My Word: Terror and unity; redlines and the Green Line

Dehumanizing “settlers” legitimizes attacks on them.

Funeral place of the murdered infant  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Funeral place of the murdered infant
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
"It’s a new low even for terrorists – killing a baby before he’s been born,” declared my son last week. The death of the baby – given the name Amiad Yisrael just before his funeral on the Mount of Olives – managed to unite the country, his courageous parents Amichai and Shira Ish-Ran told a press conference on December 16 at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where Shira is still hospitalized. The young couple, married less than a year and expecting their first child, were both shot on December 9 in a terrorist attack at a bus stop near Ofra, surrounded by the Samarian hills. Judging by her wounds, the terrorists aimed deliberately at Shira’s clearly pregnant belly. The baby, born by cesarean section at 30 weeks as doctors struggled at the same time to save the life of his 21-year-old mother, survived just three days.
“Our baby, Amiad Yisrael, managed to unite the Jewish people in the three days he was alive, something most people never manage to do in their entire lives,” his father declared.
And it’s true. People around the country and way beyond, religious and secular, Jew and non-Jew, were praying that the baby born in such terrible circumstances would survive and live a happy, healthy life.
The strength of the outpouring of love and good wishes was reminiscent of the almost palpable feeling that dominated the country in June 2014 while three families waited to hear the fate of their kidnapped teenage sons. That, too, had no happy ending. The Hamas terrorist cell that tricked them into taking their last ride from a hitchhiking post in Gush Etzion had killed them and hidden their bodies.
Rachelle Fraenkel, mother of 16-year-old Naftali who was murdered along with Eyal Yifrah and Gil-Ad Shaer, later told me that no prayer is wasted and she felt that all the prayers for their children helped unite the country and in a way prepare it for the difficult summer that lay ahead when Hamas launched thousands of rockets on Israel, and Israel responded with Operation Protective Edge.
The Fraenkels, along with the Shaer and Yifrah families, later established the Jerusalem Prize for National Unity to preserve the memory of their sons and that special spirit.
I know tragically too many parents who have lost children in terrorist attacks (and war). All of them have taken their pain and channeled it into doing something positive as a living legacy for their offspring, cut down before they had a chance to create their own impact on the world.
It’s not by chance that my thoughts returned to the summer of 2014. The war then took the country by surprise, but was triggered by the chain of events following the kidnapping and murder of the three teens. Hamas, which controls Gaza, grew ever more militant in its attempts to free its members arrested as Israeli security forces swooped down on suspected terrorist cells in Judea and Samaria.
The events last week in which, apart from Amiad Yisrael, two soldiers – Yosef (Yossi) Cohen and Yovel Mor Yosef – were killed and others wounded as they guarded a bus stop and hitchhiking post, were seen as an upsurge in terrorist attacks.
Hamas would do well to remember that what starts in Judea and Samaria (or the West Bank, as it undoubtedly prefers to call it) does not remain there.
And so should the rest of the world.
The days of blaming Israel for the terrorist attacks perpetrated against it should long be past. Palestinian terrorists are not carrying out attacks in “the occupied territories” to express frustration with the economy and “lack of progress in a peace process.” The same way as a terrorist shouting “Allahu akhbar” as he runs down or guns down innocent civilians in a European city is not using the words as a cry for help but a battle cry in a religious war.
One person who hasn’t got the message, and probably never will, is Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy. In a despicable opinion piece Levy wrote: “I have no sympathy for the settlers. I have no sympathy for the settlers not even when they are hit by tragedy. A pregnant woman was wounded and her newborn baby died of its wounds – what can be worse than that? Driving on their roads is frightening, the violent opposition to their presence is growing – and I feel no sympathy for their tragedy, nor do I feel any compassion or solidarity.”
Levy’s opinion of Jews who live, work or visit over the Green Line crossed a redline. Even left-leaning colleagues and Haaretz readers condemned it. Veteran Haaretz writer Bradley Burston felt compelled to respond with a piece with the title: “I Have a Serious Problem With Leftists Who Are Okay With the Murder of Settlers.”
Writing “as someone who believes that the settlement movement has ruined Israel and poisoned its future,” Burston pointed out what should be obvious: “Morally, humanly, it should not matter one iota that the civilians who were shot and wounded were settlers....
“I have a serious problem with the idea that murderous terrorism against civilians can be redefined and repackaged and understood and even supported under the heading of ‘self-defense.’”
Levy’s vile bile backfired. It united people even more – against him.
For some people, delegitimizing “settlers” stems from a political belief; for others, it’s a pathetic form of denial – that what happens to “settlers” is due to where they live and therefore doesn’t threaten “normal people.”
Economic bullying, like terrorism, also does not stop over the artificial so-called Green Line. The BDS movement, advocating boycott, divestment and sanctions aimed at Jewish businesses over the pre-1949 ceasefire lines, will never stop there. The boycott of Jewish businesses is not a way to bring about peace. Neither is defending terrorists.
That a street in Johannesburg has been named after Leila Khaled, the former poster girl for Palestinian terrorism, should be a cause for alarm. The world has come a long way since Palestinians used hijackings and the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Olympics to highlight their cause: a long way in the wrong direction.
Particularly this time of year, as Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, it is worth recalling that the nativity story took place in a town in Judea – long, long before it would become known as “the West Bank city of Bethlehem.”
As many people have quipped recently in the light of Airbnb’s convoluted – make that twisted – statements regarding Jewish-owned vacation rentals in “the West Bank,” today the reason Joseph and Mary wouldn’t find room at the inn is because they were Jewish.
Economic and cultural boycotts are unpleasant, but don’t threaten Israel’s survival; they do however make a mockery of those professing to carry them out in the name of “democratic rights” and “freedom.”
Dehumanizing “settlers” legitimizes attacks on them. And from there, legitimizing attacks on Israelis and Jews everywhere is but one tiny step on the proverbial slippery slope. Now, more than ever, is a time for unity, not just in Israel. The world needs to unite with Israel to fight terrorism. Otherwise, terrorism will continue to win around the world. The export of terrorist attacks, rocket attacks and terror tunnels should be boycotted, and you can’t claim to be doing that by singling out Israelis or pretending that killing a baby in his mother’s womb is all right as long as she is Jewish.
If you think it’s acceptable to deliberately shoot at the abdomen of a pregnant woman – of any race or religion – because of the location of the bus stop she’s standing at, you don’t deserve to preach morality to others. If you can dehumanize “settlers” to the extent that you can justify the murder of a child – like 13-year-old Hallel Ariel, slaughtered in June 2016 in her bedroom in her Kiryat Arba home – your moral compass has been lost somewhere, stuck pointing to “the West Bank.” It can’t point you in the right direction anywhere in the world.