As of this writing – assuming a new crisis has not arisen in the interim – Israel is still reeling from the most recent terrorist outrage in Tel Aviv (you know, that parcel of “occupied territory” just south of Herzliya).
Nashat Milhem, the shooter, is dead, having been sniffed out by our crack canine corps and then snuffed out by our always-excellent SWAT teams. Father and brother Milhem are under house arrest, and the search goes on for all the various people who may have assisted Milhem in the planning, execution and aftermath of his murderous attack, an attack that stole the lives of three innocents, including two beautiful young Jews and an upstanding Beduin citizen, condemning their families to eternal grief.
Many good citizens seem shocked to learn that – protestations on the evening news to the contrary – not all of the Arabs of Arara condemned the crime and hailed the terrorist’s death. More than a few were apparently complicit in his crime, his escape and his hiding out, and he has already been dubbed a “holy martyr” by both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. No doubt streets and stadiums will soon bear his name.
But frankly speaking, none of this should really surprise us. While we cannot and should not paint all of Arab society with a wide brush, we can understand the hesitation of many of our “cousins” to side with “us,” rather than embrace one of their own, despite his dastardly deed.
Some Muslims apparently have great difficulty melting into wider societies and sublimating their own cause and culture to that of the majority. Instead, they prefer to test, tweak and sometimes terrorize their host communities, even when those communities have shown them unparalleled kindness and freedoms.
How else to explain the brutal attacks in France, a country that so generously opened its doors to Muslims that today it has the largest Muslim population in Europe? Or the New Year’s Eve rampage by Muslim gangs against more than 100 defenseless women, many of whom were beaten and raped, in Cologne? Cologne? Germany? The country that begged its EU partners to open their gates to Muslim refugees, which bragged that it will take in more than a million of them within a year? YET THERE is, I must grudgingly admit, a purpose behind this partisan posture. Like Jews, Muslims, you see, are intensely proud of their religion and their identity. They do not want to see it diluted; for them, multiculturalism is the greatest Satan.
And so a minority of them reject Western society, even while they crave its amenities, massage its systems and take advantage of its liberties. They no sooner escape their own oppressive countries, imposing themselves on a more liberal venue, than they bond together in order to protect their customs and character, until such time as they can convince – or, if necessary, coerce – their hosts into seeing things their way. And part of this strategy is to stay as insular as possible, keeping the world at large at arm’s length as much as possible.
This is not a new phenomenon. It was also the modus operandi of the African-American community during the formative years of the Civil Rights movement in America. While many whites – and an inordinately large number of Jews – courageously fought, and sometimes died, to end discrimination against colored people, blacks were determined to keep the movement solidly black. Disagreements by blacks on all policy matters were to be kept in-house and in the family; it was forbidden to go to the white-controlled press or voice negative sentiments in public. Leadership of the various civil rights organizations had to be exclusively black, and in some cases – such as in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, led by activist Stokely Carmichael – whites were actually asked to leave the organization entirely, despite their intense desire to help. The operative imperative was: “Birds of a feather must always stick together.”
But Jews, it seems, are strange birds. For some twisted reason, we have oodles of difficulty settling our differences in-house; the Godfather must be turning in his grave seeing how often we take sides against the family.
We take money from European Union meddlers, who love to foment dissension in our ranks; we feed Muslim- inspired anti-Semitism on foreign campuses by delivering expat professors who spew diatribes against Israel. We love to tell anyone and everyone who will listen to us that the rabbinate discriminates against the non-Orthodox; that the Arab sector gets less water than the Jews; that our government has embarked on a right-wing crusade that is out of step with the times.
Rather than settle our disputes and grievances – God knows we have plenty of them – as brothers and sisters, within the fold, we air our gripes for all to hear.
A PRIME example of this seditious syndrome is the Breaking the Silence group. It loves parading ex-IDF soldiers before the foreign press, regaling journalists with stories about excesses of the Israeli army, from mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners to theft of Arab property.
Israel-bashers eat up this kind of thing; their mouths water every time a Jew turns on another Jew. And they are willing to pay lots and lots of blood money to keep the propaganda going.
So let’s make one thing abundantly clear to all who care to hear the truth: The Israeli army is the most moral fighting force in the world – perhaps in the history of the world. Who else would send out warning pamphlets to the enemy before bombing them, painstakingly doing everything possible to avoid harming civilians? Who else would pamper their prisoners of war with plasma TV sets and college diplomas? What other army would offer first-class medical care to the enemy’s wounded – sometimes, regrettably, even before our own? The answer is: No one.
Now, this is not to say that isolated incidents of misbehavior never occur; in the heat of war, anything is possible. But our record stands head and shoulders above anyone else’s.
Needless to say, the conduct of Arab fighters is routinely repulsive; they specifically seek to murder innocents, they rape and pillage wherever they go, they execute prisoners, and even in retreat they mine and booby-trap streets and buildings (see Syria) and set oil fields alight (see Kuwait).
But they are not the only ones with a sordid past; Western armies have more than a few skeletons in their closets, too. Just take a look back at the famous Mad magazine cover of poster-child Alfred E. Neuman in US Army military garb, with the caption “What? My Lai?” parodying the horrendous 1968 massacre of civilians in Vietnam by Lt. William Calley.
And the French in Algeria? And the Brits in Mandate Palestine? Are their hands lily-white?
THE IDF has strict rules of engagement, tohar haneshek (purity of arms), instructions that go to unparalleled lengths to keep our soldiers’ conduct honorable and moral, even in the most difficult of conditions. These are our own kids, after all, and we know how decent and responsible they were raised, and how humanely, how “Jewishly,” they act when called upon to defend our country. The moment they don that khaki uniform, they are transformed into “holy warriors” who do our nation proud.
Just last week, a unit of new IDF recruits was named after our son Ari, who fell in battle in 2002 in a firefight with Hamas terrorists in Nablus. The young soldiers learned about Ari’s life and dedicated their ensuing service to his memory. In a moving ceremony at their base, they proclaimed that they had adopted the slogan “V’ahavta l’re’echa kamocha” (you shall love your fellow Jew as you love yourself), and would make that declaration before embarking on any mission. They pledged to conduct themselves with dedication and decency, even as Ari did throughout his own service.
This, and other such outstanding features of the People’s Army, indicate just how truly stellar our men and women in uniform are, and how much they deserve our unstinting support and gratitude.
As Jews, our tradition teaches us that we must treat each and every one of our fellow human beings with justice, compassion, mercy and kindness. But a special, extra-added measure of love is reserved for our fellow Jews. After all, they are family, and family always comes first. ■ The writer directs the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana and is a member of the Ra’anana City Council; firstname.lastname@example.org