When thousands of a country’s citizens mourn and its leaders eulogize a man convicted of manslaughter, among other violent crimes, that country just might be incapable of righting itself.
Check out this headline, from Mondoweiss: Netanyahu eulogizes settler movement founder convicted of manslaughter.
And the headline doesn’t mislead. The article is about Rabbi Moshe Levinger, one of Israel’s first West Bank settlers. Here’s what the Rabbi stood for:
During the 1980s Levinger’s use of violence in building settlements caught the attention of the United Nations. In 1985 he went on a three-month armed vigilante patrol of a Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem. The United Nations documented Levinger, “provoked the inhabitants of the camp by firing at them and invading their homes,” and, “reportedly ran along the camp alleys, together with a guard, and both men fired into the air in an indiscriminate manner.” That same year Levinger broke into a Palestinian house in Hebron and assaulted a six-year old. Like many of his arrests that decade, he was given a suspended sentence.
Later in 1988 Levinger was convicted for killing Kayed Sallah, 42, an unarmed Palestinian in Hebron. Levinger told the court he fired shots in self-defense against rock-throwers, but claimed the death was caused by the Israeli army. Palestinian and military witnesses both disputed this. Levinger was then released on “good behavior” after a short 92 days sentence, wire agencies reported. At the time he showed little remorse.
“If I’m in a situation of danger again, I’ll again open fire,” wire agencies reported Levinger said to Israel radio. “I hope that next time, I will be more careful and I won’t miss the target.”
Levinger continued to be arrested for acts of violence and provocation into the late 1990s.
To put it in the parlance of modern-day American dog whistling, Rabbi Levinger was a thug.
And here’s how his recent death (at age 80) was received by Israel’s re-elected Prime Minister:
After his passing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded Levinger’s revitalization of the Jewish settlement of Hebron, one of the earliest outposts built in the occupied Palestinian territory after the June 1967 war.
And here’s Israel’s President heaping on the praise:
On Sunday Israeli President Reuven Rivlin traveled to Hebron to give an official eulogy to thousands of mourners. He said while Levinger was not a “man of consensus,” his ability to work across partisan divides to build the settlement movement made him one of Israel’s “most treasured sons.”
To be clear, the Rabbi did not serve in the military or otherwise serve his country with honor. All he was known for is engaging in violence in order to steal Palestinian land from Palestinians.
And, in his death, he’s regarded as a hero, but thousands, and eulogized by Israel’s leaders.