The columnist Melanie Phillips has suggested that governments should fight anti-Israel hate and anti-Semitism through the adoption of the successful though controversial law enforcement strategy known as Broken Windows Policing (BWP).
BWP holds that the police should pay close attention to minor infractions that tend to be ignored or given low priority. Law-enforcement arrests and prosecutes the perpetrators, on the assumption that those who commit minor crimes are likely to commit more serious crimes.
Phillips makes a good case for a BWP attitude toward those who demonize the State of Israel and the Jewish people. She is likely correct that minor actions, often justified on free speech grounds, will lead to more serious and violent acts.
Call it the civilizational slippery slope.
It is ironic, then, that the Israeli government and its law enforcement authorities are, in many ways, breaking their own windows.
It is the government that now commits the “minor” infractions when it comes to the state’s need to assert sovereignty and project sovereign control. It is our own government that invites Palestinians and disloyal Israeli Arabs to go down the slippery slope of ever-increased demands, dissent and disregard for the situation here.
How does the government do this? By appearing to be empathetic, reasonable and opposed to provocation, they signal that having dispensed with the symbolic, it behooves our adversaries to press for more and more concrete concessions.
The refusal to sing “Hatikvah” at a university conclave is akin to fare-jumping in a subway station. To reroute parades or, still worse, prohibit flags to be paraded, is akin to a vandalized wall.
Why would those who hate us ever stop and say, “Well we got what we wanted, now let’s get with the program”? In a neighborhood with an Arab culture that is well attuned to the realities of power—who has it, who does not exercise it—reasonable gestures mean just one thing: he who makes the gesture is weak.
And weakness is to be exploited.
One need not be a statistician or a reporter to have a strong sense that social control has broken down in Israel. Brazen acts like rock-throwing, harassment of passengers on buses, and, of course, murderous terror attacks have become daily events.
The deadly riots in May of last year opened a huge scar of distrust and suspicion, as Arab neighbors took up arms against Jewish neighbors in a replay of the Hebron riots of 1929.
Why did these riots happen when they did? That their timing coincided with widespread rocket attacks by Hamas only added to the sense that a fifth column was at work, that these riots were intended to be a kind of Hamas on the home front.
Hamas had just declared victory by “defeating” the Jerusalem Day Flag March, which the government saw as yet another “provocation.” Might the rioters have sought to capitalize on an atmosphere of concessions, of turning the other cheek, as it were?
Sheikh Jarrah rioters succeeded in their campaign to intimidate the Supreme Court into its decision to let the squatters stay on, even when the law is clear that their presence is illegal. Every Jew here knows that, if the parties were reversed, the Jewish squatters would now be squatting in prison.
Where Israelis see reasonableness as an attempt to tamp down the flames, Palestinians and other Arabs see the concessions as another milestone victory, yet another stepping stone that is certain to lead to others.
Nowhere is our government’s policy of breaking its own windows more apparent than its stance on the Temple Mount. The humiliation of Jews who seek to ascend and connect with the most sacred site in Judaism is seen both as a religious victory and a major incentive to press the Muslim advantage.
The refusal to take a serious stand on Muslim violence and rioting, and the unwillingness to accord Jews anything close to parity on the Mount, have sent Muslims the very logical message that violence pays.
The larger message, however, is that victory on the Temple Mount, which means Muslim control, will lead to Jewish concessions elsewhere.
How does the government not see this? In the case of the Temple Mount, they have not just broken windows, they have knocked the whole building down.
Palestinians have concluded, with good reason, that our government will not “pay the cost to be the boss.” And it is just as reasonable for them to speculate where else they might find such a lack of resolve.
To exercise control and project strength on the Temple Mount would be a powerful replacement for broken windows by our government. It will come at a cost because the government has accrued a lot of interest in allowing everyone else—the Waqf, the King of Jordan, and now, even Hamas—to see themselves as the one in charge.
But we must start to replace those windows we ourselves have broken. To exert strength and control on the Temple Mount would have a very powerful and positive ripple effect. This exertion of strength must be our highest priority.
It is high time to stop breaking our own windows and for us to foster a much-needed national renewal. Our future depends on it.
Douglas Altabef is the chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu, Israel’s largest grassroots Zionist organization, and a Director of the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at email@example.com.