A long time friend, a committed Jew who cares deeply about Israel and about human rights, wrote to me yesterday – the day after the three young murdered boys were buried. His words are in italics. My reply is in a normal font.
I am having some difficulty dealing with the outpouring of emotion I see from American Jews on my FB feed about how sad they feel as a result of these horrible murders. Why are they so sad? Because these kids were Jews. I don''t understand why it''s any less sad when a Palestinian kid is killed by the IDF either by bomb or otherwise.
I cannot begin to describe how deeply this event impacted the Israeli/Jewish public.
I would put it this way. The life of a Jew and the life of others may be equally valuable. But the perceived value of life seems to feel much greater among Israelis.
And here I will be blunt: NEVER does the IDF go out and hunt down teens. When the US causes "collateral damage" when they bomb targets this hardly makes the news. There is no doubt in my mind that Israelis make a far greater effort to avoid so-called collateral damage. When the IDF kills it is almost always the result of the "malfunction" of a rubber bullet connected to rioting or riot control, a soldier who may have failed to act according to procedure, or "collateral damage. The IDF does hunt down those involved in terror. They often engage in "collective punishment." They disrupt the lives of Palestinians - most of whom want nothing more than to live a normal life. But they never set about to hunt down innocents.
That said, last night hundreds (maybe more) of right wingers ran amok shouting "Death to Arabs" in the center of Jerusalem. A co-worker who happened to be downtown witnessed a mob chase after an Arab kid who had just finished working at Hillel Café. The owner quickly let him back in to protect the kid. A young Arab boy was found killed today. The body was found in the Jerusalem Forrest. It is now clear he was brutally murder (burned to death in a car) by Jewish kids who have been arrested and confessed. The murder has already received extreme approbation and condemnation from Bibi and from almost all sane Israelis.
Why should we feel worse because Jews died?
If we were simple objective elements of the universe - we should not. But we all feel much greater sadness when one of our own family suffers tragedy. That is a natural and normal response.
I get that there is an argument to be made about how Israel''s killings are carried out by a legitimate military responding to terrorism, etc., etc., while the Palestinians kill in cold blood, and are subhuman monsters, etc., etc., but I am finding myself no longer sympathetic to that line of reasoning.
So much for what I wrote above.
To be clear, I don''t blame the victims here, but I can''t help but think that this would not have happened if their parents and state had not sent them to yeshivah in occupied land. But you are not allowed to point this out in polite company.
I have spoken to my son, Anas, about this. As you know, he is a Palestinian Muslim. When I began to raise the issue of the conditions (including Isareli governemtal policies) that may be a factor in such hatred and violence (blockades, restricted freedom of movement, unemployment, being controlled by a foreign power, etc.) his reaction surprised me. He said, yes, those things may be contributing factors but they can never be cited as a justification. Even more, he said, at this moment we focus on the tragedy. Tomorrow or the next day there will be plenty of time to look at the greater picture.
And I''m not even dealing with all the insane cries for vengeance and "flattening the west bank" that I am also hearing.
The hooligan response of the huge crowds of Jewish youth that turned out last night in the streets of Jerusalem is shocking and frightening. I feel shame at the pictures on the news of crowds screaming "Death to Arabs." But, the police were on hand to keep control. Today, we at Tag Meir, organized a very large demonstration (even at this most sensitive time when we may want to see some cooling off). It was low key. It was a part of the mourning process. So many turned out. The message was that we grieve but we must not allow that grief to turn into lawlessness, revenge, and violence. For appropriate reaction (or not) we have an elected government.
As if the proper response to the murder of 3 children is to inflict genocide on millions of innocents.
I have seen such responses. It is the response of the gut. It is venting. It is understandable. And it is disgusting. It is the response of a person venting out of anguish or a response by a person who lacks the recognition that we are "all children of the same Creator." Anyone who responds by really calling for genocide must be condemned and, if the law allows, brought to justice for incitement to violence.
It boggles my mind. What am I missing? I''m sorry but I don''t feel any worse about these kids then I would if they were Arab kids right now.
I feel it so intensely because it was three who are a part of my family. It has turned out the Palestinian teen murdered was killed by Jews for nationalistic reasons - I am right up there in the front of the line of those calling for immediate and swift justice.
Israelis and Palestinians are locked into a conflict. Until both sides are prepared to make hard choices - I see no end to the violence. And while I am not creating any moral equivalency between the actions of the two sides - I fear for the future if we do not act boldly to find ways to coexist with dignity for both sides.
Which is not to say I''m not feeling for them, but rather that I feel disconnected completely from the emotion on display right now, especially when juxtaposed with the utter silence that greets the deaths of Palestinian children killed as "collateral damage" in Israeli operations (if we give the benefit of the doubt to those who would suggest that so-called collateral deaths are not actually intentional).
Sadly, war sucks. It is violent. Death is almost inevitable. When Israel responds to missiles launched from Gaza, for example, there is likley to be "colateral damage." But if you look at the situation in the Middle East today - we are surrounded by so much tragic death. A life is a life. But the intentional murder of children on their way home from school, even in disputed territory, is beyond the pale. Period.
Yesterday I made a shiva visit to the Frankel Family who lost theur son, Naftali, to savage murder. This is a family who is inspiring a nation with their words in this difficult time. But on Tuesday, Tag Meir (of which the Masorti Movement and the Rabbinical Assemblies are members) will be making a visit to the family of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. We had to close registartion, for logistical reasons, when over five bus loads of people asked to come along.
I think you would agree that I had a fairly deep indoctrination into Zionism, so it is nothing short of impressive that I find myself so thoroughly disgusted by the State of Israel on a regular basis.
I too am a religious Zionist who finds myself disgusted. But I am not disgusted by the State of Israel. I am daily disgusted by many of the policies of its government and the ignorant racism of those who chant :Death to Arabs." These are not one and the same. Edmund Burk said "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." I agree with this statement and this is one reason I have chosen to live in a country where I hope that I can so something.