four armed Arabs hijacked a bus. Two died fighting when the bus was stormed to free the captives, but the other two were killed after they were cuffed and apprehended.) According to police rules of engagement, shooting is permitted “in order to stop an attack that presents a clear and present danger to the life of the officer or others.” The danger must still be ongoing and shooting must be a last resort.
In property crimes, shooting is not permitted.
In regard to Afula – in which the attacker was wounded but not killed – the female attacker had already shown intent to cause bodily harm with a deadly weapon, and was refusing to disarm. A person with a knife can pose a deadly threat even if their target has a firearm, though obviously much less so if the gun is already drawn and pointed at the attacker.
Still, her actions up until the moment she was shot should be enough to stave off any Justice Ministry investigation of the police and the prospect that anyone will face charges.
It’s also unlikely that charges will be opened for the shooting of Fadi Samir Alloun, a 19-year-old who, according to the police, had just stabbed a teen in Jerusalem before he was shot late on the night of October 3 in east Jerusalem. In videos of the incident, he appears to be walking away from Jews who are shouting “terrorist” and “shoot him,” before he is shot by police. In the video, he seems to advance towards the police before he is shot, but it is hard to see, and hard to make out a weapon.
Regardless, just because a shooting falls within the boundaries of the law doesn’t mean it’s not questionable or the wrong thing to do. The Afula shooting, for instance, has been widely criticized – by Arabs and Jews alike – including by former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yuval Diskin, who in a Facebook post on Monday wrote “after watching the video over and over, I feel that she could have been arrested without a serious risk and without shooting.”
In that same post, however, he said “a terrorist who is carrying a firearm or other weapon and poses a threat (they have the means and the intent to pose an immediate threat to their surroundings) must be killed as quickly as possible. I would like to see the court in Israel that will jail a security officer or citizen who operates according to these rules.”
At the end of the day, the courts and the court of public opinion – among Jews at least – are going to side with those who use deadly force in instances where the attacker is still armed and could still pose a threat. The longer this wave of attacks continues, the greater the possibility that we will see a clear case of someone wrongfully killed or even murdered – especially with more and more licensed civilians deciding to carry firearms at all times, and with the public on edge and afraid to an extent they haven’t been in years.
In the meantime, we have more and more videos emerging that are open to interpretation. Even the seemingly unambiguous attack carried out at the Damascus Gate on Saturday has its doubters who say it “looks like a set-up.”
Police seem to be concerned about the trend, because on Monday they put out a press release to every media outlet just after the Damascus Gate video was published, saying that the faces of the police must be blocked out for security reasons.
They said the officers would return to these same areas on patrol and must remain anonymous for their own safety.
Though arguably, as uniformed officers in east Jerusalem, they are targets regardless.
This is much different from the situation a little over a decade ago. During the second intifada, police officers who stopped attacks were on a number of occasions presented to the press by the police spokesperson’s branch and interviewed with their names and faces unobscured. The stories were good for morale, good for the image of the police, and the interviews were a way for cops to get public recognition for acts of bravery under fire.
In today’s age of smartphones and CCTV cameras on every corner, police seem keenly aware that they can no longer control the narrative of every arrest of an attacker, and also of the fact that with footage floating around, their officers could potentially be targeted by Palestinian extremists, or even face potential legal problems abroad.
In the meantime, we’ve had a series of videos emerge, including some that are truly difficult to watch – in particular the clip of a 13-year-old attacker in east Jerusalem left to bleed on the street as ambulances are en route, as some Israelis curse him and wish him dead. Of course there were also the Afula residents who held an attacker until police arrived, protecting him from a mob. Both represent the Israeli public in these strange days – terrified, on edge, and not sitting idly by, while trying and not always succeeding, to stay human and act rational in irrational times.

They came to watch the bridge explode

Judging by the pre-game hype in the national press, something akin to the moon landing or the planting of the US flag on Iwo Jima took place in Tel Aviv on Friday morning, as hundreds gathered in the center of town to see the iconic Ma’ariv Bridge blown up and brought to Earth.
The demolition of the bridge which was never really a bridge to begin with. (Shlomi Mizrahi)

The demolition of the bridge which was never really a bridge to begin with. (Shlomi Mizrahi)

The situation on the ground at judgment hour didn’t live up to the hype, but it was a carnival of sorts nonetheless.
Ori Benaim was sober as a judge on Carlebach Street at 5:30 a.m. when she said she thinks her children will learn about the demolition in history class 20 years from now. The 18-year-old came with three of her friends from Pardes Katz in Bnei Brak just to see the action. “We all got dressed up for this and took pictures before and we’ll take some after. This is history,” she said.
When asked if she had any particular memories from the bridge or the intersection it passed over, she said simply, “No, the junction and the bridge it’s just rats and trash there.”
There was well over a hundred bystanders on Carlebach Street facing the bridge at the junction with Menachem Begin Boulevard, and similar-sized crowds on Lincoln and Yitzhak Sadeh streets. A large projection screen was set up for the crowd on Carlebach, and a few Chabad Hassidim had set up a table for bystanders to lay phylacteries, while a promoter handed out flyers for parties starting after the blast.
Though this reporter did smell marijuana smoke wafting through the crowd, there were far fewer drunk people than some would have expected to find on the street in this part of Tel Aviv at 5:30am on a Friday, and no one visibly on cocaine, even though the viewing spot was only a few doors down from one of the city’s most infamous nightclubs.
That said, Sharona Levy’s friends seemed to be having a good time. Sharona was the sober one, they all agreed, and she said she’d convinced her three drunken friends to stay up the rest of the night after bar-hopping in Tel Aviv to come see the blast.
She said “it’s a historic thing we’ll all remember,” but her three girlfriends didn’t seem to be in any condition to remember much.
With all the talk about history, one thing should be said – The Ma’ariv Bridge was never much of a bridge, arguably just a glorified two-lane overpass that skipped over a single intersection and would save you 10 or 15 minutes during rush hour. To put it differently, I delivered pizzas in college, but no one called me a restaurateur.
Still, nostalgia is a funny thing, and in a city where a business that stays open for five years is an institution, the Ma’ariv Bridge was an icon.
Dedicated in 1976, it was originally named the “Eagles Bridge” in honor of the soldiers who took part in that summer’s Operation Entebbe rescue mission in Uganda. To most Israelis, though, it was the Ma’ariv Bridge, named for the headquarters of the Ma’ariv newspaper, which occupied an equally iconic building at the junction of Carlebach and Menachem Begin for decades until the paper was sold in 2012 and vacated the premises.
The demolition is part of the construction of the Red Line of the Tel Aviv Light Rail – the first in the system – which began earlier this month. On the former site of the bridge will be an underground station on the Red Line, which is set for completion by 2021.
The demolition was scheduled for 6 a.m., at which point a man in dark clothes surrounded by henchmen would blow up the local landmark before hundreds of rapt citizens of Gotham. Playing the role of a Batman villain in this instance was Transportation Minister Israel Katz, who at 6:23 pressed down on a detonator straight out of a Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner cartoon as an engineer detonated the actual explosives.
By that point, dozens of onlookers had been holding their phones aloft filming since 6 o’clock, their arms cramping up by the minute. Finally, several rather muted explosions went off, and the bridge fell to the pavement.
No countdown could be heard at the viewing spot on Carlebach Street and it was over in moments, at which point throughout the crowd people could be heard telling their friends, “No countdown? That wasn’t worth it,” before heading home to end their night out.
One young man, Vic, was gathered with several friends watching the explosion, his crew carrying cans of Red Bull and a portable box speaker. Like others, Vic seemed less than impressed.
“I was hoping there’d be a countdown and then my friends could film me while I turn my back to it and run away slow motion like in a movie with flames everywhere,” he said, a bit dejected, before asking, “Do you think we could do it again?”

Blackface as racial solidarity?

Every protest movement needs a great song.
The members of Ma Kashur in blackface in the "Ayalon Darom" video. (Screenshot)

The members of Ma Kashur in blackface in the “Ayalon Darom” video. (Screenshot)

Earlier this month the famed comedy trio Shlishiyat Ma Kashur released a protest video, a clip full of anger ripped from the front pages. A serious departure for the trio, “Ayalon Darom” (the title taken from the Ayalon freeway, which was blocked during rush hour during a protest by Ethiopian Israelis in May) depicts the three actors as Ethiopian Israelis fed up about racism in Israeli society, sick of being seen as nothing more than dishwashers who run fast and shouldn’t be let into the nightclub.
The clip comes a few months after a protest movement was launched by Ethiopian Israelis across the country, in response to racism and police brutality, and sparked by a video of a police officer attacking an IDF soldier of Ethiopian ethnicity.
Showing solidarity with this struggle is all fine and well, except that all three actors in the clip are in blackface, speaking with exaggerated, ridiculous accents, and bouncing and shufflin’ their feet like they were ripped straight from a minstrel show.
Blackface is rather common in Israeli satire shows. One example I remember well was on Eretz Nehederet, where in a recurring role, Mariano Idelman would play Condoleezza Rice with his face given a brown hue. Most embarrassingly, for some reason Idelman’s Rice would spontaneously break out into Aretha Franklin-style riffs and song and dance numbers, because maybe that’s what the writers figured a Stanford professor and former secretary of state acts like, if she’s black. More likely though, it was just a cheap gag, a lack of creativity or wit that manifests itself in a racist trope, at least to American eyes.
That may be the crux of the issue to a certain extent. Blackface simply doesn’t have the same cultural weight in Israel that it does in the US, not even close.
There is not the same history of racial violence between black and white Israelis, during which blackface was a feature in the darkest days of this history. Seeing it through American eyes though, the natural reaction is to cringe, to feel almost a punch in the gut at the obliviousness of the writers and actors who thought this was a good idea.
The use of blackface outside the United States was also written about this week in a column on Vox about a high-brow Dutch newspaper’s review of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book on race in America Between the World and Me.
The review opens with almost a fullpage picture of a big-lipped caricature of a black man dark as pitch, above the headline “Nigger are you crazy?” in English. The editor of the newspaper, NRC Handelsblad, said in comments to The Washington Post that the drawing was meant to illustrate stereotypes and “white aggression” and not meant to be offensive, and that thinking they were would be stupid.
The Vox article then draws a connection between the tone-deaf (to Americans) article and the Netherlands Christmas tradition of Zwarte Piet – “Black Pete” in Dutch. During Christmas time, many white Dutch people put on blackface to depict “Black Pete,” a helper of St. Nicholas often depicted as a black Moor from Spain, or a former slave from a Dutch colony, or a chimney sweep, to explain his blackness. Besides being a terrifying thing to run into at an Amsterdam department store if you’d never previously heard of the tradition (speaking from personal experience), it is often defended by supporters as a cultural tradition and most importantly with the assertion that “it’s not meant to offend.”
I don’t think “Ayalon Darom” is meant to offend. All three members of Ma Kashur grew up in working-class neighborhoods in Ramle and elsewhere, Mizrahi and Georgian guys who were not part of the racial elite growing up.
Their video and their lyrics speak to a very real struggle now being waged by many Israelis, and I think their hearts are in the right place.
The clip brings to mind another Ma Kashur skit from a few years ago, about an Ethiopian-Israeli pilot who is hypersensitive about race, and constantly, mistakenly taking the air traffic controller’s requests as bigoted. Again, whatever message about racism they may have been trying to get across is obscured by the fact that actor Tzion Baruch is, again, in blackface and speaking with a thick, laughable accent that one wouldn’t expect from a pilot.
That doesn’t mean that a blackface skit is incapable of making intelligent social satire. In a skit a few years ago on the Israeli comedy show Shavua Sof! a group of Hamas terrorists bring their commander a kidnapped Israeli soldier bound with his head in a burlap sack.
Once they lift up the sack to reveal the soldier (an officer with the rank of captain) is black, the commander upbraids the terrorists, and the soldier – played by a white actor in blackface – is told apologetically that he is free to go and that Hamas knows they can’t get anything from Israel for a black soldier.
Watching the clip today, with Ethiopian-Israeli Avera Mengistu in Hamas captivity after climbing the fence into Gaza and with little public debate about returning him, the clip makes a strong (if heavy-handed) statement about race in Israel, even with the blackface.
There’s often a tendency among Americans in Israel to imprint their own social, cultural, and racial constructs from America onto Israeli society, almost expecting an exact fit. There’s a sort of unspoken belief that something that’s offensive there should also be out-of-bounds here, without taking into account the very different histories and cultures of the two countries.
When it comes to race, this can be glaring, and blackface is a classic example of something that simply doesn’t carry the same weight here.
Nonetheless, even without that same history, there are certain things that are universal, and at its very core, blackface – in America – is about laughing at black people, making them out to be objects of ridicule who talk and dance funny.
Israeli comedy is rife with ethnic humor, lampooning Jews from the East and the West, as well as Arabs. Still, something feels different when the ridicule is directed at the lowest rung on the social ladder.
Did Ma Kashur mean well even with the blackface? I think so, but maybe it’s better to let Ethiopian Israelis speak for themselves, and for everybody else to listen.

Looking for a quick fix to ‘price-tag’ attacks, human rights be damned

These days, Israel’s leaders are desperate, or at least at a loss on how to stop a fringe element of Jewish extremists that has long figured out how to dictate the path of this country, no matter how few they are.
Desperation was the message put out Sunday by the diplomatic-security cabinet when it approved the use of administrative detention for Jewish extremists suspected of involvement in acts of terrorism directed at Palestinians.
A controversial practice, administrative detention involves the jailing of terrorist suspects, often indefinitely, without them being able to see the evidence against them and without needing to charge them with a crime.
In recent years the practice has been considered something of a cure-all, or at least a measure to hype up when a security official is feeling the heat. In late 2013, then-public security minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch expressed his support for the use of administrative detention to fight organized crime, saying it was just another tool they needed at their disposal to get the upper hand.
Make no mistake, on a purely practical level, it would help. Police wouldn’t need evidence of any sort to arrest and jail entire crime families, with only the vaguest argument that so-and-so “poses a security threat to the public.” The suspects and their attorneys wouldn’t be able to see the evidence against them, safeguarding police informants and preventing criminals from learning what methods police are using.
The same goes for “price-tag” suspects.
Though the police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) regularly scoop up “price-tag” suspects with little evidence against them, those suspects must be brought before a magistrate, a judge must be shown evidence that justifies keeping them in custody. Lacking sufficient evidence – as is typically the case – the suspects are released by the police within days, something that wouldn’t happen with administrative detentions.
Since some estimates put the number of hard-core, violent “price-tag” extremists at only a few dozen, the authorities could just lock them all up for “security reasons” or “for intelligence purposes and fear of impending terrorist attacks,” and not have to worry about building a case or gathering the type of evidence derived from serious police fieldwork, deep sources and solid intelligence. In the meantime, they’d all be in custody, case or no case.
However, universal human rights can be inconvenient. They include such pesky principles as due process, the concept that every person has the right to a fair and speedy trial.
Though for decades that has not been the case for Palestinians in the West Bank, Jews living in Israeli settlements have been able to sleep soundly knowing that the same rights that protect Israeli citizens within the Green Line apply to them, too.
This is at the root of why Jewish terrorism has been so hard to stop. The acts are committed by a small, highly motivated and ideologically driven group of extremists who refuse to cooperate with police and know very well what their rights are when in custody. They have legal support and the knowledge that they only have to wait out police and keep their mouths shut, and the courts will release them due to what is typically a lack of forensic evidence, just as they have to release criminal defendants under such circumstances.
Using administrative detentions against Jewish terrorist suspects would indicate that Israel applies the same injustice to Jews as it does to Palestinians, but would also send the message that the deep security state that can dictate the lives of Palestinians without legal oversight can also ensnare Jewish Israelis.
The approval of administrative detentions is an admission that the current methods aren’t working, and that there is growing support for using the same methods against Jewish terrorists as are used against Palestinians.
The question Israelis must ask, though, is where does this end? Surely the Shin Bet is not going to start ordering “targeted assassinations” on Jewish terrorist suspects, nor can one really imagine a situation where they’ll start torturing “price-tag” suspects under interrogation or performing surveillance on suspects and their families to secure ammunition to blackmail them into cooperating.
And if these Jewish terrorist suspects in administrative detention go on hunger strike, will they be force-fed? However small or fringe they are in number now, police and the Shin Bet must know that if such methods were put into place against Jewish terrorist suspects, it could be a great recruiting tool for future extremists.
Not everything that is kosher for the war on Palestinian terrorism will be considered kosher for Jewish terrorists, and the authorities will have to operate within the confines of the law and what Israeli society will allow its security establishment to do to fellow Jews, no matter how dangerous they are.
People are often puzzled by how the Shin Bet, the IDF and the Israel Police can have such success rooting out Palestinian terrorists and yet are seemingly so powerless against a bunch of teenagers and young men running around the West Bank torching mosques.
Part of the answer is simple: Israel is not going to send undercover hit squads and helicopter gunships to their outposts.
It won’t torture them in custody.
It won’t bribe and blackmail their families into being informants and can’t use the offer of work permits to lure them into cooperation. It simply cannot instill the same fear into their hearts as it instills in the Palestinian population.
Besides the constraints on their actions when it comes to Jewish suspects, there’s also the fact that the security services simply have not managed to infiltrate this very small group of extremists or successfully recruit informants among them.
The murder of Palestinian toddler Ali Dawabsha in Duma on July 31 was a horrifying act that has the potential to bring Israelis and Palestinians into a new, terrible circle of violence whose end we can’t predict.
It makes sense that the Israeli leadership is looking for serious measures to counter Jewish terrorism – including extreme, legally vague measures. But the public must keep in mind that it’s often very easy to apply these measures but much harder to remove them down the road. These measures could also cause a great deal of collateral damage in the form of innocent citizens drawn into the criminal justice system without the legal protections that they expect as members of a Western, democratic country.
The Shin Bet and the Israel Police care greatly about stopping “price-tag” attacks, and the police in particular could surely use the good publicity that success in stopping these attacks would accrue them.
Nonetheless, the road is long, indirect and unclear, and any shortcuts like administrative detentions have the potential to blemish us all.


Meek Mill vs Drake – Good for the Jews?

(In light of the terrible, awful events in Israel/Palestine in the past few days, it was decided that a temporary departure for this blog may be in order)

The latest hip hop feud has certainly been good for one Jewish Canadian (Drake), and very, very bad for Meek Mill, (not Jewish, and a native of Philadelphia, which is not in Canada).

Now that I have your attention with that ridiculous headline (I worked at a Jewish/Israeli news site where we would have run a story on this feud using the excuse that Drake is Jewish, same reason we wrote about the late DJ AM – Adam Goldstein – when he was critically injured in a plane crash in 2008), let’s examine a few aspects of this feud.


Who peed on this man?


First off, IF Meek Mill is correct in his diss track “Wanna Know”, someone, at some unknown place and time, pissed on Drake in a movie theater. No further details are given. (If this was in France, it could maybe be reportable as an anti-Semitic attack in some corners of the Jewish press.)

As Twitter user Alex Gale (@ApexDujeous – a senior editor at Billboard, and a redhead for whom retweets are NOT endorsements) said Friday morning “whoever figured out who peed on Drake will win the Rap Pulitzer.” If so, a Pulitzer could be in the works for Us Weekly, who was direct tweeted by user Deaux (@dstfelix “crooklyn little chocolate baby”) with the tip that “idk if yall investigate black people @usweekly but someone peed on drake”.

Did someone pee on Drake? We don’t know, nor may we ever find out – surely Meek Mill can’t be trusted, he has his own axe to grind here, though TMZ later reported that during an altercation in 2010 at a private screening of Takers, a member of T.I.’s entourage urinated on Drake and Drake ran, with another man’s piss on him. No video has emerged, so we won’t rush to judgement.

Meek Mill also tells Drake “you really sweet, I call you buttercup / You fucking dork”, and sampled the Undertaker’s ring intro and now may face a lawsuit from the WWE.

One person who the feud may have been good for is Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist/WORLD’S GREATEST WAR CRIMINAL who shot dead a very famous lion last month in Zimbabwe. Cecil the lion, according to his Wikipedia page (every famous lion has to have a Wikipedia page) is not named after former Detroit Tigers power hitter Cecil Fielder, rather, British imperialist and mining magnate Cecil Rhodes, for whom Zimbabwe was named, back when it was named Rhodesia. (Incidentally, Palmer reportedly paid over $50,000 to a professional hunter to enable him to kill the lion, probably much more than it would have cost him to kill Cecil Fielder, who retired with 319 home runs.)

When word got out that Palmer most likely killed Cecil (the lion), the internet launched total war against this 21st century Mengele, with a fury that has only ebbed slightly in recent days, coincidentally (or not?) with the virtual tsunami of ridicule that has met Meek Mill’s release of “Wanna Know” on Thursday. Meek Mill’s track came a week after he accused Drake of using ghostwriters (rap equivalent of doping?), prompting him to reply with the track “Charged Up”, followed by “Back to Back”.

I thought of Palmer in a non-sexual way over the past week, wondering what it must be like to be the target of such rage, no matter how justified (if out of proportion) it may be. Though he’s not the target of rage per se, for the past 48 hours ever since Meek Mill dropped “Wanna Know” he’s been maybe the biggest joke in hip hop in years. I’m at a loss to think of a greater embarrassment any time recently – when Rick Ross was exposed as a former corrections officer? Maybe the release of Insane Clown Posse’s “Miracles” in 2009, with the classic line “fucking magnets, how do they work?”, but they started off as a joke, so the fall to earth was non-existent.

By Friday the ridicule was snowballing, and everybody was getting a piece of Meek Mill, including probably a lot of people who hadn’t even heard “Wanna Know” (aka, “the lucky ones”). Brands started to get in on it, with their social media departments competing with one another to tie their product to the beef.

Whataburger probably won that fight, with the Texas national treasure tweeting “Meek Mill take it from us- if you gonna serve beef serve it high quality”. This has been tweeted over 105,000 times and counting, and they followed it up with “chicken fingers turn to Twitter fingers” (a take on “trigger fingers turn to Twitter fingers” from “Back to Back”), but they stayed in the game too long, tweeting “Drake pass the mic: Last name Burger, First name Greatest!”, which is the type of thing you’d almost expect a Jewish guy from Canada to tweet.

By Saturday night, the ridicule was still cresting, and I got to thinking how this would have played out in my younger days. If this was 15 years ago, or just 10, far fewer people would have heard Meek Mill’s track, and very few of them would have had a public platform to comment on it, much less ridicule the rapper in a way that can be seen by legions of people online. His track still would have bombed, but today, in an age when hip hop beefs play out on social media; his song becomes something akin to a cultural milestone, potentially with the ability to sully his career permanently.

It’s yet another reminder that anybody my age (36) is lucky they were born way back when, and grew up knowing that their mistakes, acts of poor judgement and just flat out failures and fuck ups took on normal proportions.

So, Meek Mill vs. Drake, good for the Jews? I guess it can’t hurt, but they really shouldn’t have peed on Aubrey Drake Graham, he seems like such a nice young man.

Avera Mengistu – a flawed focus on racism

For the past 10 months the family of Avera Mengistu has lived with trauma and uncertainty.  Their son has been missing in Gaza, his whereabouts and health unknown, with no sign of life. The fact that he crossed into the Strip willingly, and has a history of mental distress is probably of no consolation.

Avera  Mengistu. (Facebook)

Avera Mengistu. (Facebook)

They have also, it turns out, not been treated with the level of urgency and sympathy one would expect for the family of an Israeli citizen held in captivity by Hamas, and have not met in person with Prime  Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who didn’t respond to their letters asking about their son for 10 months.

On Thursday, hours after the story was cleared for publication, a recording was released of Colonel (res.) Lior Lotan, the prime minister’s representative dealing with hostage issues, scolding and threatening Mengistu’s family, telling them that if they go public and point fingers at the Israeli government they will be personally responsible for keeping him in Gaza for a year longer.

It was a disturbing display of insensitivity on his part, and his tone and conduct was perfect ammunition for those who see in the story of Mengistu’s captivity a microcosm of Israeli racism towards Ethiopian-Israelis. The Mengistu family was spoken to almost like children with a dismissive tone that suggested they were little more than a nuisance.

The feeling that an Ashkenazi family or a “veteran Israeli” family would not be treated this way is understandable and is derived from the discrimination that Ethiopian-Israelis feel. Still, the conclusion that Mengistu’s fate would be different if he was a white Israeli fails to take into account the unique specifics of this case, how it differs from that of previous prisoners like Gilad Shalit, and the changes that have taken place in Israeli society since Shalit was returned in 2011.

Gilad Shalit was part of a 4-man tank crew of active-duty soldiers stationed in a Merkava III tank within Israel near the Kerem Shalom crossing when the tank was attacked by gunmen who had infiltrated by way of a tunnel from the Gaza Strip in the pre-dawn hours of June, 25th, 2006. The assault on the tank was part of a coordinated attack, as other gunmen shelled and opened fire on IDF positions elsewhere on the border with the Strip as a diversionary tactic. Two other members of the tank crew, Lieutenant Hanan Barak and Staff Sergeant Pavel Slutzker, were shot dead at the scene as they escaped the tank, a third crew member was wounded, and Shalit was taken by the attackers back through a hole in the security fence to the Gaza Strip, where he would be held captive for more than five years, until he was released in October 2011 in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners.

According to Israeli security officials, Mengistu left his family home on September 7, 2014 and made his way to the security fence with the northern Gaza Strip, crossing over the barrier near the seashore. Soldiers at the scene reportedly called on him to halt, but he ignored their calls and continued into Gaza. Mengistu, who has reportedly suffered from mental health issues and may have been drinking on the day of his disappearance, has not been heard from since.

By any measure the two cases are radically different. Nonetheless, since the story went public, social media has been rife with people comparing Mengistu’s case with that of Shalit arguing that if the young Ethiopian-Israeli man was an Ashkenazi boy, the story wouldn’t have been kept under a gag order and the state would have done far more to bring him home.

This comparison ignores the fact that there was no way to keep the Shalit abduction under a gag order because he did not simply vanish into thin air after leaving his family home in Mitzpe Hila one day – he was taken in a highly-sophisticated cross border raid during which two other soldiers were killed. There could be no gag order on his abduction. Second, the comparison seems to also ignore just how hard it was to get Shalit back home, how long it took, how many protests there were across Israel, the vigil camp set up outside the Prime Minister’s house, the very public, very concerted effort his father Noam led, not resting until his son was released. This was not a matter of the country realizing they lost a nice Ashkenazi kid and overnight deciding they had to get him back at any cost because his family roots were in Europe. It was a painful, drawn-out affair that was deeply traumatic to Israeli society, and probably the biggest news story of the entire five years he was in captivity.

Furthermore, if Shalit – as an Ashkenazi from the right type of family – was so valuable because of his ethnicity, then surely those commanders responsible for losing him to Hamas captivity in Gaza despite Shin Bet warnings of a pending attack must have paid a price right? Let’s see – then commander of the Gaza division, Aviv Kochavi, was later promoted to head Military Intelligence, and then GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant was later nominated as IDF Chief of Staff (though it was later withdrawn) and eventually became minister of housing. Neither of the two paid any price for the loss of a sacred white boy.

Another comparison that’s been made by some was to the story of Elhanan Tenenbaum, the (Ashkenazi) Israeli businessman and colonel in the IDF reserves who was kidnapped by Hezbollah in Dubai in 2000 after he traveled there for a drug deal. While it’s true he also traveled on his own volition like Mengistu, Tenenbaum was still in captivity for more than three years before he was returned in a painful prisoner exchange (along with the bodies of three IDF soldiers killed in a Hezbollah ambush at Har Dov in 2000), even though he was a colonel in the Northern Command and privy to secrets of great value to Hezbollah. It may also be obvious that when it was revealed he traveled to Dubai for a drug deal the Israeli public was furious and he has remained something of a pariah ever since.

Mengistu and the unnamed Beduin who crossed the fence months ago aren’t the only two Israelis in Gaza whose whereabouts are unknown. Hamas still holds the remains of soldiers Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul and 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, and as far as the public knows, no progress has been achieved returning them home.

If we’re still looking at the issue of ethnicity, Goldin’s fate does not seem to have been helped by him being Ashkenazi, or even by the fact that he’s a direct relative of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

Perhaps most importantly though, any comparison to Shalit is problematic no matter the circumstances, because after the Shalit deal and the extreme price Israel paid to bring him home, the public and especially the political leadership have adopted a significantly more hardline stance on such exchanges. That’s not to say that another painful exchange is unthinkable, but any that follow the Shalit deal, no matter if they involve Ashkenazi soldiers or not, will be far more difficult for this country to stomach, especially if the Israeli they are negotiating for went willingly into the arms of his captors.

The gag order is a symptom of this reluctance for another painful prisoner exchange. With Mengistu’s status kept under  wraps, there is no public or media pressure to force a deal, and Hamas loses a great deal of their bargaining power in any potential exchange. With the gag order lifted, that equation changes.

One can easily understand the anger Ethiopian-Israelis feel about this story and the widespread assumption that if Mengistu was white, things would have played out differently. I don’t think you can blame them for feeling that way. Also, I think it’s quite likely that Lotan would have adopted a different tone with a “veteran Israeli” family, especially one with a serious security background. Nonetheless, by taking a step back and looking at the specifics of this story, one can tell that while racism, like in every story, plays some role, it is not the major defining factor in the fate of Avera Mengistu.

Not our boys

It’s a common refrain any time there’s a mass shooting in the US, which are almost always carried out by white men. The killer – if it’s a white man – must be mentally deranged, possibly even under the influence of harmful medication, something, anything that could explain cold-blooded cruelty on that level.

Yosef Ben David, chief suspect  in the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir.

Yosef Ben David, chief suspect in the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir.

This refrain has been repeated this week, ever since Dylann Roof walked into an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina and shot dead 9 congregants last Wednesday night. He was initially described by pundits and politicians as possibly mentally disturbed, with Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry surmising that he may have been under the effect of dangerous prescription medication.

The narrative lasted even though a witness who Roof let live “to tell the world what happened here” said he told her he was carrying out the massacre because black people “are taking over the US”. The narrative was only retired after more photos emerged showing him holding a pistol and a confederate flag, as well as racist and anti-Semitic writings online which he reportedly authored.

Like after previous mass murders, people on Twitter and elsewhere drew comparisons, asking why is it that white killers are called “mentally disturbed” and Muslim killers are called “terrorists”.

Closer to home, the debate made me think of a brutal crime in this parts a year ago. Though it wasn’t a mass killing, the lynching of 16-year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir last summer, kidnapped and burned alive in a Jerusalem forest, showed a rare level of human depravity.

In late-July 2014, the three main suspects in the killing were brought for an arraignment, with the main suspect Yoseph Ben David saying “I am the messiah” as he entered the courtroom. It was an opening shot in his ploy to plead insanity, which was not accepted pre-trial.

I thought of Ben David again this week after Charleston. Like with Dylann Roof, there were also voices in Israel saying that the cause must be mental illness. Initially after the kidnapping and murder, there was disbelief that a Jew could be capable of such a crime, and the claim that Abu Khdeir was murdered by his family in some sort of “honor killing” began to circulate. Finally, after the gag order was lifted and the arrests announced, the argument that Ben David was mentally disturbed first began to surface.

This is despite the fact that the crime was, according to the indictment, well planned out ahead of time. This is also despite the fact that Ben David testified to investigators that with every blow with the tire iron, he called out the name of a terror victim, very clearly saying on record that his motivation was revenge, and the crime nationalist.

The tendency to claim mental illness in these cases is problematic not only because of the double standard or because it in some way smears or detracts from those who are legitimately mentally ill. It also serves as a distraction, to keep us from talking about the wider societal flaws that influence these actions.

If Dylann Roof is simply a mentally-deranged man it means Americans don’t have to look at the centuries of racism in their country and the legacy of racist domestic terrorism meant to disenfranchise and tyrannize blacks. It means maybe there’s no need to examine the uptick in racist rhetoric in the years since the US elected a black president, the cult of neo-confederate and white supremacist ideology to which an untold number of angry and violent white men (and women) belong, and the lack of any sensible gun control policies in America.

The same goes for Israel. When people describe Ben-David and his ilk (like those who torch churches and mosques) as mentally deranged, then a societal problem becomes a personal one. It allows us to avoid closely examining the rising nationalist currents in Israeli society in recent years and see the murder as a one-off event, a strange and unexplainable act of homicidal violence by a Jew, an exception that proves the rule that such acts of violence are the provenance of Arabs, not of our boys.

It allows us to avoid talking about whether or not national policies have played a role, even if indirectly. It means there’s no reason to ask whether or legislation like the “Jewish State Bill” afford a sort of inferior status to non-Jews, because Ben-David is insane, and there’s nothing to be done.

The way these tropes persist shows a sort of cognitive dissonance and a desire to not see our society for its ills. They also seem to discount the very real hatred and violence that have defined so much of our histories. Even after more than four centuries of racial strife and terrorism against black people in America, it still took convincing and the unearthing of manifestos written online by Roof to reach a consensus of sorts on Roof’s motivations. In the case of Ben-David, even after more than a century of Jewish-Arab violence, there were still those willing to believe that Ben-David acted due to mental illness and not because he is a player in one of the world’s bloodiest and most intractable conflicts.

It should be noted that the vast majority of terrorism between the River and the Sea is committed by Palestinians, not by Jews, and the role this disparity plays in forming the belief that the Jewish suspect may be mentally disturbed.

Nonetheless, when Israeli Jews cry mental illness and ignore the political and racial motivators, they avoid looking the cause in the eye and acknowledging the very real and volatile hatred and violence that is part of their society. When they say it can’t be one of our boys, they only increase the likelihood that another one of their boys will do the unthinkable.

Not ‘Israel’s Baltimore’, but real cause for concern

Suddenly, a whole lot of people in Israel are talking about Baltimore.

Police detain an Ethiopian-Israeli man inside City Hall during the riot on May 3rd in Tel Aviv. (Ben Hartman)

Police detain an Ethiopian-Israeli man inside City Hall during the riot on May 3rd in Tel Aviv. (Ben Hartman)

The city has become a buzzword in Israel for riots and protests against police brutality and racism. Coinciding with the publication of a video of an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier being beaten by police, the images of riot cops clashing with protesters and row houses in flames became a symbol to many of what could happen in Israel if the situation spun out of control, if years of frustration in the Ethiopian community were somehow sparked.

At the moment, that seems a far way off. As jarring as the riot in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square was Sunday night, it was a far cry from the riots in Baltimore and a series of other US cities in the past couple of years.

For one, the violence of the protesters was focused squarely on police, with most of the vandalism targeting police as well. We may yet see the day when a violent incident sparks a riot in which Ethiopian Israelis set fire to buildings in their own neighborhoods and fistfight in the streets with white Israelis, but that’s not the case here – and as bad as it was, Sunday night wasn’t Baltimore 2.0.

Still, there’s reason for concern, and one only needs to walk around with their eyes open on a day like Sunday.

An Ethiopian-Israeli mother who wouldn’t give her name stood at Rabin Square before the riot started Sunday night, holding a picture of her son, a young man she said was beaten by police. Hours earlier on the Ayalon Freeway, a group of protesters wore shirts and carried a sign in memory of Yosef Salamsa , an Ethiopian Israeli who is believed to have killed himself earlier this year after alleged abuse by police.

They’re just two out of an unknown number of Ethiopian-Israeli men who have allegedly been abused by Israeli police, a phenomenon that was largely unknown to the wider Israeli public before this past week.

As the dust settled on Rabin Square on Monday, police were preparing for a meeting by a task force formed last week to examine issues involving police and the Ethiopian community. They had vowed to reexamine cases involving allegations of police brutality or Ethiopians accused of assaulting police, but following last night’s events, it’s safe to assume there will be a different tone to the task force’s meetings – which will now be tinged with more mutual suspicion and anger on both sides about Sunday night’s events.

Moving forward, police will have to examine ways to repair ties with a community whose younger generation sees them largely as an adversary that is not looking to protect and serve them. It might not be that much easier with a lot of the older generation, many of whom have heard stories from their children of abuse at the hands of police.

One suggestion will almost certainly be an increased recruitment of Ethiopian police officers. Anyone who has been at a protest in Israel before knows there is already no shortage of Ethiopian Israelis in the Border Patrol or YASSAM units of the Israel Police, but having them in higher numbers on patrol and narcotics and detective units could be a positive step.

Either way, I would not envy the police officers tasked with increasing recruitment among Ethiopian youth, as they’re now the ones rioting against them and the institution in solidarity with Damas Pakedeh, the young IDF soldier shown on tape being beaten by police officers in Holon.

On a certain level, the issue goes beyond racism. It deals partly with the way that, in Israel and many other places, those who are vulnerable or lack connections are more likely to be abused.

If you are on the margins of society or not part of the elite, you are likely to not have the same level of protection from abuse by the authorities; if you live in a poor, neglected neighborhood, it can be easier for law enforcement and other authorities of the state to be dismissive of you. As bad as police brutality towards minorities is, it’s usually just a symptom of a wider series of social failings.

One thing’s for sure, if you are a young Ethiopian Israeli in a neighborhood like Jesse Cohen in Holon, you’d better hope there are cameras nearby if you’re in an altercation with police. A non-Ethiopian Israeli will also find it’s nothing but their word against that of the cops if the incident isn’t on tape, but if you ask most Ethiopian Israelis, they’ll say it’s a whole different ballgame for members of their community.

Moving forward, after the smoke clears from the “Battle of Rabin Square,” there’s a good chance that Yosef and the son of the woman in the square will take a backseat as the debate goes forward, focusing largely on the violence of protesters Sunday night.
That would be a shame, because as violent as protesters were towards police – who largely showed restraint for most of the day – the grievances are very real, and almost every Ethiopian Israeli will tell you they know someone who was abused by police, if they weren’t themselves victims.

And here’s another thing that should be said: Time and again, when people talk about police brutality suffered by Ethiopian Israelis, they mention how the victim was a soldier – how he served his country in Gaza, how he was a paratrooper, a Golanchik, a fighter and a patriot who put his life on the line and deserves better. They’re right, but they’re missing the point.

Freddie Gray wasn’t a combat veteran, and he was no angel in the years before the Baltimore police killed him. He had a rap sheet, but it shouldn’t matter – not in Maryland, and not in Israel. Even if you’re a petty criminal, a knucklehead who dropped out of high school and smokes weed every day, a kid who can’t hold his liquor and runs his mouth too much, or a screw-up the army threw in jail and kicked out of the service, you still deserve respect.

You don’t deserve to lose your dignity or your life. That’s what justice means.