Meet Zvi Sukkot – Israel’s newest fascist lawmaker

Jonathan Ofir

Mondoweiss  /  February 11, 2023

Zvi Sukkot is a fascist Hilltop Youth extremist who celebrated the death of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh. He is now an Israeli lawmaker.

Israel’s landslide far-right victory, in large part due to far right Religious Zionism and Jewish Power parties (as well as the anti-LGBTQ Noam party), have brought with them a host of lawmakers who were virtually unknown in the Israeli political landscape, at least internationally. The most notorious of these is the Kahanist Itamar Ben Gvir, but other militant fascists also abound, such as Zvika Fogel, the lawmaker who wants to make “a thousand Palestinian mothers cry,” and former vigilante leader Almog Cohen, who in the wake of the recent massacre in Jenin called on the army to “keep killing them.” 

But it gets worse. On February 7, Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich, who is Finance Minister and has a special ministerial post at the Defense Ministry overseeing Occupied Palestinian Territory, resigned his spot as a lawmaker in the parliament to make space for a newbie politician. This technical arrangement is called the “Norwegian law,” which means that newly appointed Ministers can give up their positions as a lawmaker to open up space for new forces in the legislature, thereby also increasing the party’s political presence. The person stepping in to take Smotrich’s place, from the 16th spot of the Religious Zionism-Jewish Power-Noam list, is Zvi Sukkot, a former “Hilltop Youth” member. 

The “Hilltop Youth” have been growing in their power in the past two decades. A religious Zionist group based on the ideology of “grabbing” hilltops in the occupied West Bank, they erect outposts on the hilltops they occupy in order to establish “facts on the ground”. Even though such outposts are initially considered illegal under Israeli law (while constituting war crimes under international law), they often become legalized after the fact.

Ariel Sharon served as the initial inspiration for this movement, who in 1998 told settlers: “Everybody has to move, run, and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements, because everything we take now will stay ours…[and] everything we don’t grab will go to them [the Palestinians].”  

The “Hilltop Youth” is now a group of mostly adults in their 20s. They are some of the most violent religious fundamentalists around. 

Zvi Sukkot, however, was not just any Hilltop Youth member. He also studied at the Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva in Yitzhar – the most notorious fundamentalist settler-Yeshiva (which has received donations from Jared Kushner’s family foundation). 

When Sukkot attended the Yeshiva in 2009, its leading rabbis were Yosef Shapira and Yosef Elitzur, who authored a book called King’s Torah. It was a manual for the murder of non-Jews. 

In that book, Shapiro and Elitzur opined that even enemy babies may be killed, since those babies may grow up to harm Jews . One of the endorsers of the genocidal book is rabbi Dov Lior, who is Itamar Ben Gvir’s current spiritual leader. 

After his graduation, Sukkot continued to teach at the yeshiva, moving to live in Yitzhar. In 2017, he was appointed as the settlement’s spokesperson. That same year, he also became the CEO of Jewish Power.

Celebrating a baby’s death

In 2015, the Dawabshah family was burned alive in an arson attack by a “Hilltop Youth” settler. As the King’s Torah endorses, a baby was burned to death – 18-month-old Ali Dawabshah. His parents Riham and Saad died a few weeks later, and only 5-year-old Ahmad survived

Zvi Sukkot was one of the campaigners for the rights of the suspects, who were alleged to be tortured by the Israeli Shin Bet security service. Itamar Ben Gvir was also their legal representative. Sukkot organized a mock “torture” demonstration at the time. Now, these people became human rights activists – for Jewish supremacist rights, that is. 

At around the same time, these people were celebrating the murder of the baby: in an unbelievably murderous wedding celebration in December 2015, dozens of celebrators were cheering the murder with Molotov cocktails, guns, and knives. At one point, celebrators were literally stabbing the photo of baby Ali Dawabshe. Among the celebrators was Itamar Ben Gvir.

In 2018, at a trial of the arson suspects, the Hilltop Youth child-burning supporters chanted outside the court in mockery of the family:

“Where’s Ali? There’s no Ali. Ali is burned. On the fire. Ali is on the grill”

Policemen stood by, doing nothing.

It’s interesting that at the time of the mentioned murderous wedding, Netanyahu responded to the video that surfaced, saying that it shows “the real face of a group that poses a danger to Israeli society and security.” One of the leading members of that group, seen dancing, celebrating, and smiling next to the person with a Molotov cocktail who stabbed the photo of baby Ali, was Itamar Ben Gvir. Ben Gvir, now Netanyahu’s political ally, is today the person singularly responsible for security in Israel – the Minister of National Security.

That’s where Zvi Sukkot comes from. Who knows, maybe one day he can be Prime Minister.

Jonathan Ofir is an Israeli musician, conductor and blogger/writer based in Denmark