One of the more problematic stories associated with the present wave of Palestinian violence is that of an attack on a security guard at a shopping mall in Maale Adumim.

 
A video shows repeated blows with an ax, directed at the head of the security guard, which continue despite the guard already down and defenseless. You can see it here.
 
What's especially troubling about this episode is that the attacker is someone who worked at the shopping mall, and was known to his victim. They had coffee together at the canteen, and the victim showed no hesitation to opening a door for the Palestinian after dark.
 
The story resembles what Jews have told one another for years, about Arabs and earlier about Europeans. You can't trust any of them, is the message. Even people you thought of as friends will turn against you when someone starts chanting slogans about killing Jews.
 
There is truth in this, but there are other stories as well. Arabs individuals provided refuge to Jews during the Hebron pogrom in 1929. More recently, Arab individuals have protected Jews set upon in Isaweea. Israel radio has reported about frequent contacts between Palestinian and Israeli security personnel that have saved Jews who took the wrong turn and found themselves threatened in a Palestinian town.
 
Our family has stories on both sides of the divide. A cousin spent her childhood with a Christian family in the Netherlands while her parents went east to their death. Another relative was turned over to the Germans by the Dutch. Another cousin who grew up in Germany, went to the US in the early 30's, and returned to his previous home in a US Army uniform, encountered people who expressed sorrow about what happened to his mother. He responded by saying that he wouldn't help them any more than they helped her.
 
The overall ambiguity of these stories is part of the Jewish experience.
 
Likewise, what we are hearing about the current wave of individual attacks. From the signs available, Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders are both encouraging them and seeking to curtail or limit them. They are claiming to urge restraint, instructing security personnel to cooperate with Israelis, yet praising as martyrs those who have died while attacking Jews. Palestinian school maps continue to show the whole area from the Jordan to the sea as "Palestine," and lessons based on the Koran teach that those who sacrifice themselves for Islam are assured a place in the upper levels of Paradise.
 
Some of the violence is self-perpetuating. Close relatives of Palestinians killed in recent months have taken knives, guns, or cars, and have sought revenge by killing Jews. 
 
Thirty-three Israelis have been killed since mid-September, and many more injured. The number of Palestinians or Israeli Arabs killed while attacking is approaching 200. The numbers arrested or injured are somewhere in the thousands.
 
However we may decide to describe the support or opposition to the current wave of violence by the Palestinian leadership, it is not moving the Palestinians any closer to the accomplishment of national aims. They are suffering in part because of the barbarism shown by other Muslims in the region and the mass of migrants seeking refuge (or targets of violence) in Europe, and in part due to the Palestinians' own record in rejecting opportunities for negotiations that involve giving as well as taking. As long as basic conditions do not change, the Palestinian destiny is one of money and warm lip service from world leaders and political activists who aspire to be politically correct, but not much else.
 
What should Israel do?
 
We're destined to hear daily urgings from foreign worthies that we must sit with the Palestinians once again, with the implication that we must offer them something tempting. There are foreign leaders, including individuals at or close to the peaks of German, British, and US governments, who say that the time is not ripe. Opposition Israeli politicians join the confusing chorus. They are united in criticizing the Prime Minister and his government for failing to do enough, or for their stubborn adherence to a posture that there is nothing to do. Yet leading figures in the Knesset opposition also say that the time is not ripe.
 
Not being ripe may mean that the chaos in the Middle East keeps Palestinians and Israelis from being able to plan their future. Or it may mean that the lack of a Palestinian leadership, with nothing better on the horizon, makes it unlikely that any reasonable proposal from Israel can find an acceptance, or a  reasonable counter-offer
 
The larger picture resembles that story about the recent attack in the Maale Adumim shopping mall. It's hard to read Palestinian intentions and capacity, and dangerous to count on any optimistic prediction of what they'll do.
 
It's also significant that in response to that attack, Israeli security personnel initially closed Maale Adumim to Palestinian workers from the West Bank, but then reopened it after a couple of days. The closing/opening reflects the political sensitivity of each attack locally and within all of Israel, as well as the ongoing mutual dependence of Palestinians and Israelis, the concern to keep options open, and the conclusion that most of the time, most Palestinians prefer work for the sake of themselves and their families over opportunities for violence.
 
Comments welcome


-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
[email protected] 
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