An underdocumented tragedy

The same hatred that fueled murder of Jews in the Holocaust was evident in the horrendous murders of second intifada, Giulio Meotti argues.

Funeral settlers Kiryat Arba terror victims 521 (do not publish again) (photo credit: Flash 90)
Funeral settlers Kiryat Arba terror victims 521 (do not publish again)
(photo credit: Flash 90)
When I made aliya at the tail end of the second intifada, I was surprised by the lack of memorials to the victims of terror. The Palestinians and their friends in Israel call this the “presence of absence” when they describe the lack of commemoration for their former villages. However, a closer look reveals that there are a plethora of tiny signs and memorials for the all too numerous victims. Giulio Meotti, an Italian journalist, has set out to do these victims justice.
This is a tough and necessary job. There have been few books in English that chronicled the second intifada from this point of view. There have been even fewer that dared to examine the suffering inflicted by the murderous attacks.
This is primarily because of the content. It’s easier to write some puff piece about crying Palestinian children and their mother sheltering in a tent outside their freshly ruined house that was supposedly just demolished by a tank to make a road wider. It’s easier to write about soldiers than it is about blown-up buses. And in general the supporters of Israel tend to shy away from the gore, from the semi-pornographic obsession with death and the slaughtered, preferring a different moral high ground.
Meotti’s point of departure is that there is a line that connects the victims of terror and the victims of the Holocaust. Hence the title, which many will consider over the top, A New Shoah.
For him there are two reasons to draw this parallel.
First is that those who carry out terrorism are often motivated by similar types of anti- Semitic hatred; “Hamas and Hizbullah, two of the terrorist organizations that seek the destruction of Israel, call the Jews ‘pigs,’ ‘cancer’” and other terms that conjure up a dark era.
But the author also aims his argument at the West, which he believes has betrayed the victims of terror; “why is Ofir’s story never held up as an example of what ethnic-religious hatred can do?... whenever a Palestinian dies, even a suicide bomber, the newspapers fall all over themselves to publish his story and photographs...
today in the West there is a faulty conscience – indifferent to the parade of young Palestinians putting on explosive belts... [this] has obliterated the fate of thousands of Israelis murdered because they were Jews.”
Meotti attempts to create a memorial for those who lost their lives through a large number of vignettes. Many of the stories seem oddly similar in their tragedy. Take Cpl. Ronald Beer who had “arrived from Russia 14 years before he was killed.” He desired to join the army because “someone has to protect them. If I don’t do it, who will?” There is Gadi Rajwan, an immigrant from Iraq, who employed 70 Arabs. And there is Nava Applebaum, daughter of an American immigrant.
The author tries to emphasize the humanity of the victims. He provides them with a story, a history and a future that was cut short. Like so many others he emphasizes how humane they were and how humane Israeli society is in general: “During the second intifada, Israeli hospitals continued to provide medical care to Palestinian patients.” Too many of the victims are sons and daughters or grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. Too many, it seems, are immigrants. Too many are on their way to get married.
Meotti’s book is jarring as it is a little scatterbrained. There doesn’t appear to be a great deal of organization from one vignette to the other. But the overhanging theme never changes: Israeli Jews deserve to have their stories told and those who have ignored them under the banner of anti-Zionism are simply anti-Semites in a new garb. The author isn’t always exact on his facts. He notes that there were “86 Israelis [who] lost their lives during the First Gulf War, killed by Iraqi missiles, by panic, by suffocation.” This is a massive exaggeration – only two Israelis were killed and 230 wounded. Where did he come up with 86? But this slight mistake can be overlooked; he has provided an important testament to the victims of terror. It is too bad there are not more like him.