It’s painful wasting words by writing the obvious. Alas, our increasingly-demagogic politicians need this reminder: your political rivals don’t cause terrorism – terrorists cause terrorism.
Palestinian terrorists love dividing us. They must chuckle when we rationalize their evil by imposing irrelevant narratives on their crimes. Anti-terror strategies come and go. But the terrorists remain guilty – always. Palestinian terrorists and their anti-Zionist enablers rarely “respond” to Israeli actions. They strike when they can. They hate us because we are.
The terrorists are clear about it – how dare any of us get confused. Yet consider this tale of two speeches. On April 10, the man who should represent all Israelis, not just the 49.57% who elected his coalition, Benjamin Netanyahu, addressed the nation. We were mourning 19 recent murders, especially of two sisters, Maia and Rina Dee, whose execution echoed the murders of two sets of brothers: Yagel and Hillel Yaniv – 20 and 22 – and Ya’akov and Asher Pally – six and eight. Shortly before Netanyahu spoke, Lucy Dee, the mother, died – reducing this family of seven to four, in the searing words of Lucy’s widower, Rabbi Leo Dee.
We needed unifying, healing. Instead, Israel’s walking advertisement for term limits went guttersnipe. Netanyahu blamed “the terrorist assault” on “the previous government.” He gratuitously attacked its “surrender agreement” with Lebanon. That gas treaty means nothing to hopped-up Palestinians, riled-up against Zionists from childhood, often blackmailed into terrorism because of personal peccadilloes or economic need. The latest wave – vexing two contrasting Israeli governments – reflects the Palestinian Authority’s weakness, preliminary jockeying over Mahmoud Abbas’s eventual successor and the perennial genocidal delusions of Hamas, Iran’s mullahs and other maniacs.
Yair Lapid was equally petty. Yes, our no-longer-in-his prime prime minister let his wrecking-ball cabinet and judicial reform zealots distract him. But just as politicians must put politics on mute when commemorating each “Yom Ha-” – they shouldn’t politicize terrorism.
The despicable anti-Zionists blaming the Dees for being murdered offer clarity. “The reality of settler-colonialism is that it is a very unsafe activity to come from overseas to violently steal the land of an indigenous people,” the Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abuminah tweeted. That’s our enemy speaking. Negating our indigeneity, our rights, they target us, no matter what we believe, wherever we are.
Amid such darkness – from sloppy pols and, far worse, evil anti-Zionists – Rabbi Leo Dee and his surviving children generated light. During the worst week of their lives, they showed the best of the Jewish people – and brought out the best in most of us.
Rabbi Dee deemed the day Netanyahu ranted, April 10, “Dee’s Day,” a day to differentiate between good and evil. Post pictures of Israeli flags on social media, Dee requested, to proclaim: “We will never blame the murder on the victims. There is no such thing as moral equivalence between terrorist and victim.” Anticipating the anti-Zionist ugliness, Dee said, “Isn’t that how the world media treats Israel? We build; they murder us. They destroyed but it’s [your] fault because you built it in the first place.”
Later, addressing his late wife, Dee recalled the “new life” these British-born Israelis made “in the Promised Land. You would frequently say that you couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Nor could I – even now, especially now.” The grieving rabbi undercut every cut-and-runner who threatens to leave Israel, disinvest, stop being Zionist, stop being Jewish, or, my favorite, put a Christmas tree “on our balconies” instead of lighting hanukkiot last Hanukkah – with that elitist assumption that all right-thinking people have porches.
April 10 also marked the 28th yahrzeit of Alisa Flatow, who died a day after a Palestinian rammed the bus she was in, then detonated his car, killing seven soldiers too – reminding us how long and deep this anti-Zionist hatred runs.
I have been blessed to befriend Alisa’s father, Stephen. You could hear his spirit and strength in Rabbi Dee’s eulogies emphasizing moral clarity, national unity and faith. Embraced by thousands singing Passover songs about “them” rising every generation to destroy us – yet failing – and chanting hymns about the angel redeeming us from evil, Rabbi Dee articulated “one main formula for faith: always focus on what you do have and not what you do not – and I still have three wonderful children…”
Teaching essential lessons for Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) – Dee added: “And if the Jewish people would look at what we have and not at what we do not have, we would realize that we still are a united people. We’re united against a common enemy, we are the forces of good fighting the forces of evil, and we will always prevail.”
On Passover, my son lamented that religious Zionists, traditionally Israel’s “megasherim,” bridge-builders, are being misrepresented by the Religious Zionist Party’s barn-burners. The Dees, and so many who embraced them in Efrat and elsewhere, with hugs, chocolates and prayers, showed religious Zionism’s true face, Israel’s true face – and the kind of a people we are, no matter who leads us, no matter who attacks us.
Stephen Flatow generously acknowledges the good his loss generated: friendships made, values reinforced and commitments forged – to Judaism, Zionism, the Jewish people and Israel. We Jews have long been master alchemists, turning the worst they inflict into the best we can be. This Jew-jitsu is how we survived the Holocaust. It’s how we built this 75-year-old miracle. And it’s how the Dees – and the other stricken families – will not just survive but thrive.
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).