Israeli wedding party celebrates Dawabsheh killings

Video of Israeli wedding-goers dancing with guns as one stabs a photo of a killed Palestinian toddler sparks outrage.

Dawabsheh family
Israeli settlers have been arrested but not charged in the case of a Palestinian family burned alive [File: Getty Images]

A video of Israeli Orthodox Jewish wedding-goers celebrating the killing of a Palestinian toddler has prompted strong condemnation. 

Aired on Wednesday night by Israel’s Channel 10, the footage was filmed three weeks ago and depicts Israeli youth dancing with guns and knives during a wedding party in Jerusalem. 

A masked youth is seen raising a firebomb, while another young man repeatedly stabs a photo of Ali Dawabsheh, an 18-month-old Palestinian toddler who was killed in an arson attack carried out by Israeli settlers in July. 

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That arson attack took place when settlers torched the Dawabsheh family home in the occupied West Bank village of Duma and killed Ali and his parents, Saad and Reham. The couple’s four-year-old son, who was severely burned, is the only survivor of the attack.

Although Israeli police have arrested a number of settlers in connection with the killings, no one has been charged yet. 

At certain points in the film, military-grade rifles and pistols are passed from person-to-person, including to children. Channel 10’s report says the weapons were issued to the settlers by the Israeli army. 

“Let me with one blow get revenge on Palestine for my two eyes,” they sing, slightly changing a Biblical verse, reports the Times of Israel news site. 

The report also notes that the bride and groom of the wedding are well-known as hardline right-wing activists and were close with suspects in the fatal Dawabsheh arson case, as reported by the Israeli daily Haaretz. 

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Israeli politicians were quick to condemn the wedding attendees, while many Palestinian and Israeli rights groups argue that Israeli leaders’ incitement and policies are responsible for such groups. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose ultra-nationalist Likud party supports the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, said the “shocking pictures” show  “the real face of a group that poses danger to Israeli society and security”. 

Isaac Herzog, leader of the Zionist Union electoral coalition, accused the wedding attendees of having “forgotten what it is to be Jews”. 

“Whoever dances at a wedding and celebrates the murder of a sleeping baby is not Jewish and not Israeli. He should be put behind bars as quickly as possible,” Herzog wrote on Twitter. 

‘Structural violence’

Israeli Agricultural Minister Uri Ariel, an outspoken supporter of the settler movement and a member of the expansionist Jewish Home party, denounced the wedding-goers on Facebook. 

“The clip published by Channel 10 news this evening is shocking and one cannot allow the activity of radical groups fueled by hate,” he wrote on Wednesday night, arguing that the people in the video do not represent “the settler movement”. 

Steven Beck, international relations director at the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, said that rising tensions in recent months have been accompanied by “shocking rhetoric”.

“The words of political leaders and settler leaders, as well as the silence of others who should be speaking out against this sort of incitement, actually play a role in the current tensions,” he told Al Jazeera. 

More than 547,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements that weave throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, according to the Israeli rights group B’Tselem. 

Ramy Abdu, director of the Gaza chapter of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, pointed out that the Israeli government subsidises settlements and provides settlers with military protection. 

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“The settlers are merely part of a system that promotes structural violence against Palestinians,” Abdu told Al Jazeera. “The Israeli government is only outraged because settlers are showing off and celebrating their happiness about the crimes they do with the [government’s] direct or indirect encouragement.” 

A report published by the rights group Yesh Din in October paints a picture of impunity amid growing settler violence.  

At least 91.6 percent of investigation files were closed without an indictment being served, while the number of violent attacks carried out by settlers doubled between August 2014 and August 2015. 

“Israeli leaders condemn [settlers’] crimes as part of a propaganda push, but in reality settlers are given a free hand to commit any crimes they want against Palestinians,” Abdu said.

On Thursday morning, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed a law to further entrench governmental support for Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank. 

Yousef Jabareen, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and a lawmaker in the Knesset, dismissed Israeli leaders’ condemnation of the wedding video as “lip service”. 

These extremist activities are the natural fruit of occupation's poisoned tree

by Yousef Jabareen, Palestinian legislator in Israeli Knesset

“Meanwhile, they continue to support settler groups and provide them with financial and logistical backing” he told Al Jazeera. 

“These extremist activities are the natural fruit of occupation’s poisoned tree,” Jabareen said. “Israeli leaders cannot continue to control the lives of millions of Palestinians and deprive them of basic rights and speak of moral behaviour.” 

Nadim Nashif, director of Baladna, a Haifa-based Palestinian rights group, said the wedding video depicts “a different arm” of Israel’s occupation. “Sometimes the Israeli leaders openly support the support, then sometimes they try to hide their support when it looks too bad,” he told Al Jazeera. 

On Saturday, dozens of right-wing Israelis marched through the streets of Jerusalem to protest the detention of suspects in relation to the Dawabsheh killings, according to local media.  

“We aren’t really surprised by this [wedding] video,” he said. “We have seen this [behaviour] before. Clearly, there are ideological people [in Israel] who are happy to kill and burn children.” 

Follow Patrick Strickland on Twitter: @P_Strickland_

Source: Al Jazeera