Why the West needs brain surgery

Given Israel’s repeated victimization at the hands of terrorists – a reality that has led to several wars and territorial withdrawals – what is most striking about the statute is how banal and obvious it seems.

June 19, 2016 21:30
4 minute read.
Zehava Gal-On

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On presenting the party's diplomatic platform. (photo credit: MERETZ)


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A counterterrorism bill was passed by an overwhelming majority of the Knesset on Wednesday. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who completed the push for the legislation initiated by her predecessor, Tzipi Livni, said, “There is no reason for terrorism; there are only excuses for it.”

Given Israel’s repeated victimization at the hands of terrorists – a reality that has led to several wars and territorial withdrawals – what is most striking about the statute is how banal and obvious it seems. For example, it states that anyone heading a terrorist organization will be subject to a 25-year prison sentence; if heading an actual terrorist operation at the time of his arrest, a mandatory life sentence. Anyone who perpetrates an act of terrorism using chemical, biological or radioactive weapons will also receive a life sentence, which will not be reduced for at least 15 years. Far lighter sentences will be imposed on those who train terrorists (nine years); recruiters of terrorists and those who issue threats to commit acts of terrorism (seven years); those who aid and abet terrorists, by driving them to the scene of their operations or providing them other services (five years); and those who incite to terrorism, promote the slogan, flag or anthem of a terrorist organization or who do not prevent an act of terrorism (three years); and two years for those who provide services to those distributing material promoting terrorist organizations.

The new law also empowers the defense minister or the government to define an organization as “terrorist,” based on recommendations from the head of the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency) and the opinion of the attorney- general. The Security Cabinet will also be able to label an organization abroad as “terrorist” if an authoritative body or the UN Security Council declares it as such.

In the wake of the attack on the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv earlier this month, which left four innocent Israelis dead and another six wounded – and following the massacre at the LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida, last weekend, in which 49 Americans were killed and an additional 53 wounded – the new Israeli law sounds mild. Almost pathetic, in fact, when one considers that it applies only to Israel, not the West Bank, and that most of the terrorists incarcerated after its final passing will still live to be released from jail. This is probably why it passed muster with most of the Knesset.

Lo and behold, however, it was attacked by the far-left and Arab parties.

Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On said that the war against terrorism must be waged “effectively and morally,” by ending the “49-year occupation,” which she called “the fuel and motivation for terror.” She failed to explain how Israeli control over a mere three percent of Judea and Samaria, which the terrorists themselves have announced is only the beginning of the ultimate aim to eliminate Israel in its entirety, led to the bloodbath in Orlando – or similar occurrences elsewhere in America and Europe.

But never mind. If pressed, she could probably find a way to do so; for instance, by pointing to the fact that the wife of Omar Mateen, who gunned down scores of innocent club-goers in Florida early Sunday morning, is of Palestinian origin.

The Joint List, at least, had the “decency” to blame not only Israel for global incidents of the phenomenon they did not name. MK Ahmad Tibi called the law “draconian and unacceptable,” while Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh said, “When I read the bill, I see panic, the panic of the final stage of all colonialism worldwide. The panic of the French at the end of the occupation of Algeria. I see the panic of the Americans in the final phase of the occupation of Vietnam.”

Like Gal-On, Odeh also indicated that “the real terror is your occupation, which hasn’t ended yet. You can demolish houses, arrest people, deport people, kill them and shoot them when they’re on the ground bleeding. But you can’t suppress a nation’s desire to liberate itself from the occupation.” Yes, a Knesset member referred to his countrymen not as “we,” but “you.”

It was this attitude of simultaneously denying jihad and defending it, while opposing Israel’s existence, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was warning about on Election Day last year, when he told voters that the “Arabs are going in droves to the polls.” Though he was issuing a political warning against having too large a bloc of terrorism- supporters in Israel’s legislative body, he was accused of being a racist for saying such a thing.

This cognitive dissonance highlights a problem that is far more insurmountable than terrorism itself. It is the political constraints of liberal democracies, coupled with a false and exaggerated definition of civil liberty that enables the phenomenon to fester and spread.

The very fact that the likes of Odeh are not only allowed, but welcome, to participate in the debate, while receiving a salary from the tax shekels of the state whose legitimacy he calls into question, illustrates the true danger faced by the West: applying the principles and standards of freedom to those whose goal is to wipe that concept off the face of the earth.

Though the new Israeli bill represents an assertion of good over evil, it is more like a shot of local anesthesia than a treatment for what is a worldwide plague. It is certainly nowhere near a cure. For that, the West requires brain surgery.

The writer is the managing editor of The Algemeiner.

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