The abyss. An Israeli triptych.
July 10, 2014 by jewish journeys
Part 1: Three plus one is always at least four
I said I would wait until after the shiva, but I never in my worst nightmares imagined that the week of the shiva would include some of the scenes we have seen this last week.
I will not fall into the trap of both anti-Semites and those who, with the most “noble” intentions, are prepared to lay the blame for the unspeakable murder at the feet of Jewish extremists without any clear evidence, but if this was the case, then we are in terrible trouble.
Truth be told, we are in terrible trouble. We are being held hostage by extremism. By extreme behaviour among some in the Palestinian community and by extreme behaviour among some in the Jewish Israeli community. And there is even a third group of extremists, albeit in sheep’s’ clothing, calling for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions. But they are in their safe and comfortable spaces right now and not in any way dealing with the real consequences of extremism.
There was an extraordinary moment of hope this week when the mother of Naftali Frenkel z”l, Rachel, spoke at her son’s graveside:
“Rest in peace, my child. We will learn to sing without you.”
What song was she referring to? I have no idea of course and can only imagine what songs she was referring to. Having heard her comments on the unspeakable murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir one thing is certain, the song she was referring to did not include words such as “death to the Arabs” or any other despicable racist phrases.
I am angry and saddened by what has happened this week in many ways, but possibly what angers me more than anything else, is the behaviour of extremists in my community. They, whether I like it or not, reflect on me and my people. Their behaviour has sullied the memory of the three young boys in the most awful way. Instead of allowing us to mourn and spend the week dealing with the fact that they were murdered for one reason only, because they were Jews, they have shifted the focus. The question has become not how do we reconcile ourselves with the fact that people still will kill Jewish children if the opportunity arises, in spite of all we have been through and the distance we hoped the world had moved since those dark days, but rather what happens when Jews have power?
Some say to me that it is only a small group of brutish people, a jackbooted mob. Most of them are this brutish mob, but not all of them. I sit on a body in Israel of some very serious educators who lead the various Zionist Youth movements around the world. The views are diverse. Together with one or two other movements I represent the progressive end of the Zionist movement, but there are also representatives of more conservative Zionist movements both with respect to religious identity and with respect to issues such as the future of the West Bank, Land for Peace, Foreign Policy and the desirability of the creation of a Palestinian State alongside Israel as part of a future solution.
The debate is at times fierce when it comes to ideological matters, but we have always prided ourselves on the fact that what we share is greater than that which divides us.
Not as of last week. When the Executive Director of World Bnei Akiva, the Orthodox Zionist Youth Movement, called for the IDF to become an army of Revenge Seekers he broke the bond that joins us. I am for a wide tent, the widest possible tent, but I am not for a tent which includes this language, wreaking revenge on innocent people just because they belong to another group. Our Jewish history is littered with examples of this being done to us. I will not sit with those who would do the same to others.
We do not know yet who murdered Mohammed Abu Khdeir. If it was a Jewish Revenge Seeker, then, just as when Yigal Amir pulled the trigger of the gun which killed Yitzchak Rabin after listening to the words of those educated leaders who quoted Torah with such eloquence and suggested that Rabin was fair game, those responsible will include those who once again used their knowledge, their positions and their eloquence to persuade the brutish killers that what they were setting out to do was acceptable, in fact noble.
The question this time will be whether we have the courage to deal with them. To say to them “you cannot hide behind your titles whatever they may be”.
If we do not do this, then we not only sully the memories of our three young boys who did not return from their hitchhiking, we also begin the descent into the moral abyss.
We did not return to build our land to end up in the moral abyss.
Part 2: The beasts are released; a short interlude before the big Part 3
We now know who killed him. We did. Not we you say, they did. But who did? Was it in fact the three deranged brutish people who are being held in captivity or is someone else or something else actually responsible?
When will we begin the well known ritual: they are only a tiny, infinitesimally small minority; they are being sent for an examination to the psychiatric services; they went off the rails after seeing the awful acts carried out against us; their families are totally normative; their neighbours are in a state of shock; we are devastated and we do not hand out candy like they (read Palestinians) do. We don’t hand out candy and our police and secret service did detain them, but, sorry BUT, have you seen the comments on Facebook after Amir Peretz visited the murdered boy’s family. Not anonymous talkbacks, but full names wishing death upon Amir Peretz, a minister in the government of Israel, wishing death upon his children.
We are not dealing with the growing rash of racism which is infecting our society. We have not developed a zero tolerance for racism in our society. Young Jewish storm troopers roamed the streets of Jerusalem baying for Arab blood and the police did little to really stop them. They were dispersed with kid gloves. How many of them are being held in jail right now?
We have to save ourselves from our enemies of that I am certain and have no qualms about that at all. I am not one who thinks that turning the other cheek is an option. No thank you, I prefer being a Jew with power, but let us recognize that the beastly mob who roamed the streets of Jerusalem last week can become an existential threat to us, one potentially even bigger than those we are facing off right now.
Part 3: The Rant
I am so angry with the Hamas. If for a single moment I thought that they were launching their campaign of violence because they want to end the occupation, I might be prepared for at least a moment to listen to them. I might even be prepared to get involved in one of those talk back conversations going on asking questions about the legitimacy of their response. But please understand one thing: the Hamas want to kill us Jews in Israel because in their jihadist vision of the world there is no place for me (or for Orly, Elad, Ortal, Maya and Daphne). In fact I hate to tell you this, but there is no place for any of you either.
We will get through this round of violence with far fewer casualties than the Hamas. The photographs from Gaza will get worse and worse (put aside their manipulation of footage from Syria and other places that they have already used, the real pictures will be worse than over here). Being a civilian in Gaza is much worse than being a civilian now in Israel (I am writing to you from Tel Aviv right now). But, it is precisely because of this, because women and children will die as “collateral damage”, that I am even angrier at the Hamas. Palestinian women and children will die because the Hamas is prepared to sacrifice these innocent people in the pursuit of their jihad. They will continue to build their launchers next to schools, they will continue to build their missiles in neighborhoods, they will continue to place their weapon stockpiles near hospitals.
We will lose the propaganda war because the BBC, as hard as they look (I am being generous to them now, suggesting that they are looking for balance), will hopefully not be able to find pictures of an Israeli family being pulled from the rubble. Hundreds of missiles have been fired at us from Gaza with one purpose only: not to destroy our weapon stockpiles, our tanks, our aircraft, our military bases, our intelligence networks. They have been fired at us, at our towns and cities, to kill as many people as possible; children, old people and women would be the biggest prize of course, but any available Jews would be fine too.
Palestinian citizens, innocent people, have already lost their lives and this is awful, and the Israeli government and army has said this out loud, it is awful. Almost all Israelis see this as a terrible consequence of this asymmetrical warfare reality we live with. If we did not have the Iron Dome, taking out at present almost all missiles launched against our centers of population, hundreds of Israelis would be dead now, but it would not be as a result of collateral damage. It would be a result of targeted murder. I would prefer us being able to take out only those card carrying members of the Hamas who delight in the murder of our children.
The BBC is beginning to tally the civilian deaths on the Palestinian side, preparing for the moment when it can launch its traditional attack on us here in Israel and paint us as war criminals. I am aware that the BBC mandarins would prefer an equal tally, something like, say, “Palestinian dead 120, Israeli dead 120. Ladies and gentlemen, an honourable draw. We will now end our broadcast and go and have a beer at the pub on the corner and sing jolly songs once we are a little tipsy. I actually did know a decent Jewish chap once. He was a little different from the others.”
Please remember when you see those images: this is not something we want. We do not gloat over these images (most of us). Our government with whom I disagree on many, many things (OK, most things) is doing what governments are supposed to do, prevent our people from being murdered by rockets flying through the sky.
One last image. Two nights ago on the kibbutz. The siren goes off and I meet all of our neighbours in the bomb shelter including three month old Eviatar in his mother’s arms. And I tear up not for him, but for his mother. And I tear up thinking of the mother in Gaza with her three month old.
Hamas means in Hebrew (not the Arabic acronym, but the Hebrew word), enough. I say to those who would kill me, thus condemning their mothers and babies, enough. Let all the three month old babies sleep through the night. Yours and mine.
And their parents too.