Center Field: ‘Our Boys’ sins by encouraging the moral equivalence chorus

No matter what we endure, personally and collectively, to still “see the good land” and “this good mountain” are keys to healing, and the kind of vision we need.

Dvir Sorek  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Dvir Sorek
(photo credit: Courtesy)
This healing Shabbat, Shabbat Nahamu, soothes us after we relived two Temples’ destruction through the Tisha Be’av fast. And we have much healing to do. In the Torah portion of V’etchanan – which two of my children and I read as our bar/bat mitzvah portions – Moses asks God: “Pray let me cross over and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and the Lebanon.” That verse, Deuteronomy 3:25, suggests a healing path for us.
No matter what we endure, personally and collectively, to still “see the good land” and “this good mountain” are keys to healing, and the kind of vision we need. This is the Torah, not a tourist brochure. Moses is heartbroken. For all he has done, he won’t reach the Promised Land. Still, he remains an optimist, a visionary, a good seer and a seer of good in the world and in the land.
He challenges us to learn to see the good that exists. This is not an invitation to complacency. Rather, we appreciate all that is good while envisioning a good land, imagining how to make things better.
When I think of the devastation Dvir Sorek’s family is experiencing, when I see the anguished looks darkening the faces of his rabbis and peers, I hope they can remember the good they enjoyed with him, and keep seeing the good in this land. It’s hard, considering the incomprehensible price the Sorek family, among others, have paid. Palestinian terrorists murdered Sorek’s grandfather too.
Speaking of goodness, we distinguish between a good society like Israel’s, which unites Left and Right, religious and secular, to mourn this young man, and “Hamasistan,” where civilians hail Hamas terrorists and throw candies to celebrate the slaughter of an innocent teenager found clutching books he purchased to thank his teachers for all they taught him.
As the Sorek family mourns, they must wonder, “How long before others exploit our personal family tragedy and turn it into political pornography?” Unfortunately, the families of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah know the answer: about five years.
This week, HBO and Keshet Studios are debuting their 10-part “police procedural” series inspired by Hamas’s murder of the three teenagers in 2014. The series focuses on the horrific revenge murder of a Palestinian teenager, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, two days later. Whatever nuances the series might present, the media are striking a predictable moral equivalence between the two crimes. 
THE NEW YORK TIMES called the murderers of the three Israeli boys “Hamas militants,” not terrorists. Variety hailed the series because it “brings the prejudices of all parties it touches into the light, too, as when an Israeli cop declares, ‘I know Israeli racism, but Jews don’t do something like this.’ It seems impossible to the nation’s ruling class that some of their own might be culpable – a distinction drawn yet clearer through a televised speech in which Benjamin Netanyahu declares ‘a deep and wide moral abyss separates us from our enemies.’”
BDS warning: Media distortion again reflects Bibi Derangement Syndrome. Netanyahu isn’t stupid. No Israeli cop is naïve enough to believe the Israeli barrel has no bad apples. The moral distinction here is not about Israel being criminal-free; it comes from how the Israelis and Palestinians react to the criminals among us. Palestinian mainstream society celebrates these killings against us and the killers among them; Israel mourns. When Muhammad Abu Khdeir was murdered, most Israelis were appalled. The criminals were apprehended, ostracized and punished, not honored.
The day Palestinians learn to mourn Israelis killed by their terrorists as we mourned this young man killed by Jewish extremists, we can get on the path to peace. For now, we’re stuck again watching the moral-equivalence crowd ignore the widespread good in Israeli society, defining us by our enemies’ evils and our few, marginalized fanatics.
The series’ creators – who should know better – fed this spin. They told the Times they were motivated by “the harshness of how cruel these two kidnappings and murders were. How they linked so easily” and fed “an increase in hate... from Trump to all over Europe.” They say the killers are not “stray weeds” but Our Boys, which means “one of us.”
What nonsense. Palestinians have been celebrating their Jew-killers for decades. Israel defends itself and has had impressively few revenge killings.
The film-makers have wronged the families of the three boys personally. I spoke to one of the parents. (I won’t violate their privacy.) The look of pain I saw seared my soul. “We’ve worked so hard,” I heard. And these parents have. They have done wonders, trying to use their sorrow to bind Israeli society together, Left and Right, religious and secular, Arab and Jew. They have done it with taste, with integrity and with proportion.
They resist moral equivalence or partisanship. Their Unity Initiative sees the good and seeks the good throughout Israel, as Moses taught.
The first calamity on Tisha Be’av, long before the Temple’s destruction, occurred when 10 of the 12 spies refused to see any good in the Promised Land. Today’s sourpuss filmmakers and their media echo-chamber have replicated the spies’ sins. Let’s hope that Dvir Sorek’s survivors learn from the real heroes in this story, the Fraenkels, Shaers and Yifrahs, to see the good and seek the good, despite the anguish they and Muhammad Abu Khdeir’s family experienced, and endure daily.
The writer was recently designated one of Algemeiner’s top 100 people ‘positively influencing Jewish life.’ He is the author of the newly-released The Zionist Ideas, an updated expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology. A distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University, he is the author of 10 books on American History, including The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s.

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