It would be so nice if something would make sense for a change… If I had a world of my own… [n]othing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see? – Alice in Alice in Wonderland (The film)
Why harp on yesterday’s news?
This is the final article in a trilogy I felt compelled to write in response to the hysterical and hypocritical hullabaloo that erupted earlier this month over three unrelated acts of violence – and the ensuing effort to exploit them to equate actions attributed to Jewish extremists with Arab terrorism against Israel.
Given the super-abundance of more newsworthy topics to deal with – such as the gathering opposition to the absurd “deal” with Iran; the rumors of Israeli surrender to Hamas in Gaza, under Turkish orchestration; the Palestinian prisoner’s hunger strike; and the imbecilic overtures made by opposition leader Isaac Herzog to Mahmoud Abbas where the former told the latter that peace with the Palestinians is possible within two years “if there is enough goodwill” –f I perhaps owe readers an explanation for harping on what, prima facie, might be considered yesterday’s news.
For it is easy to overlook – and underrate – the significance of the furor of the past weeks, and the fissures it exposed in the fabric of Israel’s fractured society.
But that would be a grave error.
For it is far more than a cliché to say that without some semblance of bed-rock societal unity and basic-level of mutual affinity among the diverse segments of the population that can generate a minimally cohesive society, Israel will not be able to withstand the daunting challenges looming on its ever-more bleak horizon – whether these be the specter of a nuclear Iran, the looming threat of Islamist radicalism on the borders, the international assault on Israel’s legitimacy or growing pressures for its isolation...
When the core beliefs of large segments of the population are not only mutually antithetical, but constitute the existential negation of the other; when they are perceived as promoting social realities that are diametrically incompatible, then any possibility of preserving a sustainable society is in serious jeopardy.
Failure of elected leadership
The tragic history of the Jewish people underscores that the peril that this entails is no less menacing to the survival of the Jewish state than any of the more kinetic dangers that are emerging on multiple fronts around it, and gravely undermines the ability to deal with them effectively.
Accordingly, the need to understand – and clearly articulate – the reasons these fissures suddenly flared when they did, and the political ends for which they were unscrupulously and irresponsibly exploited, is of paramount importance. For without such understanding – and clear articulation – there is little chance of contending with very real hazards that these events signify.
Sadly, the elected leadership of the country has proven itself to be unequal to meeting the challenge of this problem. Indeed, in many ways it has been complicit – at times, purposefully – in exacerbating it.
This was aptly expressed in an interesting blog post by Noah Efron titled “The us-them politics of baby-burning and teen-stabbing” (August 3).
Writing of the virulent response from Left and Right in the wake of the deadly arson in Duma and stabbing in Jerusalem he says: “...
the tragedies have already been assimilated into the politics of mutual recrimination that has reigned for so long.”
He comments: “That we managed so quickly and effortlessly, on both sides, to turn last week’s attacks into a matter of us-versus-them, Left-versus-Right, is a sign that something is desperately wrong with our political discourse...
that our partisanism is becoming an unquestioned first principle. We have developed an awesome and frightful talent for turning even those things that might unite us into things that divide us.”Deceptive false symmetry
But despite these perceptive insights, Efron himself falls prey to the illusion of symmetry between the political Left and Right. In an endeavor at misplaced even-handedness, he cites prominent figures on either side of the political divide.
He quotes a Facebook post from Culture Minister Miri Regev, chiding the organizers of an LG BT protest rally, held in the wake of the fatal stabbing during the recent Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, at which Likud Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz was booed (not because of what he said but because of who he is), and from which right-wing Education Minister Naftali Bennett was barred. Regev wrote: “It is sad that a demonstration calling for tolerance is blanketed in great darkness and basic intolerance toward anyone who thinks a little differently.”
He then cites from the rally address by Zehava Gal-on, leader of the left-wing Meretz party, which validated everything Regev claimed: “Enough already with those statements about extremists on both sides. Stop saying already that this is not a political matter. In Israel there is a camp of racist conservatives who, through intimidation and incitement, encourage violence and are not ashamed to do so in the name of Judaism. And there are those who came here tonight, who propose a different Judaism, a different Israel, a different politics, a politics of acceptance of the other, a politics of love for people whomever they are, for justice, brotherhood, equality. There is a struggle between two worldviews.”False symmetry (cont.)
Efron continues in his tone of unbiased, but uncalled for, “balance”: “... it is a terrible leap of illogic to conclude from this that the Right is somehow responsible for the murders, just as it is a terrible leap of illogic for Regev to conclude that the Left has manufactured its horror and rage over the murders in a hypocritical effort to slander the Right.”
Efron is half right.
The Right – particularly the establishment political Right – is in no way responsible for the murders, neither the Duma arson nor the Jerusalem stabbing. After all, the perpetrators of the former are as yet unknown and the perpetrator of the latter has no known party affiliation. Moreover, virtually all the leaders of the political Right went out of their way to condemn, vehemently, these and other instances of ideologically motivated violence.
On the other hand, the Left has pounced on these regrettable events to try and denigrate its right-wing adversaries by inferred affiliation with the perpetrators – however far-fetched and unsubstantiated by fact such a leap of illogic may be.
For sadly the only goal the Israeli Left really cares about is the dismantling of Jewish settlements across the pre-1967 lines, and in its pursuit , all means, however mendacious or malevolent, are permissible. In this context, any act, no matter how heinous, can be seized on to besmirch political adversaries on the Right (i.e. those not devoted to the destruction of Jewish settlements), by imputing an ideological association with the perpetrators, no matter how tenuous or implausible such imputation might be.
For those who find such my assertion farfetched and fanciful, I urge you to withhold judgment – and read on. Arson in Duma and Tuba – same troubling questions
On the night of October 3, 2011, a mosque in the Beduin-Arab village of Tuba-Zanghariya in the Galilee was torched and defaced with Hebrew graffiti, indicating that it was a “price tag” attack committed by Jews. Although thankfully there was no loss of life, the trial by the media produced a swift and unequivocal verdict.
“Jewish extremists suspected in Israel mosque attack,” blared an October 4, 2011, Los Angeles Times headline, in a report that informed readers that “Palestinian and Israeli officials have condemned the attacks as acts of terrorism. Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency warned recently that those responsible are escalating their activity and evolving from small vigilante squads into organized terrorist cells.”
Shimon Peres – then president – responded with almost instantaneous alacrity, declaring Jewish guilt: “It is unconscionable that a Jew would harm something that is holy to another religion. This act is not-Jewish, illegal, immoral, and brings upon us heavy shame.”
Several Jewish teenagers were arrested, with the police hinting that apparently incriminating “forensic evidence” had been found at the scene. Several days later, all were released for lack of any findings tying them to the deed.
Eventually details began to emerge casting doubt as to whether Jews were involved at all.
‘A Jew will not come and burn down this mosque’
Several months later (January 16, 2012), Haaretz reported that a resident of the village, a disabled IDF veteran, Bassem Souad, told Channel 2 that the arson was the result of a quarrel between residents of the village that had taken place the day before, and was not an attack by nationalistic Jewish elements.
(Numerous residents of the village serve in the IDF.) Souad was categorical: “A Jew will not come and burn down this mosque. The one who burned the mosque is one of our own. I say this because I am not afraid of anyone. He is from the village, to my great regret.” Souad explained that the torched mosque was relatively inaccessible to outsiders and there were several mosques in the village that would have been far easier targets.
report continued: “After the interview was broadcast, police were sent to guard Souad’s house at the request of the village’s mayor. Police, however, were distracted by a fire set by the assailants at the entrance to the village as a diversion. When the police went to check out that incident, unidentified attackers shot automatic fire at the house.
Israel Police have opened an investigation into the incident.”
To the best of my knowledge no one has been arrested, and certainly not convicted, for the crime.
In Duma as in Tuba?
The then-appointed head of the local council Brig.-Gen. (res.) Zvika Fogel hinted that this is not likely to change. He intimated that it would have been convenient if the attack could be attributed to “price tag” ideologues, because if the perpetrators were found to be local Arabs, it would be liable to trigger a blood feud.
Now, while it is far from implausible that Jews may have been responsible for the fatal firebombing of the family home in Duma, many of the details that have emerged raise doubts similar to those in the Tuba-Zanghariya incident – the difficulty of access and egress for outsiders, the authenticity of the graffiti, the existence of more accessible targets, the rumor of a feud within the village.
All of this means that caution should be exercised before drawing accusatory conclusions.
It is one thing to feel horror and outrage at a reprehensible action, but quite another to collectively condemn political adversaries for it – especially when they have expressed similar horror and opprobrium at it.
But all this is of little import for the Israeli Left. The opportunity that recent events have presented them for vilifying the Right and for using the tragedy as a rallying call for a flagging, failed political credo was too tempting to resist – irrespective of the grist this provides for the Judeophobic mills of the Jewish state’s detractors.
Political opportunism, not moral outrage
Indeed, what drives the current crusade of the Left against “Jewish terror” is not shocked moral outrage or genuine concern for the fabric of Israeli society but cynical political opportunism.
After all, if the Left were genuinely concerned about creating awareness of gays rights in the capital, why not insist that the gay pride parade not be confined to Jewish west Jerusalem, but be routed through the largely Muslim east Jerusalem as well, where those rights are under considerably greater threat? Likewise, where is the Left’s outrage at the dreadful plight of Beduin women in the South, vividly conveyed in a recent Jerusalem Post article by Sarab Abu Rabia, herself a Beduin, titled “Beduin women of the Negev: The brutal conspiracy of silence” in which she accuses the Israeli media of being complicit in creating this horrific situation by studiously ignoring it.
Could it be because these issues would force the Left to confront the grave democratic deficits, rife in Arab society that it sees as part of its political constituency? Or because engaging them will do little to help them advance their major strategic objective – eradicating the Jewish presence in the cradle of Jewish civilization? I could go on and on, but I am beginning to depress myself – next week I will write on something else.Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (www.strategic-israel.org).
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