Silencing the calls for revenge

The Arabs might have adopted a practical approach whereby they would learn and benefit from the Jewish successes, but instead, the leadership chose to focus all energy on hatred and resentment.

A Palestinian demonstrator uses a slingshot to hurl stones towards Israeli troops during clashes at a protest as Palestinians call for a 'Day of Rage.' (photo credit: REUTERS)
A Palestinian demonstrator uses a slingshot to hurl stones towards Israeli troops during clashes at a protest as Palestinians call for a 'Day of Rage.'
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It is generally believed that even if the parties are persuaded to enter peace talks, there is no formula for peace that will be acceptable to both the Israelis and the Palestinians using the variables on the negotiating table, and especially when the formula is primarily based on land for peace.
On the Left many are uncomfortable with the status quo and would like to see the government engaged in negotiations, but in reality even a left-wing government will not compromise on security concerns, even if they were to consider some forced evacuations.
And unlike the Egyptian agreement with Sadat, which resulted in Israel confiscating very large pieces of land, which benefited both the pride and the welfare of the Egyptians, there is nothing Israel could offer that would be remotely attractive to the Palestinian leadership.
And the reason for that does not lie in the details of where the geographical perimeters would be drawn.
The geographical component is a bit tricky, since an Israeli government would never obtain a mandate to evacuate tens of thousands of Israelis, especially in light of the ever-growing housing shortage – not to mention the historical and emotional attachment to areas in question.
But the real obstacle lies on the side of the Palestinian leadership. If the Jewish state somehow ceased to be, God forbid, what would be their raison d’être? It’s well known that the PLO was established in 1964, three years before the disputed territories came under Israeli dominion. The Palestinians had difficulty tolerating the existence of a Jewish state, not only because it was Jewish, but mainly because it was flourishing.
Palestinian independence was not an issue under pre-state Jordanian rule. The Land of Israel was literally a non-irrigable dessert. But seeing the Jews dry the swamps and succeed in rejuvenating the land, even before an official state was established, was hard to abide.
The Arabs might have adopted a practical approach whereby they would learn and benefit from the Jewish successes, but instead, the leadership chose to focus all energy on hatred and resentment, not unlike the enemies of the Jewish people throughout the ages who used Jew-hatred to deflect from their own failings, making Jews the scapegoat. Historically this approach never ends well for the antisemite. The archetypal model for this is embodied in Persian biblical character Haman. Wealthy and holding a lofty royal position, he was unable to derive pleasure from all his good fortune as long as he saw the Jewish Mordechai sitting at the entrance of the royal courtyard. His irrational hatred led to his downfall.
It is far easier for the Palestinian leaders to arouse hatred and vengeance by honoring murderous terrorists than take on the very challenging task of building a prosperous Palestinian society. It is inconceivable that such a society does not already exist within the PA, in light of the billions of dollars donated from around the world. Even if the leadership lined their own pockets, there should be plenty left over to improve their own economy. Are we expected to believe it is because they don’t have an official state with a stamp and all the accouterments? The absence of an army only spares them from having to fund a military.
So as long as the PA honors terrorists and funds them, they continue to feed into the gratification and “pride” that Palestinians derive from killing Jews. In this manner the Palestinian leadership achieves approval from the Palestinians.
Feeding pride and honor is a much easier task than building a thriving economy, which is riskier.
It is very worrisome to see that those counter-productive and dangerous, vengeful emotions are beginning to take root among a few misguided right-wing Israelis. Right up to the day when two teenagers and a young adult were arrested for the arson which resulted in Palestinian death, including of an infant, most Israelis did not believe that Jews were capable of terrorism. Apparently the perpetrators of this violence were motivated by revenge.
Sadly, at the well-attended, heartbreaking funeral of 35-year old father of six Raziel Shevah, calls for revenge were vocalized, even as the family silenced them. Unlike the Palestinian leadership who support terrorists monetarily and verbally, the Israeli government/people will always combat individual acts of revenge randomly targeting the civilian population. The desire for revenge is a strong raw human emotion, but not one encouraged in Jewish thought.
Years ago during a particularly violent period of the intifada, I remember listening to different responses from family members of victims. One family member spoke with mixed anger and despair as she described her world as being irreparably destroyed “all because of that stupid terrorist.” In contrast, we heard the responses of some Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) individuals who experienced similar losses, completely devoid of anger and blame. Faith is helpful for facing tragedy.
And while the young revenge-callers presumably are religious, their experience is different from that of the Haredim – the Haredim will only pray for peace, while the other must also fight for peace. The revenge-callers cannot remain detached, in the ivory tower of theoretical debates. They are viscerally engaged in a reality where innocent Jews are mercilessly killed and there is virtually no response – not from the world and not from their own government. Sure some government officials will say some meaningless words, but absolutely nothing is done to prevent the loss of Jewish life. Unlike their Haredi counterparts, the young activists are not satisfied to recite Psalms; they are compelled to act.
Ironically, the same Israelis that understand Palestinians’ “rage” because of the “occupation” are disdainful of Jewish rage. “Occupation” bears negative connotations, and Palestinians are subject to security checks they consider humiliating – but not humiliating enough to stop their terrorism such that the security measures become superfluous. And while they never “raged” over Jordanian occupation, this rage could be eliminated if only the propaganda would cease. The Jewish callers for revenge are not inspired by an imagined offense.
The bullet-riddled body of a peaceful, beloved man is not equivalent to complaints about “occupation.”
For two millennia Jews suffered indignations far worse than those suffered by Palestinians, and did not respond with rage.
Whether revenge may ever have been effective in bettering the Jews’ predicament in history when we were landless and helpless is debatable, but it definitely is not indicated today with a democratic Jewish government. And Jewish thugs must be prevented from violence, not only to avoid hurting innocents, but to avoid hurting our own self-image as a justice-seeking people. On that point there is a wide consensus. But is it reasonable that the public outcry be greater on the rare occasion when the perpetrator is a Jew? Nothing the government has done has mitigated Palestinian terrorism, especially when terrorists are assured lifelong monetary benefits for their family. Reason dictates that to discourage unwanted behavior, the perpetrator must see that the results of his actions are against his interests. That is why some propose that acts of terrorism be matched by permits for building new settlements.
Sometimes that is proposed, but under our current zigzag-style government ultimately those permits are often revoked and replaced with building freezes.
Ultimately, there are no repercussions for Palestinian violence. Long Knesset discussions about death sentences for terrorists abound, but no long-range policy change is ever seriously considered.
The Palestinian government can be blamed for actively encouraging terrorism to find favor in the eyes of the people instead of educating them toward peace.
But if acts of Jewish revenge become more common, God forbid, the Israeli government will bear responsibility for ignoring its own complicity by inaction.
The author immigrated to Israel from the US in 1984. She is Modern Orthodox, a passionate Zionist, mother of five and a systems engineer.