What does it take to open the safety, pull the trigger and fire a bullet into a teenager’s head? Some would argue it’s a matter of frustration, others a matter of despair and hatred, some would insist it demands daring, others that it requires conviction, some would say it takes cowardice and others that brainwashing must first win the day. They would all be wrong. For the murder of a teenager takes one thing – and one thing only: a murderer.
That is why the response to the murders of Gil-Ad, Naftali and Eyal on this side of the conflict has crossed political lines.
Jews, regardless of location and persuasion, agree that children should be left outside the stratagems of battle and the targets of war.
Tragically such a consensus has to evolve where this murder’s perpetrators came from, and apparently still remain. In those realms, the squeezing of the trigger opposite the face of innocence and the promise of youth can be not only acceptable, but also the subject of praise, glory and glee. “Three goals for Palestine,” an Israeli Arab student from the Technion gloated on Facebook.
Yes, such inhumanity has its anecdotal parallels this side of the conflict, but they are beyond the social, political and legal pales. Handing out candy in response to anyone’s death is inconceivable anywhere in mainstream Israel. That is not what is happening on the other side of our conflict, and the best proof of this travesty is its exception.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas’s condemnation of the kidnapping should not be dismissed as empty words. It’s easy to decry Arab violence in The Jerusalem Post, but attacking it in Riyadh, in front of the Arab League’s foreign ministers, takes courage.
Moreover, unlike previous statements in which he merely said violence was “against the Palestinian interest,” now a visibly shaken Abbas said the attack’s victims were human beings and their attackers were enemies of the Palestinians. This language of humanism won Abbas wall-to-wall condemnations, in a society that hailed the kidnapping as an act of bravery.
Yet while Abbas should be saluted for his guts, his courage remains rhetorical. To be effective, he would need to launch a long-term educational effort to humanize the Israelis that Arab propaganda has been dehumanizing since 1948. And to be a true hero, he would storm Gaza – Egypt can be counted on to help – and confront Palestinian anti-humanity at its head.
This is not likely to happen because Abbas faces not only Hamas, but a pan-Arab zeitgeist.
Murder is rampaging daily from Syria and Iraq through Sinai to Libya, with thousands dying and millions displaced, and it has nothing to do with conviction, daring, frustration or angst, not to mention Israel. It’s about savagery, or it wouldn’t reach where it has arrived.
“Look upon them as they slay,” wrote poet Percy Shelley in “The Mask of Anarchy” in 1819, an early inspiration to all victims of political violence. “Look upon them as they slay / Till their rage has died away,” he called in what later guided Mahatma Gandhi. “Then,” vowed Shelly, the perpetrators of political violence “will return with shame / To the place from which they came.”
The day when Arab poets admonish this way their own nation’s many angels of death, and inspire Arab violence’s millions of Arab victims – has yet to dawn. Until then, the Jews’ task will be to look its enemies in the eye, and speak to them in the only language they understand; a language which, as they have just made plain, is not the language of poetry.
Follow Amotz Asa-El @MiddleIsrael