Professor William Jacobson, (a law professor at Cornell University, an avowed conservative, Zionist and staunch defender of Israel, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting a couple of times in Israel) who runs the law-blog Legal Insurrection kindly invited me to write a guest post on how we Israelis are feeling during this onslaught of terror. You can read my post at LI and if you have a registered account there you can leave comments. Otherwise I welcome your comments here! Following is a slightly different version, taking into account the events of the past couple of days.
The words in my headline express what I and most of my family, friends and acquaintances are feeling at the moment. And yet, being obedient citizens and not generally of a murderous nature even when faced with an onslaught of terror, these feelings are not expressed in anything more violent than a noisy demonstration (which was cancelled last night precisely because of the security situation) and angry talkbacks or letters to the editor.
Even so, when Professor Jacobson asked if I wanted to wrote a post describing how we Israelis are feeling under the current onslaught of terror and vicious incitement, I thought to myself “How do I expand “furious, angry, frightened and frustrated” into a few hundred words? It is rather hard to put these harsh emotions into words and explain how they affect our lives, but I shall try.
Having taken not one single survey, (so my apologies for generalizing and extrapolating from my own emotions) I think the dominant feeling amongst the Israeli populace is not fear or terror (though there is that too) but anger, accompanied by a good deal of frustration.
We are angry at the government, particularly at Binyamin Netanyahu who urges us not to let the terror affect our lives. Mr. Netanyahu, it IS affecting our lives! How could it not? And yet, we are also frustrated because we know that Bibi is right. We were more frustrated a few days ago because we felt the government wasn’t being forceful enough in confronting the wave of terror, and concentrating on defensive rather than offensive steps. But they seem to be on the right path now, with the piling on of extra security in Jerusalem, on public transport and on the roads, plus easing the rules of engagement for the police and IDF and easing the way to obtaining a gun licence.
We are furious at the Arab members of the Knesset who incite their constituents to murder, who defy the government’s orders not to cause provocations by going up to the Temple Mount, who claim the Jews have no rights on the Temple Mount, and who then claim victimization and accuse the government of incitement.
For example, here is the (Arab) Joint List MK Zahalka screaming at Israelis;
“Why are you letting them in? It’s a disgrace, only to hurt Muslims’ feelings. This is not yours, get out of here, go home, you’re not wanted,”
Watch the video:
They are arsonists in a bone-dry forest, and they are as responsible for the terror as those miserable kids who are going around stabbing Israelis. The one piece of good news about which Israelis were very happy today (if that’s the right word) is that Bibi called for a criminal investigation against Hanin Zoabi for calling for a popular intifada. But knowing our soft-left Attorney General, I’m not holding my breath for an indictment to emerge.
It is not only the average Israeli who is angry at the Arab MKs. In a very unusual scenario, the Arab mayor of Nazareth, Ali Salam, hurled a furious tirade against MK Ayman Odeh, the head of the United Arab List, accusing him and the rest of his party of “ruining” the city.
The unrest throughout Israel, in which dozens of stabbings and rock attacks have taken place in recent weeks, has caused a dearth of traffic in public places throughout the country, and has badly hurt the economy of Israeli Arab-owned businesses in Nazareth, Jaffa, Ramle, and other areas with large Arab populations.
Salam, frustrated with the situation, spotted Odeh speaking to the Channel Two reporter – and in the midst of the interview, began screaming at the MK in Arabic, telling him how he had “ruined this city, ruined everything. We did not have even one Jew here today, not one.
“What are giving interviews for? You have done nothing! You have destroyed the world! Get Out of here!,” screamed Salam, venting his frustration.
Watch the video:
We are upset, and more than a bit mystified, at the President – Rivlin, not Obama (though him too, but that’s another story) for asserting that we are not at war with Islam. Those are pretty words meant to tamp down the fire that threatens to engulf us, especially in Jerusalem, and they may be true in theory, but in practice, Islam is at war with us. How does one square that circle? Not facing up to reality has been the cause of most of our woes.
We are both furious and frustrated with Mahmoud Abbas who incites to murder out of one side of his mouth with dreadful libels about the Jews desecrating Al-Aqsa with “their filthy feet“:
Yet calls for calm from his own chieftains, and then again pronounces his solidarity with the Temple Mount rioters from the other side of his mouth. He cannot have it both ways. He cannot be arsonist and firefighter, though the world seems to have no problem accepting him as such.
We are angry, frustrated and terrified of our own hotheads who take the law into their own hands and who could ignite a civil war with the throw of a stone or the touch of a match.
We are spitting mad at the international media who distort, lie, slander and generally lie about Israel, and in particular about our efforts at self-defence. No matter what we do or how we go about it, you can be sure that the BBC, CNN, the NYT et al will distort the news into “all the news that we see fit to print, and if it’s not to our liking, we’ll edit it or invent it accordingly”.
I mentioned some examples of this media bias in my previous post. In another example, David Harris, director of the AJC, talks about the world’s deafening silence when Israelis are under attack:
And I’ve been wondering, not for the first time, what it would take for the world to wake up and acknowledge — without equivocation, resort to moral equivalence, or diplomatic gobbledygook — that Israel, the lone liberal democracy in the Middle East, is facing violence that must be condemned unequivocally, and that it, like any other nation, has the obligation to defend itself.
It’s striking how, when it comes to these issues, some otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people in government, media, or think tanks, just shut down their critical faculties. Instead, they resort to a Pavlovian response mechanism that essentially rejects any possible legitimacy for the Israeli position and blindly defends whatever Palestinian narrative comes along.
In this mindset, if Israelis are being shot or stabbed, they must have done something to “deserve” it.
If Israeli authorities mobilize the army and police to stop the terrorism, then, by definition, Israel is using “excessive force.”
No matter how inflammatory President Abbas’s speeches at the UN may be, he is a man of “peace.”
No matter how many times Israeli leaders call for face-to-face negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel is always branded as the “obstacle” to peace.
Isn’t it long overdue to get real, see things as they actually are, and stop living in a world of self-imposed illusions and falsehoods?
While they do not hesitate to push, prod, and criticize Israel when they believe, rightly or wrongly, that Israel isn’t acting in the spirit of a two-state vision, they’re too often deafeningly silent when it comes to Palestinian behavior — including right now.
This double standard is the height of condescension or, indeed, infantilization.
And Brett Stephens in a very hard-hitting article in the Wall Street Journal decries the Palestinians’ psychotic stage and the way the world’s media reports on it:
Regarding the causes of this Palestinian blood fetish, Western news organizations have resorted to familiar tropes. Palestinians have despaired at the results of the peace process—never mind that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas just declared the Oslo Accords null and void. Israeli politicians want to allow Jews to pray atop the Temple Mount—never mind that Benjamin Netanyahu denies it and has barred Israeli politicians from visiting the site. There’s always the hoary “cycle of violence” formula that holds nobody and everybody accountable at one and the same time.
And would this be supplemented by the usual fake math of moral opprobrium, which is the stock-in-trade of reporters covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? In the Middle East version, a higher Palestinian death toll suggests greater Israeli culpability. (Perhaps Israeli paramedics should stop treating stabbing victims to help even the score.) In a U.S. version, should the higher incidence of black-on-white crime be cited to “balance” stories about white supremacists?
Didn’t think so.
Treatises have been written about the media’s mind-set when it comes to telling the story of Israel. We’ll leave that aside for now. The significant question is why so many Palestinians have been seized by their present blood lust—by a communal psychosis in which plunging knives into the necks of Jewish women, children, soldiers and civilians is seen as a religious and patriotic duty, a moral fulfillment. Despair at the state of the peace process, or the economy? Please. It’s time to stop furnishing Palestinians with the excuses they barely bother making for themselves.
We are angry at the Administration who “urge us to be calm” but don’t urge the Arabs to turn off the terror. And we’re both highly amused yet really furious at the inane John Kerry who appears dangerously clueless or menacingly malevolent when it comes to understanding the Middle East. Click on the links within the following tweets to read the relevant stories:
The Elder of Ziyon has produced a great debunking of Kerry’s lies. proving that the conflict is not about the settlements at all:
The truth is that there has been next to no expansion. No land is being “gobbled up” by the supposedly voracious Jews. No Arab houses are being demolished so that Jews could move in.
The only reason these lies are so accepted is because people like John Kerry want to believe them.
More sickening is the idea that Kerry is justifying Arab violence by ascribing a bogus reason to it.
We are frustrated and depressed at the thought of this violence sparking up every few years for the smallest of reasons.
I find it profoundly depressing, almost nauseating, to realize that with the anti-Israel indoctrination by UNRWA-run schools with their extremist teachers, the anti-Jewish incitement from the rest of the Palestinian education system, and the malign influence of the Palestinian media, yet another generation of Palestinian children is brainwashed into vicious and unreasonable Jew-hatred, and there is not a chance in hell of us ever reaching any kind of workable way for the two nations to live at least in an armed truce if not peace in our little country.
It is terrifying to understand that the Palestinian masses can be “switched on” into an almost zombie-like mass hysteria by a few words – false words, vicious words, words that can, and do, light a conflagration; those words being “the Jews are attacking the Al-Aqsa Mosque!”.
It is even worse to bear when we all know that those words are utterly false. How many times does Bibi have to swear that Israel has no designs on the Mosque, that the Jews are not interested in entering the Mosque, that we have not changed that unholy status quo one iota; in fact it is the Muslims themselves who have changed the status quo by turning the holy site into a battlefield, complete with rocks, firecrackers and even weapons, ready to be turned on the Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall below the Mosque and on the Israeli police and troops who are there to protect those worshippers.
On these two subjects, the indoctrination of Palestinian children, and the Temple Mount libels, I would recommend two excellent articles from the Times of Israel, both of which describe the profoundly depressing nature of the conflict and its insolubility:
Armed with rocks and stones, the children of Oslo come of age by Avi Issacharoff:
This generation of Palestinian youth has been named the “children of Oslo” by Palestinian society. They were born after the Oslo agreements of 1993, and after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. They have heard about the old model of the Israeli occupation, but don’t really know what it means. The Palestinian Authority, from their perspective, has been the government since before they were born, yet they view it with open contempt and suspicion.
They’re addicted to the Internet and, of course, to Facebook. The official media outlets of the Authority, such as Palestinian television and radio stations, are so 1990s. They pass around videos and messages in WhatsApp and other apps — like the video of the terrorist from Nazareth who was shot in Afula by cops after they surrounded her on all sides — and in that way create a communication and news network all their own. Even al-Jazeera seems to them “news for old people.”
And the second article: A stabbing war born of hysterical intolerance by the always incisive editor David Horovitz:
There is an almost surreal aspect to this particular eruption of conflict: Israel has been plunged into a terror war because of a false assertion that it intends to allow Jewish prayer at the holiest place in Judaism. This rather begs the question of why Israel would not allow Jewish prayer at the holiest place in Judaism, which it captured and liberated, to a great outpouring of Jewish emotion in the 1967 war.
The answer? Utilizing the rabbinical halachic consensus that forbids Jews from setting foot on the Temple Mount for fear of desecrating the site of the Holy of Holies, Israel’s defense minister 48 years ago, Moshe Dayan, took the pragmatic decision not to fully realize renewed Jewish sovereignty at the Temple Mount, and therefore not to risk a religious confrontation with the Muslim world. Instead, Israel opted to bar Jewish prayer there and to permit the Jordanian-run Waqf authority to continue to administer the Muslim holy places. That Israeli forbearance has all too evidently been misunderstood and misrepresented among many Palestinians as evidence that the Jewish state has no genuine attachment to the Mount. That Israeli forbearance is now rewarded with violence.
As to the fear that we are experiencing, yes, we are scared of the terrorist acts that are popping up all around us, not only on the dangerous roads of Samaria, but in the middle of Jerusalem, in our major cities like Tel Aviv and Hadera (and even my quiet little hometown of Petach Tikva!), and on our major highways.
But we Israelis have known a lot worse. The deadly days of the Second Intifada are not easily forgotten, when we thought twice about going to the mall or riding a bus into town. Yet we did go to the mall and ride those buses and eat in those pizzerias; we just did it all with our eyes darting around and our ears sharpened for strange noises. My own method for dealing with the terror in those days was: no mooching in the mall if it was for no particular reason (that applied mainly to my teenage children), but if you need to go there to buy something, then go. Ditto for driving in Judea and Samaria, for eating out etc. In other words, the terror did affect our way of life, but we tried to minimize the impact as much as possible. We simply hunkered down and just got on with it.
That is the attitude that is starting to take effect now as well, at least for myself and my circle of family and friends. We are trying to carry on as normally as possible: my husband still drove on Route 443 from Jerusalem the other day although it is regularly stoned along the way because it was the quickest way home; my son drives in and out of his settlement because he has to work near Tel Aviv even though an IED was discovered on the approach road a couple of days ago. But – I admit I’m having second and third thoughts about visiting both him and our daughter in her settlement because there have been several stoning attacks and even, allegedly, a shooting the other day. For the moment I can wait a while to see my grandchildren. But for how long? At some point, if this situation continues, I will take the risk to drive out there. I can’t stay away forever. And the settlement’s residents too have to drive in and out in their daily lives.
For that is the one thing that the Arab world has not internalized about us – they will never drive us out, no matter how much terror they pour on us, no matter how much delegitimization they activate against us in the international sphere, no matter what weapons they launch at us.
For we have nowhere else to go.