Israeli Terrorists, Born in the U.S.A. - The New York Times
By SARA YAEL HIRSCHHORNSEPT. 4, 2015
Jerusalem — ON July 31, in the West Bank village of Duma, 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh was burned alive in a fire. All available evidence suggests that the blaze was a deliberate act of settler terrorism. More disturbingly, several of the alleged instigators, currently being detained indefinitely, are not native-born Israelis — they have American roots.
But there has been little outcry in their communities. Settler rabbis and the leaders of American immigrant communities in the West Bank have either played down their crime or offered muted criticism.
It’s worth recalling the response of the former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to another heinous attack two decades ago, when an American-born doctor, Baruch Goldstein, gunned down dozens of Palestinians while they prayed in Hebron.
“He grew in a swamp whose murderous sources are found here, and across the sea; they are foreign to Judaism, they are not ours,” thundered Mr. Rabin before the Knesset in February 1994. “You are a foreign implant. You are an errant weed. Sensible Judaism spits you out.”
The shocking 1994 massacre was, at the time, the bloodiest outbreak of settler terrorism Israelis and Palestinians had ever seen. Less than two years later, Mr. Rabin himself would be dead, felled by an ultranationalist assassin’s bullet.
Suddenly, a group of American Jewish immigrants that had existed on the fringes of society became a national pariah. A former president of Israel, Chaim Herzog, labeled the United States “a breeding ground” for Jewish terror; the daily newspaper Maariv castigated American Jews who “send their lunatic children to Israel.” One Israeli journalist even demanded “operative steps against the Goldsteins of tomorrow” by banning the immigration of militant American Jews.
But tomorrow has arrived.
After years of impunity for settlers who commit violent crimes, Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, has now supposedly cracked down by rounding up a grand total of four youths believed to be connected to recent acts of settler terrorism — three of whom trace their origins to the United States.
The agency’s “most wanted” Jewish extremist is 24-year-old Meir Ettinger, who has an august pedigree in racist and violent circles. He is a grandson of Meir Kahane, a radical American rabbi who in 1971 immigrated to Israel, established the Kach party and served as its lone Knesset member until it was banned in 1988. (Kahane was assassinated in New York in 1990, but his career laid the groundwork for ultranationalist and antidemocratic parties in Israel.)
Another is Mordechai Meyer, 18, from the settlement of Maale Adumim outside Jerusalem. He is the son of American immigrants who claimed he simply wanted to study the Torah and have an adventure in the West Bank. Another American settler, Ephraim Khantsis, was detained for threatening Shin Bet agents in court. The fourth, Eviatar Slonim, is the child of Australian Jews.
Mr. Ettinger, Mr. Meyer and Mr. Khantsis join a long list of settler extremists with American roots. A Brooklyn-born settler, Era Rapaport, played a prominent role in the car-bombing of the mayor of Nablus in 1980. In 1982, a Baltimore transplant, Alan Goodman, opened fire at the Dome of the Rock, killing two Palestinians and wounding 11. That same year, a former Brooklynite, Yoel Lerner, was jailed for leading a movement to overthrow the Israeli government and blow up the Temple Mount.
These days, rabbis like the St. Louis-born Yitzhak Ginsburg, who heads a yeshiva in the radical settlement of Yizhar, are inculcating the next generation.
Today, according to American government sources and several other studies, an estimated 12 to 15 percent of settlers (approximately 60,000 people) hail from the United States. This disproportionately large American contingent — relative to the total number of American-Israelis — has joined secular, religious and ultra-Orthodox Israelis, and other more recent immigrants. Few of them live in extremist hilltop outposts; a majority live in suburbanized settlements near Jerusalem, but they are considered among the most highly ideological.
RATHER than quoting the Bible or rhapsodizing about a messianic vision, they tend to describe their activities in the language of American values and idealism — as an opportunity to defend human rights and live in the “whole land of Israel” — often over a cup of Starbucks coffee in their boxy aluminum prefab houses or in the mansions of settlement suburbia. To them, living in the West Bank is pioneering on the new frontier; it’s merely an inconvenience that they’re often staking their claims on private Palestinian land. And for a fanatical fringe among them, this Wild West analogy has extended to indiscriminate violence.