Pride and prejudice in the Holy Land

By Khaled Diab

The rise in violent Jewish extremism shows how safeguarding only for a minority is leading to a situation of injustice for the majority.

Monday 3 August 2015

We had intended to join 's annual gay pride parade, but my son and his new friend had other ideas. They were having too much fun playing on the grass in the park where the march was due to start.

Sadly, rather than pride and , prejudice and hate won the day. Yishai Schlissel, a Jewish religious extremist, stabbed six people participating in the march. The Haredi fanatic had a history of committing hate crimes and had only recently been released from prison for a similar attack on the pride parade in 2005.

“We must ensure that in Israel, every man and woman lives in security in any way they choose,” said Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, despite the active efforts of his far-right coalitions to undermine said security and demonise leftists and progressives.

While our children played, we discussed the sad but uplifting story of another child. In 2005, Ahmed Khatib, a 12-year-old from Jenin, was shot by an Israeli soldier who mistook the toy gun in his hand for a real one.

When Ahmed died in hospital, his parents did not succumb to bitterness and hate and decided that their son's death should bring life and hope to others. Four Jews and two Arabs received his organs. “Six now have a part of a Palestinian in them, and maybe he is still alive in them,” Ahmed's grieving father said at the time. “Children have nothing to do with this .”

Despite these praiseworthy words, children on both side of the divide are, sadly, caught in the crossfire of this bitter, generations-old conflict. The latest example of this occurred shortly after the attacks at the parade.

Not so far away, a group of Israeli firebombed two homes in the Palestinian village of Doma, near Nablus. The attack killed Ali Saad Dawabsha, a toddler aged just 18 months, and injured his four-year-old brother and parents, as well as a neighbour.

“This attack against civilians is nothing short of a barbaric act of ,” said Israeli army spokesperson Peter Lerner. “A comprehensive investigation is underway in order to find the terrorists and bring them to justice.”

While the Israeli military's condemnation and its willingness to describe the attack as an “act of terrorism” is welcome, it is Israel's longstanding inaction against settler violence, and its facilitation of the settlement enterprise, that has bred a toxic atmosphere of impunity amongst radical settlers and what many describe as the Wild West Bank mentality.

The consequences of this attack are difficult to gauge. If the summer of 2014 is any indication, this could easily and rapidly spread and become a wild fire, especially since little to nothing has shifted fundamentally since last year's eruption of violence and protest. And the widespread protest and clashes at the weekend suggest that the situation is heating up fast.

If the Israeli authorities take prompt action to bring the perpetrators to justice, as Lerner claimed they would do, then the escalation of the situation can be arrested… at least for the time being.

But that, in and of itself, will not be enough. Wider justice also needs to be set in motion. With the occupation unlikely to end anytime in the foreseeable future, Israel needs to stop living by two laws: one for Israelis and the other for .

Martial law must end in the West Bank, and all Israelis and Palestinians must be held to the same legal standards and enjoy the same legal rights. This is not only good for Palestinians, it is also essential for Israelis.

The dual legal system has helped create a mentality of superiority and even supremacy among many Israelis in the West Bank and Jerusalem. At first, the victims of this were overwhelmingly Palestinians but Jews are increasingly falling victim to this sense of exceptionalism felt by the Israeli far-right, as reflected in the growing phenomenon of price tagging and hate crimes targeted at leftist Jews, peace activists and those who are different.

Safeguarding justice only for a minority will eventually lead to a situation of injustice for the majority.


Follow Khaled Diab on Twitter.

This article first appeared in Italian in Corriere della Sera on 1 August 2015.


  • Khaled Diab

    Khaled Diab is an award-winning journalist, blogger and writer who has been based in Tunis, Jerusalem, Brussels, Geneva and Cairo. Khaled also gives talks and is regularly interviewed by the print and audiovisual media. Khaled Diab is the author of two books: Islam for the Politically Incorrect (2017) and Intimate Enemies: Living with Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land (2014). In 2014, the Anna Lindh Foundation awarded Khaled its Mediterranean Journalist Award in the press category. This website, The Chronikler, won the 2012 Best of the Blogs (BOBs) for the best English-language blog. Khaled was longlisted for the Orwell journalism prize in 2020. In addition, Khaled works as communications director for an environmental NGO based in Brussels. He has also worked as a communications consultant to intergovernmental organisations, such as the EU and the UN, as well as civil . Khaled lives with his beautiful and brilliant wife, Katleen, who works in humanitarian aid. The foursome is completed by Iskander, their smart, creative and artistic son, and Sky, their mischievous and footballing cat. Egyptian by birth, Khaled's life has been divided between the Middle East and Europe. He grew up in Egypt and the UK, and has lived in Belgium, on and off, since 2001. He holds dual Egyptian-Belgian nationality.

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One thought on “Pride and prejudice in the Holy Land

  • Apartheid is non democratic and in a non democracy right wing (or left wing) extremists can cause havoc, as we saw in Europe in the last century. What has been happening in Israel since 1967 and in particular since PM Netanyahu and his right wing (now extreme…) governments have taken over, the situation is deteriorating, with Ministers threatening to flatten the building of the high court, to silence any cultural criticism, to introduce mandatory “Jewish Education” (The chosen people in th promised land) and the introduction of undemocratic laws, Israel is slowly but surreely turning into a racial theocracy and forgetting the adjective democracy.


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