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US Ambassador to Israel Blasts ‘Legal Double Standard’ in Occupied Palestine

Daniel Shapiro, US ambassador to Israel (Photo: US Embassy, Tel Aviv)

Daniel Shapiro, US ambassador to Israel (Photo: US Embassy, Tel Aviv)

The US ambassador to Israel has sparked outrage and recrimination in the Jewish state after accusing its officials of having two standards of law and justice—one for Jews, the other for Palestinians—in the occupied West Bank.

Speaking on Monday at a Tel Aviv conference organized by the Institute for National Security Studies, Ambassador Daniel Shapiro, who is Jewish, blasted the Israeli legal system for its unequal treatment of Jews and Palestinians in the territory occupied illegally by Israel since 1967.

“Too many attacks on Palestinians lack a vigorous investigation or response by Israeli authorities,” said Shapiro, a reference to so-called “price tag” attacks by Jewish colonists against the indigenous Palestinian population that some prominent international observers have called the spear-tip of Israeli ethnic cleansing. “Too much vigilantism goes unchecked. And at times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law—one for Israelis and another for Palestinians.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded quickly and sharply to Shapiro’s comments. The Jerusalem Post reports Netanyahu’s office called them “unacceptable and wrong,” especially coming on the same day as the funeral of Dafna Meir, a Jewish mother of six stabbed to death in front of her children in their home in the illegal West Bank settlement of Otniel. A pregnant Israeli woman was also stabbed in the illegal Tekoa settlement on Monday.

Other leading Israeli officials reacted even more pointedly to Shapiro’s remarks, with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked calling on Shapiro to recant his statement.

“We are being subjected to a terrorist onslaught that is simply unfamiliar to the US, and to pass judgment on us in such a one-sided manner is wrong,” Shaked—who in 2014 endorsed genocide against Palestinians in a Facebook post— told Army Radio. “It would be appropriate if [Shapiro] corrected himself, and I hope he does that.”

Shapiro was lambasted on Israeli television as well, with a former Netanyahu aide calling him yehudon, or “little Jew boy,” a slur often used by right-wing Israelis to disparage other Jews seen as insufficiently pro-Israel.

State Department spokesman John Kirby defended Shapiro’s remarks, calling them a reiteration of official US policy opposing additional Israeli settlement construction.

“Our long-standing position on settlements is clear. We view Israeli settlements activity as illegitimate and counterproductive to the cause of peace,” Kirby said following a meeting between Netanyahu and Shapiro meant to work out differences. “We remain deeply concerned about Israel’s current policy on settlements including construction, planning and retroactive legalizations.” Kirby added that the Obama administration is “deeply concerned” by Israeli policies and actions that seem to demonstrate a lack of commitment to a two-state solution.

Israeli “price tag” attacks have been included in the US State Department’s annual terrorism reports, along with attacks on Israelis committed by Palestinian militants. According to the 2014 report, “attacks by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian residents, property and places of worship in the West Bank continued and were largely unprosecuted. The United Nations… reported 399 attacks by extremist Israeli settlers that resulted in Palestinian injuries or property damage (in 2013).”

In one particularly barbaric “price tag” attack, 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsheh was burned alive when masked attackers firebombed his family home in the village of Duma in the occupied West Bank last July. Dawabsheh’s parents and 4-year-old brother were critically injured in the arson attack; his mother and father later died. A Star of David and the words “revenge” and “long live the Messiah” were painted on a wall near the family’s home.

Israeli authorities have arrested numerous suspects in connection with the Duma attack. Several of the young men are reportedly from Jewish American families who immigrated to Israel. One 17-year-old American Israeli, Elisha Odess of Tzufim settlement, confessed to involvement in the murders. However, his father claims the teen was tortured into confessing.

In addition to recognizing “price tag” attacks as terrorism, the State Department has also officially acknowledged that Israel discriminates against its Arab citizens, who make up a fifth of the Jewish state’s population.

“Terrorist attacks against civilians; institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens, in particular access to equal education and employment opportunities; societal discrimination and domestic violence against women; and the treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, and irregular migrants” were listed as the “most significant human rights problems” in Israel in the State Department’s 2014 report.

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