In my post on the arrest of Jewish suspects in the Duma arson-murder, there was a slightly heated discussion in the comments about the perpetrators, the numbers of their supporters, and whether Israel has done or is doing enough to counteract this level of extremism amongst Jewish youngsters.
I am of the opinion that while there is always room for improvement in education and for strong and moral religious leadership, there are times when the self-flagellation of the Israeli Jewish religious Zionist right-wing (I use all those adjectives advisedly) goes overboard and in the end serves not to improve the situation but to increase defensiveness and resentment on the one hand, and provide fodder for Israel’s haters on the other hand.
Finding the right balance is very difficult, especially when the self-flagellation is urged on and leapt on with glee by Israel’s Left.
I have the nagging feeling that I didn’t make myself clear enough in my post, and then I found a few articles which express my feelings and my attitude more eloquently. Here are just a few excerpts but I urge you to read the entire articles.
On the part of the Jews of Israel, there was, first, a stunned sorrow, on learning that a baby had been destroyed, that a family had been attacked in their home. But then there was the difficulty of taking in the fact that it may have been Jews who did this. Jews are not supposed to behave thus. The visceral reaction was that such an act demeaned us, as a people.
There were demonstrations to register opposition to terrorism; rabbis who spoke out forcefully against use of violence for resolving societal problems; editorials that decried what our society was in danger of becoming and demanded communal soul-searching.
And so, there was a way in which it was possible to say that we had demonstrated that this is not what what we are – we had demonstrated to ourselves and before the world that we are different. We stand against violence.
And yet there was a point at which this ceased to resonate positively. There was too much breast-beating, a tone that echoed a sort of communal guilt that was not appropriate. Condemning the terrorism implicit in burning a baby is one thing. Assuming that our whole society is generating a terrorist mentality – because of one act that may or may not have been committed by Jews – is something else.
(I didn’t say this explicitly in August, but I would suggest now that this was galut mentality. This rush to assume guilt. Seeking answers and being ready to acknowledge the fact of a Jew who committed a terror act is one thing – this went further.)
Add to this the way in which our political adversaries and enemies chose to use the terror act in Duma to attack Israel.
And the way in which leftist Israelis sought to use this as a weapon against “religious Zionists,” “nationalists” – representing them as violent crazies who must be restrained.
As for the EU, their response to this incident was vile:
“The Israeli authorities should … take resolute measures to protect the local population. We call for full accountability, effective law enforcement and zero tolerance for settler violence,” declared a spokesperson for Federica Mogherini, head of foreign policy for the EU, in a prepared statement.
When, ever, did you hear an EU spokesperson say to Abbas or other PA leaders that it was time for them to take full accountability for the violence visited upon Jews by Arabs living in PA areas? When did they demand zero PA tolerance for violence? Rhetorical questions, of course. The EU does not see fit to predicate support for the PA on its accountability with regard to terrorism. And yet Mogherini’s spokesperson had the gall to speak about protecting the local Arab population from Jews.
Arlene addresses the problematic evidence that was posited – never officially presented so far – as “proof” that these Jewish youngsters committed the deed. She also writes about the alleged abuse and even torture carried out against the suspects in order to obtain confessions. She then notes:
It was explained by multiple persons – persons in gov’t and journalists – that the Shin Bet was dealing with a very serious situation that necessitated “toughness” – because these young people want to overthrow the government and are dangerous. Overthrow the government? That would justify a great deal. This was the original claim of Ya’alon that I referred to above.
But what does this mean? That the hilltop youth are thoroughly alienated by the government and would prefer one that works according to principles of Torah is likely true. But it’s a huge stretch from acknowledging this to saying they represent a “danger.” This, my friends, I find it difficult to believe. There has been no evidence to bolster this claim – not with all of the investigation of the group that has been done. A convenient charge to make, perhaps to justify actions that should not be justified How? How would they be a danger in any real sense? And if they are a danger, why have no indictments in this respect been brought?
What occurred to me as these charges were being made is that we have at least one Arab member of the Knesset (Hanin Zoabi) who speaks for the enemy – and yet she is still in the Knesset. But the young people are dangerous? Is there equity of judgment here, or is it a matter of what is politically correct, and what will fly?
Still another explanation offered for why “tough interrogation” was required was that these young people represented a “ticking bomb.” By this was meant there was a real danger of their doing a second time what they had done once in Duma, so that information had to be secured quickly to prevent this from happening.
But this does not fly either. The arson at Duma happened at the end of July, and these young people were at large until approximately mid-November. That would have been plenty of time for them to perpetrate another terror attack, had that been their intention. There is no way to make the case for a ticking bomb here!
Just read the rest. I could quote the entire article here but for lack of space.
I now come to a very powerful article written (in Hebrew only) by Kalman Liebskind, an Israeli journalist with Maariv, Makor Rishon and other media. He writes about the hypocrisy of the Left on their glee at the indictment of right-wingers for the Duma murder. He also addresses withering criticism at the left, particularly the media’s double standards, when it comes to reporting on Arab terrorism as opposed to Jewish violence.
I will translate part of his article entitled “Dancing on the blood: The shock about the wedding video was a huge display of hypocrisy and cynicism“. But I urge you to read the entire article if you are a Hebrew speaker, and if not, get someone to translate it all. It’s long but very worth-while. (Hint to the uninitiated: do not use Google Translate!!).
The wedding video he referred to was this disgusting incident where where some of the celebrants at an Israeli wedding danced around waving guns and knives and stabbing a photo of baby Ali Dawabshe. Doubts still remain whether this was the action of Jewish extremists or a Shabak agent provocateur (which has precedent, e.g. in the case of Avishai Raviv and the Rabin assassination).
The Duma murder case, certainly after the effect of the wedding video, paralysed the majority of the national (rightist) camp. Not just paralysis, but withering real fear. Fear of “what will they say about us”, which is the worst kind of fear.
That fear – that maybe we won’t look good in the media, maybe they will smear us again, as they did after the Rabin assassination, as part of the supporters’ camp of the murderers – is a dangerous fear. It does not allow us to wonder and to criticise. It does not enable us to hold a complex discourse. It does not permit you to say you’re concerned about the torture, without the fear that it will turn you into Benzi Gopstein (an extreme right-winger). It doesn’t enable you to say that it was important to see the wedding video, but is equally important to remember that it described the behavior of several dozen people in all. This fear does not allow one to come out harshly against the rampage of all those involved in these investigations, to place question marks around the draconian measures taken against young people, who by now it is clear that some of them were not connected to the murder, and to wonder how the court served as a rubber stamp for anything asked of it.
So why do this paralysis and fear amongst the right-wingers in particular bother me so much? Because I have no expectations from the left and from the media. They are now in the midst of celebration. Once in a while they have a chance to put the national camp or the religious Zionist movement on the stake and mark them all a bed of killers, and such moments they sing “My Lord, My Lord, Let it never end.”
I have absolutely nothing to do with those who committed the murder Duma nor with the people who belong to the group that surrounds them. I am a Zionist, I believe in the State, I am against violence, in short: the complete opposite of the mutinous league of Meir Ettinger & Co. Therefore, my words are not said in order to defend them, but in order to say a lot of words in condemnation of those who cover these cases. Because if we are dealing with double standards, the media treatment of this group is infected with it.
This week, after I had internalized what had been explained to me, that this group should be treated like terrorists in every respect, I noticed that all the rules that apply to regular coverage of Palestinian terrorists, for some reason do not apply to them. Because when it comes to Palestinian terrorism, we are always busy trying to understand its origin. For an Arab does not murder just because he hates Jews. There is the occupation and there is despair, there are roadblocks and there is revenge for the death of his relatives.
And suddenly, I wondered to myself, where did all those people who usually seek reasons and justifications for terrorism?. After all, if the Arab murderers have good reasons, Jews too probably have several. Maybe it’s the Arab terrorism that brings death and destruction, maybe it’s the despair from our security forces who did not manage to put a end to this terrorism. Maybe it’s because of the Civil Administration which destroys illegal construction by Jews but not by Arabs.
But no. Now you will not hear these questions. There questions which are not asked. Like you will never hear, when Israeli Arabs carry out attacks or simply join Daesh, any discussion that will address the flowerbed in which they grew up, or the atmosphere that brought them to where they arrived. Arabs are individuals. They take charge.They do not have a supportive environment. They are “lone terrorists”.
In my eyes, to be clear, there are no good killers and there is no reason and never an excuse to justify violence. I’m just having trouble understanding why some murderers get “season-end discounts”, and some do not. And how is it that following the murder committed by Arabs, [TV channel 2 news anchor] Yonit Levy asked Minister Gilad Erdan why his government is not building a new Arab city, and yet there is no chance after the murder Duma, that he will be asked why the government is not building new settlements for Jews.
Regarding double standards, it must be explained as clearly as possible. Yes, the attitude towards Palestinians and towards Israelis in the interrogation rooms should not be the same. This is not a racist issue. The separation is not between Jews and Arabs, but between citizens of Israel and its enemies. The Palestinians are an external enemy. They are not part of us. We have no obligation towards them like we have for our own citizens. Incidentally, this difference not only must exist, it always has existed. We fought against external enemies with Merkava 3 tanks, against domestic enemies we do not. Not everything that is permissible in war against an external adversary, is allowed against an opponent at home.
I support the idea that everyone from this group who took part in violence should spend long years in jail. But I will not fall victim to the spin of the GSS [Shabak] which is trying to convince me that this group wanted to crown a king here and topple the regime. With all due respect, Meir Ettinger, age 20 and a bit, is not bringing down any regime and is not crowning any kings. Greater men than he have tried and not succeeded.
I’m not stupid. it’s clear to me that the media isnot dealing with this group of hilltop youth to this extent because it has a problem with those ten or 40 guys. This group is a decoy. Behind it lie the real goals, the more interesting targets. Religious Zionism. The settlers. I see the attacks on the settler society, the usual rubbish about the “flower-beds” in which these murderers grew up, and I’m horrified at the ability to incite and twist reality.
This society should not be receiving criticism, but the Israel Prize for Education. The settlement enterprise has raised children for years under incessant daily terror. There is hardly anyone who travels on the roads of Samaria, and was not at one time the target of attempted murder – by stones, firebombs or shooting. Amongst the settlement enterprise there is not one person who does not know someone who was killed: A friend, a neighbor or relative. There is hardly a school without a missing chair of a murdered child, or a chair on which sits an orphaned child whose father was murdered. And the one responsible for all this is the Palestinian Arab enemy who lives meters away. Reach out and touch him. The victims of these attacks see the society from whose midst the killers leave every day. They travel alongside them on the road, while their blood is boiling, but their hearts full of longing for their fallen friends.
And despite all of this, despite all the difficulties, all the pain, they bury their friends and continue to do good. To get up in the morning, go to work, to enlist and serve in the most contributing combat units, to give as much as possible. And, surprisingly, quite surprisingly, no one takes the law into their own hands. Almost no one takes revenge. A terrible Duma event such as this occurs once in many years. Those who are teaching this generation are succeeding, God knows how, to channel all the anger and all the sadness and frustration to better places. In Itamar they continue to do charitable kindness. In Yitzhar settlement they can alreay count the 5th kidney donor to an unknown recipient, and they will continue to recruit the sixth and seventh donors. I find it hard to see another society stand up to such ordeals and come out like that.
They are deserving of a salute for all this, they deserve a lot of living water to irrigate their flower-beds, and not cries of derision.
Liebskind goes on to talk about several other “scandals” that have made the headlines in Israel lately: a book banned by the Education Ministry from the school curriculum (not banned from the bookshops, please note); the “gas deal” enabling those whom the Left would call “oligarchs”, those people who invested their money in discovering Israel’s natural gas – to actually profit from their investment as well as enabling Israel to gain from it; a law proposed by the Justice Minister demanding transparency from foreign NGOs who mostly work to undermine Israel’s sovereignty, and then concludes:
This group [the Left] is trying in any which way to overturn our vote in the elections and make it meaningless. They took an educated decision not to enable the public’s elected representatives to rule or to advance their own world values in whose name they were elected. When 40-odd hilltop youth decide to undermine the legitimacy of the regime, it’s one thing. When the leading media leads this line aggressively, that bothers me a whole lot more.
There is one more article to which I would point you, by Ari Soffer in Arutz Sheva: Unravelling the Duma circus. He repeats much of the arguments of both Arlene Kushner and Kalman Liebskind but he also makes other interesting points:
What is the reason for this absurd dichotomy? For the circus of collective guilt and hysteria on the Left, and of self-delusion and conspiracy theories on the Right?
The answer is just one word: insecurity. The insecurity born of two millennia of exile is now amplified in our Jewish state, to the point that what should have been a professional, objective police investigation immediately morphed into a hopelessly politicized platform for all the emotional baggage of the Left and Right to be unloaded.
Underlying the reactions of both Left and Right are one or both of two fears. The first is that wretched psychological relic of the ghetto: “What will the world think?” As if our actions as a people must always be condemned to be judged against the yardstick of what others think.
The second fear is related, but more internal: What happens to our perceived moral superiority? It’s the Palestinians who commit acts of terror, not us, and an attack by Jewish terrorists would ruin this narrative which so many lean on as a psychological, intellectual and emotional crutch. Are we now no better than them?
(There is a third motivation, for those few poor Jewish souls who actually revel in guilt, those for whom Jewish guilt and notions of “we’re just as bad as/worse than them” is political currency. But that is a different story altogether.)
The response to either fear must either be to “prove” – to “the nations of the world” and/or to ourselves – that we are still good people, still better than the Palestinians. This can either be achieved by denying everything, or by preemptively confessing to every possible accusation (fair or unfair) and begging for forgiveness.
And yet, this is not a sane or rational response.
Could it have been Jewish extremists? Of course – we know there are fanatics capable of this. Meir Ettinger and others have even circulated booklets instructing how to conduct attacks in order to collapse the government and help usher in the crowning of a “king.”
Could it have been an Arab feud dressed up to look like a “price tag action”? Anything is possible, and that has actually happened in a minority of more minor cases, but it’s obvious that this is not the most likely option, and investigating the former avenue first is hardly proof of some kind of anti-Jewish bias.
Every single nation or community in the world has its extremists: from White Supremacists and Christian fundamentalists, to extreme Hindu nationalists, even Buddhist extremists in Burma – and of course Muslim extremists, who commit daily atrocities throughout the globe. But societies must not be judged by the actions of a few extremists but by the reaction of the wider society to them. In Israel, the reaction, from Left to Right (beyond the very furthest fringes), has been nonstop condemnation. In Palestinian society, the response – whether from the “moderate” Fatah or the “extremist” Hamas and Islamic Jihad – has been praise, glorification, encouragement and incitement of anti-Semitic terrorism. We condemn it, while they revel in it – that speaks volumes.
We need not “prove” our moral worthiness because the facts speak for ourselves. Those who would judge the people of Israel differently to any other nation should be dismissed out of hand as the bigots they are. We certainly don’t need to prove ourselves to them (nor is there any point in doing so).
But if we wish to end this phenomenon of double-standards by others, then we must stop applying them to ourselves as well.
We would do well to take Soffer’s words to heart, as well as to internalise the messages provided by Arlene Kushner and Kalman Liebskind.