While our politicians’ Bibi-Bennett-Ayelet, Goodbye Gabbay and Tzipi, Hello Gantz and Glick childish antics are demoralizing, the settler youths’ unpatriotic, anti-Zionist violence is evil. We cannot denounce terrorism committed against us but not by some of us. It doesn’t matter where you stand regarding the territories – it’s about where you stand as a person, a Jew, a Zionist, an Israeli. Fortunately, most Zionists repudiate these marginal murderers and their enablers.
How can anyone drop stones on cars, ultimately killing a 47-year-old mother of nine in the passenger seat? That her name was Aisha Mohammad Rabi is irrelevant. That the young suspects may have been inflamed by ideologues in Yeshivat Pri Ha’aretz doesn’t make them innocent. It makes Rabi’s murder more tragic, avoidable, and symptomatic of a small but dangerous plague we in Israel – and in the religious community especially – must destroy.
Yeshiva Pri Ha’aretz (fruit of the land) – claiming to evoke “the spirit of the Land of Israel” – must clarify whether it remains a Jewish institution or not. When you have five students charged with murder, who also burned an Israeli flag while defacing another with a swastika and the words “Death to Zionists,” your school is on trial.
You can collaborate, green-lighting Sabbath violations to coach the accused on resisting interrogation, acting as if they’re the victims. If so, your school is a toxic environment, a public menace, and violating Jewish law.
Or you muster the moral courage to denounce all terrorism, anywhere, anytime, and release the kind of statement one of my son’s religious Zionist rabbis released after the arrests, reminding his pro-settlement, mostly right-wing religious followers that the Torah absolutely prohibits breaking Shabbat, murdering, desecrating God, and endangering our collective existence. That rabbi taught that Jewish terrorism isn’t a matter of Right versus Left but right versus wrong; it’s not about the geographical borders we draw but the ethical and legal boundaries we respect.
Meanwhile, in Amona, 25 kilometers away from this yeshiva bearing poisoned fruit, settler thugs injured 23 police officers and soldiers. Here, too, the moral and legal offenses transcend politics. The Supreme Court ordered Amona’s evacuation after a police investigation exposed the documents alleging proper land ownership as forgeries. Settlers with integrity should abandon these criminals, refusing to besmirch their historical and legal case by defending bandits and swindlers.
At a time when the Yosefi family is mourning Evyatar, a 20-year-old soldier killed in a training accident Monday morning – we soldier parents shouldn’t also have to worry about settler goons attacking our kids. When a radio announcer asked Amona’s spokeswoman about the assault against our soldiers and peace officers with debris, oil and burning tires, her spin was pathological: “Ach, hametukim shelanu,” she replied, “Oh our sweet soldiers!” Right. This lie dodges moral responsibility for the adults’ incitement and the juveniles’ bloodlust.
TRUE, I write just hours after heroic soldiers thwarted another Palestinian stabbing attempt. In 2018, terrorists murdered 13 Israelis in multiple incidents, leaving 20 young orphans, which in American-Jewish terms is Pittsburgh plus two times 20.
Yes, I’m outraged by our terrorists more than by theirs. As a liberal nationalist and a proud Jew, I take responsibility for everyone in my community and see the ethical cancer spreading among the anti-Zionist settler zealots. As an Israeli citizen and a fellow Jew, I have a better shot at influencing these thugs than other thugs, their parents than other parents, their teachers than other teachers, while demanding that my elected representatives smash these terrorist rings, discourage more ambushes against our kids and others – while keeping police interrogations legal, too. And yes, these particular cases require passionate denunciations from the religious Right, their natural allies.
The violence, hypocrisy and selective indignation festering here reflect the ideological superviruses proliferating all over. Extremist stances resist facts and nuance just as superviruses resist drugs. Know-it-alls and fanatics pronounce on all kinds of things, frequently lacking any foundation or consistency.
Last week, in safer educational waters, we saw it in insta-experts galore caricaturing Birthright Israel’s broad-based Jewish identity program as partisan, without bothering to read any studies, quote any guidelines, interview any participants or educators, marshal any real evidence. It’s more fun to mindlessly echo three partisans’ biased testimony, then bash away.
Last year, in the US, we saw it in the zeal with which President Donald Trump’s critics blamed him for the Pittsburgh massacre – even though the shooter hated Trump for being too kind to Jews. Yet many of these same critics denied the more direct connection between left-wing anti-Zionism, the mass delegitimization of Israel, and the lethal Palestinian terrorism that ideological pile-on validates.
Moral consistency is not moral equivalence. Holding everyone to similar standards doesn’t make everyone’s fanaticism equally dangerous. In Israel, right-wing violence, not left-wing rhetoric, threatens Arabs, soldiers, police officers. Abroad, left-wing Israel-bashing – far more than right-wing rantings – spurs anti-Jewish violence among Islamists in Europe and Palestinian terrorists worldwide.
All such bullying, bigotry and brutality is unacceptable. But intelligent people should connect the dots, analyzing what triggers what. Ethical people should clarify their redlines, then apply them to their friends super-scrupulously, because insider’s moral outrage counts the most.
Finally, words are not enough. My first 2019 donations will be to that religious Zionist rabbi who reminded his flock about what’s right and wrong, and to Tag Meir, that amazing organization that comforts Arab victims of Jewish terrorism. Hopefully, they’ll show the Rabi family and the injured peace officers that many proud Zionists are embarrassed by the evildoers among us – and taking responsibility to stop them.The writer is the author of The Zionist Ideas, an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology, The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society. 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.