Israeli authorities filed murder charges Sunday against two citizens accused of committing the arson attack in Duma that killed three members of a Palestinian family, including an 18-month-old child. Promising a step toward justice in a case that has enraged Palestinians throughout the territories, the charges also helped shed light on the far-right group police said was behind the attacks.
Called The Revolt, the group has carried out numerous arson attacks and bouts of vandalism. But it wasn’t until Amiram Ben-Uliel, 21, of Jerusalem allegedly firebombed the home of the Dawabsheh family in July — with the help of a 17-year-old minor who was also charged Sunday — that authorities decided to crack down on the youthful extremists.
A Radical Ideology
The Revolt took shape in October 2013, Israeli security forces said, when its founders laid out their guiding principles. Members imagined a campaign of violence against Arabs and officials that would topple the democratic government of Israel and allow a king to emerge. Their ideology called for the expulsion of all non-Jews, by death if necessary, and the building of a third temple at the site of the Dome of the Rock, considered holy to Muslims. The site is also where King Solomon’s temple once stood.
In practice, The Revolt has consisted mostly of members 15 to 21 years old, Israeli security forces said. They live a vagabond lifestyle, many concentrated in Jerusalem and the West Bank where youth groups have long used vigilante means to back illegal settlements. But The Revolt’s lack of formal hierarchy, Israeli authorities said, makes its attacks tough to prevent.
Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, said there’s “no need for authorization, coordination and synchronization between the groups, and they hold their meetings all over the country,” Ynetnews reported. “The people who came to set fire to a house with people inside knew they were not going to commit an arson attack or an attempted murder — they were there to commit murder.”
During the past two years, The Revolt’s members have carried out a string of arson and vandalism attacks. The most recent of these incidents occurred in December, when they threw gas grenades into a home in the Palestinian town of Beitillu.
Since November, nearly two dozen members of The Revolt have been arrested by Shin Bet. Those include co-founder Meir Ettinger, who was placed in administrative detention after the Duma attack.
The group has hereditary and symbolic ties to historical right-wing groups. Ettinger, who is regarded as a motivating force in the group, is the grandson of Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a radical militant group the FBI has identified as carrying out terrorist attacks.
The group’s name echoes the title of Menachem Begin’s memoirs, also called “The Revolt.” Begin, who later became prime minister of Israel, led a Zionist paramilitary organization called the Irgun in the mid-1940s whose goal was to topple British rule. The group disbanded when Israel gained its independence in 1948.
However, The Revolt deviates from both the JDL and the Irgun because of its extremely radical ideology and the anarchic style of its attacks. Shin Bet said recent crackdowns haven’t fully eradicated the group’s leadership.
“There are dozens of members who are still out there and could commit an attack even tonight, and that is why our operations continue,” Shin Bet said Sunday.