Is our history wasted on us? - opinion

Attacks on Palestinian civilians by Jewish terrorists are nothing new.

the Dawabsha house which was set on fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists in Duma. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
the Dawabsha house which was set on fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists in Duma.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
A few days ago, I went with the group Tag Meir to visit a Palestinian family whose children were attacked recently by thugs from the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar, which looms on a hill high above several Palestinian villages. The marauders entered the village of Madama and, from a few feet away, hurled rocks at children playing outside their home, breaking the nose of a 12 year old, hitting her four-year-old sister on the leg, and shattering windows in several rooms of the family’s house. One rock landed inside, inches from a newborn baby. The family lives in terror of a recurrence, several of which have already been attempted.
Attacks on Palestinian civilians by Jewish terrorists are nothing new. We hear about them on the news and from firsthand accounts by our children serving in the IDF in areas where such attacks are common. Rarely, and only in cases in which murder ensues – the kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir in 2014, or the fire-bomb murder of the Dawabshe family in 2015 (one of several fire bombings of Palestinian homes) – are perpetrators caught and brought to justice.
One such case is still pending: Aisha al-Rabi, 47, mother of eight, was killed in 2018 by a rock hurled through the windshield of the car in which she sat next to her husband while her young daughter in the back seat, as they traveled the West Bank’s main north-south route on their way home. The perpetrator, a yeshiva student, has been charged with manslaughter, aggravated stone-throwing at a moving vehicle, and intentional sabotage of a vehicle. Violence against Palestinian civilians and their homes, mosques, cars, olive trees, shops and playgrounds in areas over the 1967 “Green Line” and under Israeli control, is a regular fact of life, often captured on video.
The Israel Defense Forces – the IDF – as the name states, was created to protect Israelis. It has no mandate to protect Palestinians under Israeli control. That job, supposedly, falls to Israeli police who, the record clearly shows, fail to discharge it.
It is 54 years since the Six Day War of 1967. Why, in all these years and despite so many violent acts, has there been no directive from the political echelon in charge of the army – the Defense Ministry – ordering the IDF to protect all civilians in areas under Israeli control? Political resolution of the territory that came under Israeli control then clearly eludes us, but that is no excuse for failure to take decisive, effective action against ongoing terrorism there.
We Jews hear much about the history of Jewish victimization: of our vulnerability and helplessness during the Holocaust; about pogroms in Europe and in the lands of Islam – the Farhud, in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1941, to name one. Pogrom is a well-established term in the Jewish lexicon. We also know too well the experience of terrorist acts directed against Israeli civilians.
This experience drove and continues to drive Jewish determination to protect ourselves and never again be thus vulnerable. That is certainly one imperative to take from our history.
But not the only one.
If all we learn from our history is “Never again,” to Jewish vulnerability, we have learned half a lesson. The rest of which is that we, who now have power, must prevent the victimization of others under our control; people who are stateless, with no army or police to protect them from pogroms.
It is not enough to say that we are not the perpetrators of this terrorism. We may not be guilty, but we are responsible.
It is long past time that our government issue that order to the IDF: Protect all civilians under Israeli control, because the ongoing attacks on Palestinian civilians and the government’s failure to take any effective action against them disgrace this country and the memory of our murdered loved ones. It is our sacred duty to apply the full lesson of their suffering, and of our history.
The writer is a Jewish historian, author of four published books and scores of articles, and winner of a National Jewish Book Award and other prizes. She resides in Jerusalem.