The Israeli “Rittenhouse” Case
On 23 November, the Knesset held a meeting to discuss how to deal with what can, perhaps, be a kind of Israeli “Kyle Rittenhouse” case. The Israeli case involves a suspect who has been tried and found guilty in all the social and conventional media sites without trial in a court of law. Given the experience of the real Rittenhouse case, perhaps Israel can learn something.
The American Rittenhouse Case
In her article, Bari Weiss suggested that those who followed only “the mainstream media and sitting members of Congress” who were pushing “an expedient political narrative” would likely be surprised by the verdict rendered by the jury. Eighteen-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty for all the serious charges against him. The media had spent a year trying to paint him as a white supremacist who had set out to deliberately kill innocent people. Weiss shows readers the mendacity behind all the supposed “facts” about the case as pushed by the media.
Matt Taibbi and Matt Orfalea, also writing about this case, concurred with this:
Colleagues in national media spent over a year telling the country the 18-year-old was not just guilty, but a moral monster whose acquittal would be an in-your-face affirmation of systemic white supremacy.
Trial by media has become a real scourge in society and it is lucky that some juries, such as the Rittenhouse jury, are able to set aside the cries of the masses demanding conviction and decide a case based on the arguments and evidence put forward in the courtroom. Fear of retaliation for bringing in the “wrong” verdict was very real here, but facts prevailed over emotions.
The Israeli “Rittenhouse” Case
In Israel, we have our very own “Kyle Rittenhouse” case whereby the media and our elected representatives in the Knesset named the suspect based on social media posts and deemed him guilty without waiting for any investigation to take place. Only one day after a particularly vicious attack, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid expressed disdain for the villain. Gantz is perpetually campaigning to clip the wings of the suspect, a perpetrator he feels needs to be vanquished by edicts, and he is providing funds to those campaigning against the accused because this violent offender is apparently not one that can be taken to court.
The Israeli “Kyle Rittenhouse” is the Jewish settler movement in Judea and Samaria. Only one day after the Simchat Torah event on 28 September 2021, certainly not enough time to have been appraised of the results of an investigation into what really happened (if such an investigation was actually carried out), Lapid provided this response to the news in a tweet:
This violent incident is horrific and it is terror. . . This isn’t the Israeli way and it isn’t the Jewish way. This is a violent and dangerous fringe and we have a responsibility to bring them to justice.
Early the following week, I published an article that provided an alternative version of the story, one in which the Jews were defending themselves from attack, similar to Rittenhouse, and not the initiators. There was only one other article, in Hebrew, that also suggested that the B’Tselem version of events is not necessarily true. If one really wants to know what happened on that violent day, one needs to conduct a thorough criminal investigation with professionals who are trained to do so.
Since that time, I have been exploring other incidents that have taken place in Judea and Samaria and I am very troubled to find that regardless of the event, the Arab narratives are adopted by Israeli media and leadership as if they are absolutely true. We read on the social media and in various op-eds about the monster settlers, the settlers who set out unprovoked to assault Palestinian Arabs who are just minding their own business while going about their daily lives. Some of these incidents have even been referred to as a pogrom that Jews committed against the Arabs; some say it was a form of entertainment for the settlers.
And there has generally been no challenge to this narrative. Until recently, that is. I showed the planning and premeditation of attacks against Jewish residents in Judea and Samaria that were then blamed on the Jews (here and here) and deliberate manipulation of the press by a well-known anti-Israeli agitator who faked having been hit by a settler. And just yesterday a new report came out in which a supposedly innocent Arab “victim” of Jewish settler violence turned out to be a convicted terrorist and the group of Arabs were shown to have attacked the Jews and not the other way around.
A Political Impossibility
I would have expected Lapid, Gantz and leaders in the police and IDF to say something to the effect of “if Jews were responsible for such horrid violence, they will be punished by law, but judgement must be reserved until after investigations will have been completed.” For some reason such an utterance seems to be a political impossibility.
Weiss concludes her article with the following statement that I edited to reflect our Israeli reality (my editorial changes are in square brackets):
To acknowledge the facts of what happened [during violent incidents] is not political. It is simply to acknowledge reality. It is to say that facts are still facts and that lies are lies. It is to insist that [social or mainstream media] justice is not justice. It is to say that media consensus is not the equivalent of due process. And that pretending otherwise for the sake of political expediency is why [the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, of Acco, Lod and other mixed cities, are] bracing for violence once again in the anticipation [of being accused of being extremist violent offenders without their own versions having been sought and heard].
In view of the social media trial-and-conviction of the Jewish settler movement, I would like to see an open courtroom trial against it, the Israeli “Kyle Rittenhouse”. With me referring to the settler movement as “Rittenhouse” you know my bias regarding the outcome I expect of such a trial. But evidence presented in court is not dependent upon my personal biases and if I prove to be mistaken, I will not hesitate to write an article about that as well.
This is a slightly modified version of an op-ed that first appeared in World Israel News on 24 November 2021.