Israel’s leading newspapers reported that Palestinian gunmen returned Tiran Ferro’s body last week, thanks to efforts by the security forces in coordination with the Palestinian Authority.
Most Israelis, however, know that these barbarians returned the murdered Druze boy’s body so quickly and apologetically, thanks to threats from furious Druze. The establishment’s spin highlights the indignation recession: when Palestinians murder Jews, Jewish guilt muffles the required fury even among many Israelis, let alone worldwide.
Consider two brutal Palestinian crimes committed last Wednesday. First, two nail-filled bombs exploded in Jerusalem, injuring 18 commuters while killing 15-year-old Israeli-Canadian Aryeh Shechopek. An Israeli-Ethiopian father to six, Tadasa Tashume Ben Ma’ada, died days later. Many Palestinians distributed candy and hailed the cowardly killers as they watched Jews wail at this sweet boy’s funeral.
Later that day, Palestinian gunmen invaded a Palestinian hospital, disconnected 18-year-old Tiran Ferro from life support and kidnapped his body. Justifiably infuriated by this assault on the basic norms of civilization and on their people, thousands of Druze protested, blocking highways. Others warned Palestinians collectively throughout Jenin that they would pay for this affront. During the tense 30 hours before Ferro’s family received his body back, three Palestinians were kidnapped and beaten.
Even after Ferro’s body was returned, a Palestinian Authority delegation hastened to visit his family. Mahmoud Abbas’s adviser, Mahmoud al-Habbash, embraced “Our dear brethren in Daliat al-Carmel, parents of the deceased,” saying “he was dear to us as he was dear to you.”
What logical patriot can avoid a most politically-incorrect conclusion?
The Druze threats and kidnappings were undemocratic, uncivilized, unacceptable and effective. Those Druze patriots showed they understand the Middle East’s tribal rules: you target me and I’ll target you more.
The Palestinian killers and their enablers, therefore, did not learn “oh, we should never sully the sanctum of a hospital, disconnect a teenager from life-support whom our doctors are treating after a car crash nearby, then kidnap the body.”
No, they believe they erred by harming a Druze kid, not a Jewish kid. In short, open season on the Jews continues.
Note how little outrage murdering Jews stirs – too many American Jewish extremists are yelling so loudly about Israel supposedly going MAGA and comparing Israeli leaders to Ku Klux Klansmen that they can’t hear the bombs detonated in Jerusalem or the cries as Israelis are shot, stabbed or rammed to death. And note Israel’s dilemma: In this law-abiding democracy cherishing the Jewish and Western ideals holding individuals accountable, these Druze fighters understand that collective punishment works in the clannish Middle East.
IN ESTABLISHING a Jewish democracy in an irrationally hostile neighborhood, Zionism has always oscillated between the Western norms that keep us civilized and the Middle Eastern moves that keep us alive. We want to look at ourselves in the mirror with pride but need our enemies to look at us with fear. Such principled, disciplined toughness required crushing our enemies without crushing our souls.
Forty years ago, during the anguish over Israel’s Lebanon war – following persistent PLO attacks from the north – the liberal American Zionist Leonard Fein identified “two kinds of Zionists... We want to be normal, we want to be special: we want to be a light unto the nations, we want to be a nation like all the others.” And, Fein realized most of us are both.
Right now, Israel is again enmeshed in an intense debate about how to kill the killers around us, without killing democracy and decency, too. I am proud that the IDF command swiftly punished the five soldiers who bullied leftist protesters in Hebron.
These outlaws not only betrayed their commanders, training, oaths and country, but they double-crossed my soldier kids and their friends, too. They fight hard to defend our country while respecting civilized norms and avoiding politics when in uniform.
It’s hard not to feel sick watching the videos of the beatings, preceded by one Givati soldier foolishly vowing that “Ben-Gvir holech la’asot po seder” – Ben-Gvir will impose order here. The video shows how Itamar Ben-Gvir’s inflammatory words risk intensifying problems, without solving them.
As usual, the far-right’s idiocy parallels the far-left’s. Both overestimate the impact any one individual can have in government, let alone on an entire country. I challenge the fanatics to name one cabinet member who ever solved Israel’s security problem or destroyed Israel’s soul.
They all should read Robert Reich’s memoir Locked in the Cabinet. Despite serving with his close friend and ideological ally Bill Clinton, Reich quickly discovered how little he could change as secretary of labor. And Ben-Gvir will serve under a most wily rival, the hyper-competitive Benjamin Netanyahu.
Clearly, Israel must respond aggressively and proactively to the growing Palestinian terror wave, while maintaining troop discipline and the country’s values. In 1982, contemplating the Zionist century that preceded him, Leonard Fein acknowledged how elusive that balance can be. Rejecting the false choice between a “Zionism of the Body,” and a “Zionism of the Soul,” Fein spoke for most Zionists when he concluded, “I vastly prefer a people that choose to risk a collective nervous breakdown, as we do, by endorsing both visions, both versions... Muscle and conscience, body and soul.”
I will keep fighting Ben-Gvirist hooliganism to preserve our soul but without sacrificing our rights or ignoring our needs to preserve our body. That means fighting Palestinian terrorism creatively, relentlessly, unapologetically, and, when really necessary, collectively, too.
The writer is a distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University, and the author of nine books on American history and four books on Zionism. He is the editor of the new three-volume set, Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings, the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People (www.theljp.org).