‘Dam butlab dam’ – only for some

As in yesteryear, so in the 21st century, it’s axiomatic that Arabs have the right to inflict incalculable harm on Jews, but the Jews’ attempts to deflect such blows are evil, outrageous and deserving of merciless punishment.

Terrorist arms smuggler Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s son, Abdel-Rauf, stood teary-eyed before TV interviewers and lavished praise on his deceased father. He bragged that the late lamented, who was discovered dead in Dubai, “fought the Jews, hit the Jews, kidnapped and killed Israelis. He outfitted and dispatched suicide bombers.” That evidently made him an object for admiration, a source of honor and a claim to fame. Killing Jews is a noble objective, one to take pride in, to revere.
So when we Israelis point to Mabhouh’s gory record, it isn’t just our biased say-so. It’s hardly an unsubstantiated allegation, a pretext to justify assassination. His own son concedes this, indeed he crows about it as the paramount tribute he can pay his father.
And it isn’t a mournful son’s subjective or self-serving aggrandizement either. Hamas issued an official statement celebrating its latest shahid (martyr). Prominent in the Hamas-compiled catalog of Mabhouh glories are the 1989 abduction-murders of IDF soldiers Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sa’adon.
By the boastful admission of both his kin and organization, Mabhouh’s hands were bloodstained. Hence, by the Arabs’ own rules of engagement, he was liable for reprisal. The principal code governing these rules is dam butlab dam (blood begets blood).
Because of this core premise Hamas now vows to wreak the most horrific vengeance on Israel, actual proof of Israeli culpability for Mabhouh’s demise being entirely immaterial. All Israelis are therefore fair game. This is the elementary protocol of the blood feud.
But here’s where we encounter our enemies’ cynical lopsided logic. By their own rules – assuming for argument’s sake that we submit ourselves to them – we should be perceived just as entitled as they to hunt down and kill whoever killed our own. Yet our retribution is condemned a priori as illegitimate. The right to avenge Mabhouh’s death is unchallenged, whereas the right to avenge Mabhouh’s victims is categorically denied. What is valid, in fact a sacred duty for one side, is intolerable and entirely villainous for the other.
The underlying assertion is that Mabhouh’s acts were virtuous and sanctioned by absolute supernal will. Unlike our own, Arab society is unbothered by the pluralistic niceties of postmodern moral relativism. Allah is exclusively on their side and they are the only interpreters of his wishes. This isn’t only Hamas ideology. The Palestinian Media Watch disseminated the text of the January 29 sermon on PATV, under the auspices of our supposed peace-partner Mahmoud Abbas.
It called on all Muslims to remember that “the Jews are the Jews! The Jews are the Jews! Even if donkeys would cease to bray, dogs cease to bark, wolves cease to howl and snakes to bite, the Jews would not cease to harbor hatred towards Muslims. The Prophet said that if two Jews would be alone with a Muslim, they would think only of killing him… The Prophet says: ‘You shall fight the Jews and kill them...’” There is a whole loathsome lot more, but the basis is clear: the murder of Jews is divinely decreed.
In other words, Mabhouh acted morally. Those who opposed him are immoral. By this precept Jews must die and have no right to resist. That is their lot. Not only do they possess no right to avenge, they possess no right to self-defense, to fight at all. Their very existence is a provocation, a casus belli.
THIS IS key to understanding today’s Mideast. As in yesteryear, so in the 21st century it’s axiomatic that Arabs have the right to inflict incalculable harm on Jews – and to do so in the most sadistically inventive ways – but the Jews’ attempts to deflect such blows are evil, outrageous and deserving of merciless punishment.
Failure to admit how selective Arab rules of warfare are precludes making sense of anything in our region and dooms to failure any so-called peace drives and mediation initiatives. The tragedy is that not only is the fundamental asymmetry between Jewish and Arab mind-sets not comprehended abroad, but there’s no inclination to even consider it.
Worse yet – the Arabs’ skewed standards are commonly accepted overseas. Hence the outcry whenever Israel does anything in aid of its self-preservation. Large-scale campaigns like Defensive Shield, the Lebanon War or Cast Lead are decried for “lack or proportionality.” However, there was censure even for pinpointed targeting such as the recent Nablus killing (in an exchange of fire during an attempted arrest) of the three ambushers who had earlier slain Meir Avshalom Chai in a drive-by shooting. Abbas described them as “ruthlessly executed martyrs.” Even the trials and convictions of murderers like Marwan Barghouti are portrayed as illegitimate. There plainly is just nothing Israel may do to secure itself. Even the most legalistically scrupulous remedies are repudiated.
The Goldstone Report is part and parcel of ongoing efforts to paralyze and disallow Israeli self-defense. The mud now slung at Israel is intended to intimidate use of force in future.
It’s nothing new. This isn’t the product of what’s castigated as occupation and/or the shortage of suicidal concessions on Israel’s part to appease Arab/Muslim appetites. Jewish self-defense, in its most rudimentary and literal sense, was anathema way before the Jewish state’s birth and subsequent cheeky survival.
In his milestone, still ever-relevant 1943 book The Forgotten Ally, Dutch-Canadian journalist Pierre Van Paassen quotes his own interview with the British Mandate’s acting high commissioner Harry Luke during the countrywide Arab rioting of 1929 (most notorious for the Hebron massacre). Van Paassen told Luke: “You arrested first and foremost, in every case I investigated, the Jews who successfully defended themselves. You arrested 50 Jews in Haifa at the moment they defended themselves heroically against the attack of a mob of some 2,000 runners-amok… yesterday I saw a man brought into Jerusalem by the mounted police and recognized in him an older settler from the neighborhood of Lifta, the owner of a small canning factory who had been in this country for more than 50 years – a real pioneer. I visited this man in jail. His name is Isaac Brozen… He was arrested after he had barricaded himself in his factory… Arabs from Lifta raped and massacred his old wife and two daughters and set fire to his house across the roadway.”
Luke, like Goldstone eight decades later, argued that he was only looking out for Jews. Brozen, and the many others Van Paassen listed, were merely “placed in protective custody for their own good.” The interviewer countered: “but they were in chains and in solitary confinement… Mr. Brozen was loaded down under chains… chains on his hands and chains on his feet, old Turkish chains at that…”
The more things change, the more they stay the same. “Impartial” Brits once sought to foil Jewish defense with chains. Now “impartial” Goldstone tries to foil Jewish defense with different, no less restrictive shackles.
The writer was The Jerusalem Post’s long-time political correspondent (as well as for years of the now-defunct Davar). She headed the Post’s Tel Aviv bureau, and wrote daily analyses of the political scene as well as in-depth features.