(JTA) – As thousands took part in protests Saturday night against violence and homophobia, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin warned against a wave of hatred “spreading throughout the land.”
Speaking at a rally in Jerusalem – others were held in Tel Aviv and Haifa – Rivlin said that Israel could no longer afford to downplay violent attacks carried out by Jews. The rallies were organized in response to a stabbing attack Thursday at Jerusalem’s annual gay pride parade and a subsequent arson attack against a Palestinian home in the West Bank that left 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha dead and his family members battling for their lives.
“Citizens of Israel, a Jewish and democratic Israel, democratic and Jewish Israel, needs a wake-up call today,” Rivlin said.
“These flames, which are consuming all of us, cannot be extinguished with weak condemnations [by politicians]. These flames cannot be extinguished with solidarity rallies; not even with this rally. These flames cannot be extinguished with posts on Facebook and statements in the media. These flames cannot be extinguished with repression, denial and disregard. Incitement, ridicule, frivolity, laxity and arrogance of the heart cannot extinguish the fire, but only allow it to burn stronger, with fervor, to spread in all directions, and permeate all walks of life,” Rivlin said. “We must be thorough and clear; from the educational system, to those who enforce the law, through to the leadership of the people and the country. We must put out the flames, the incitement, before they destroy us all.”
News media quoted Israel’s Channel 10 on Saturday night as saying that authorities suspect the arson attack was carried out by two settlers from an illegal outpost in the east Shiloh area of the West Bank. The outpost is near the Palestinian village of Duma, where the attack took place.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders have also strongly condemned the attacks and promised stepped-up action against incitement and violence carried out by Jews.
Civil rights groups and many Israel leaders are saying too little has been done until now to confront Jewish extremists.