The Meaning of the Jerusalem Lynching

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Some thoughts from Daniel Seidemann, who knows more about the demographics, politics and sociology of Jerusalem than just about anyone. I don't always agree with him, but he knows his city. He sent these notes below to me in response to my post yesterday on the Jerusalem lynching (and he wanted me to note, in the interest of fairness, that, Prime Minister Netanyahu has just condemned the attack):

This has not ceased being the lead item in the printed and electronic press. With much of the editorial judgments commercially driven, and the IBA subject to governmental pressure, this wouldn't be happening if the editors did not believe this genuinely concerns a large chunk of the public. I think they are right.

 A lot of Israeli denial is based on the fact that these things happen "there", in the West Bank, not "here." And stuff like this does happen in Hebron and East Jerusalem (not all the time, but not rarely), and receives little coverage outside the media of the ideological left. (Look at Youtube on the abuse of Palestinian kids by soldiers and plainclothesman in Hebron just over the last couple of months). But there is nowhere in Jerusalem that is more "here" than Kikar Tziyon (Zion Square), and the comfort zone is narrowing. We may be witnessing the Hebronization of Jerusalem

3. Israelis are laboring under a lot of anxiety this summer, some over Iran, some over Bibi and Barak, and I would guess that there is a plurality a bit spooked by both. And then there is the turmoil on our northern and southern borders, and an economic crunch already felt and getting worse. I think that patience among many Israelis (who don't need superfluous worries) about settler violence is wearing thin.

4. Things might be best summed up by taking a hard look at the public pronouncements of three prominent figures on this: Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, condemned "any expression of violence, both verbal or physical, by any party," turning both victims and perps into faceless, odorless, colorless, tasteless entities. He's got elections in a year, and will need the support even of the radical right.

Netanyahu called Abbas and expressed concern over the fire-bombing in the WB, not the assault in Jerusalem. To do so would be to imply that Abbas had some kind of tie to the Palestinians of East Jerusalem. Nosiree sir, not for him to imply a divided Jerusalem.

And then there was Deputy Prime Minister Bogie Yaalon. I never have had much admiration for Yaalon, the politician. Watching him, this secular former kibbutznik,  pander much more than he would like to the settlers makes me squirm. And he condemned the attack in no uncertain terms, as "hate crime" and terror.

First, this is a game-changer in terms of the discourse. It's not only the "Arabists" at State that call this terror, this is from our Deputy prime minister, who is not about to get a prize from B'Tselem (Israel's most prominent human rights group).

Second, I don't think he was putting his ear to ground and listening to public opinion. He will be standing in Likud primaries some time soon, and he probably caused himself electoral damage by this statement, and did it with open eyes. And he did it because in spite of his move to the right, because this violates his values, and worries him. My guess is he is not alone.

Finally - as to the backgrounds of the attackers: not clear yet. The reports from the courts were "kids with no prior criminal records", but also haven't heard the euphemistic "...from normative backgrounds".

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/08/the-meaning-of-the-jerusalem-lynching/261366/