A Missing Culprit, but Culpability All Around
By Jay Michaelson - The JD Forward Published August 05, 2009, issue of August 14, 2009.
Here is how it happens. First, demagogues use incendiary rhetoric to inflame passions against a group or individual. Next, a “lone gunman” attacks the target(s) of that rhetoric. Then, the same demagogues who fanned the flames in the first place condemn the attack, express shock - shock! - that such a thing could ever have happened.
Most recently, of course, this pattern has unfolded in connection with the August 1 attack on a gay youth group in Tel Aviv. Leaders of the Shas party - who had denounced gay people for “carrying out the self-destruction of Israeli society and the Jewish people” (Knesset member Nissim Ze’ev), called them “toxic as bird flu” (same) and accused them of, get this, causing earthquakes (former health minister Shlomo Benizri) - are now bending over backwards to express how shocked they are that someone might take their words so seriously.
But we’ve been through this before, haven’t we? Ultra-conservative talk show hosts rail against an evil federal government, and then express shock that Timothy McVeigh would attack a federal building. Far-rightist Israelis denounce Yitzhak Rabin as a traitor who must be stopped, and then the leaders who whipped up their frenzy shed crocodile tears when someone “stops” him. It’s déjà vu all over again.
Now, there is one thing different about the Tel Aviv attack: We still don’t know who did it. The attacker may well have been from the Haredi community, like the man I watched stab three participants in the 2005 Jerusalem Pride Parade. But according to my gay friends in Israel, the word on the street is that it had to be someone who knew of this group, or may have even been part of it himself of herself - after all, it was in a relatively anonymous apartment house basement. Perhaps we’ll soon learn the truth.