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After Tel Aviv attack, what is going back to business as usual?

Having a daily routine to go back to that is free of violence is a privilege that most Israelis have and most Palestinians do not.

Israeli police seen at Sarona Market in central Tel Aviv following the shooting attack that left four Israelis dead, June 8, 2016. (photo: Israel Police Spokesperson)

Israeli police seen at Sarona Market in central Tel Aviv following the shooting attack that left four Israelis dead, June 8, 2016. (photo: Israel Police Spokesperson)

I was out last night in Tel Aviv at a poetry book launch for a good friend when the news flashed on my phone that there was a shooting in the Sarona Market. I got that sinking feeling in my gut and couldn’t take my eyes off Twitter, even as I continued to drink my beer and listen to the recitation of deeply moving and thoughtful contemporary Hebrew poetry.

Life does go on here despite the violence. That’s just the reality. But when I read the statement by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai that Israelis cannot let such terror “disrupt our lives” and that we should “return to business as usual” tomorrow, I become enraged. Why shouldn’t this disrupt our lives? It did disrupt our lives and will continue to disrupt the lives of many Israelis — among them, the victims, their families and friends, all the people who work in Sarona, all the people who have been there, who live around there, etc. Why should we continue to sip our cappuccinos and beers without being disrupted and disturbed? Why shouldn’t such an act, and so many others like it, cause us to take pause?

The word “disruption” here also dismisses the fact that the lives of so many Palestinians are “disrupted” all the time. The entire city of Yatta, where the two murderers are from — a population of about 65,000 people in the occupied West Bank — is now under military lockdown. This is collective punishment, a mass “disruption” if you will, on top of the already systematic “disruption” of military occupation. No Israeli city, town or settlement has ever been under lockdown after one of its residents committed a violent act against Palestinians.

Mayor Huldai implored us to go back to our routine, back to business as usual. But this is completely misguided. Many people often comment on how remarkable it is that Israelis can just go on with their lives within all the terror. But strength and resilience will not come from trying to push reality aside, disregarding the entire picture and continuing on as if life here is normal. Rather true strength will come from looking critically and deeply at all the factors that go into perpetuating systematic, cyclical violence.

And “routine” is a very relative term: it depends on whose routine you are looking at. The fact that most Jewish Israelis have the ability to go back to a “normal” routine reflects an immense privilege. They have the privilege of freedom of movement and human rights and a representative government to protect them and so many other rights that Palestinians simply do not have. Having a daily routine to go back to, a routine that is free of violence, is a privilege that most Israelis have and most Palestinians do not. And yet, for Israelis too, the routine is increasingly filling with violence.

(It is important to note that Mayor Huldai on Thursday went on to make a statement in which he drew a direct correlation between the terrorism that strikes Tel Aviv and the occupation of the Palestinians – a rare thing to hear these days from any politicians in power.  “”We might be the only country in the world where another nation is under occupation without civil rights. You can’t hold people in a situation of occupation and hope they’ll reach the conclusion everything is alright,” he said.)

In Amos Harel’s analysis Thursday morning in Haaretz about the shooting, the opening paragraph starts by stating that this was “the first lethal attack in Israel in exactly three months. The last time that the so-called ‘stabbing intifada’ claimed a life was in March, when American citizen Taylor Force was killed in Jaffa. In the months since that attack, there has been a sharp decline in the number and severity of attacks. Some members of the Israeli defense establishment even started to believe that the worst of the attacks were behind us.”

But in the last three months, there were attacks, some of them lethal — not against Israelis but against Palestinians who did not appear to pose an immediate threat. But even if we put aside those incidents in which Palestinians who attempted to or committed stabbings were shot and killed on the spot, there are so many other incidents of violence by Israelis against Palestinians that the statement “the worst of the attacks are behind us” could never be written by any Palestinians. Remember Mayasem Abu Alqian who was assaulted outside a Tel Aviv supermarket just a couple of weeks ago, just for being Palestinian? And this is a citizen.

Mayasem Abu Alqian at his home in Hura, May 25, 2017. (Michal Rotem)

Mayasem Abu Alqian at his home in Hura, May 25, 2017. (Michal Rotem)

In the last three months, there was no decline in the systematic, daily oppression and violence against Palestinians. This is in no way a justification of Palestinian violence against innocent Israelis. But as long as Palestinian life and Palestinian lives are transparent to Israelis, as long as Palestinian victims of Israeli violence in its various forms and degrees is disregarded, as long as their stories and investigations evaporate into thin air and the accountability for their suffering remains unanswered, there is no chance that the cycle of violence will end.

I hold these two Palestinian murderers responsible for this crime. But I also hold the Israeli leadership and the media and the justice system and all those who assume that normalcy, routine and quiet can apply to one group of people and not another living under the same mechanisms of control here.  The mainstream Israeli expectation that we can and should continue to enjoy business as usual, prosperity, tranquility, etc. while continuing to be an occupying force that inflicts daily suffering on Palestinians is unrealistic and dangerous. It will continue to backfire.

I’m sure people will attack me for this post. How can I possibly dare talk about Palestinian suffering just hours after a vicious murdering spree on Israelis? But my motive, I imagine, is the same as these critics: safety and security, a place to live in that nurtures life, not death.

So maybe instead of going back to business as usual, Israelis should take pause, not only to grieve, but also to examine why it is that under the most ostensibly right-wing government in history we continue to be totally unsafe and under constant threat.

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    1. Ro

      Thanks for the reality check. Palestinians’ yearn to return to thlands their parents and grandparents were expelled from will not subside with occupation and the use of force. It’s been explained many times, from documentaries to literature. Why, then, keep Netanyahu and Lieberman in power? How can there still be settlements in foreign territory? The more I learn about it the less I understand (and I’m Jewish, have lived in Israel for a few years and have a deep understanding of Jewish history).

      Reply to Comment
    2. i_like_ike52

      Like most postings here, the myopic focus on the “suffering of the Palestinians” because of the “occupation” while ignoring the situation within Palestinian society and politics in addition to what is happening obscures the reality of what is going on here and in the rest of the Middle East.
      we are supposed to think that, as regrettable as they are, these attacks are supposedly “understandable”. well, how did the “occupation” start in the first place? Nasser’s vow to wipe out Israel once and for all (please don’t insult our intelligence by saying “he didn’t really mean it” or some such excuse). Arafat and Abbas were offered opportunities to “end the occupation” but then this is dismissed by saying “they weren’t offered enough”.
      Again, if the violence is “understandable”, what about the violence that occurred when HAMAS and FATAH fought each other in Gaza 10 years ago when many people were killed, some thrown off high building when handcuffed? These were their own brothers, not “Zionists” they were killing. How do they explain the fact that the Palestinian HAMAS and FATAH “brothers” can’t even agree on a joint government? What about all the violence inspired by radical Islam in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, etc, etc? How about similar attacks carried out in Europe in countries that are very sympathetic to the Palestinians?
      Excuses, excuses, excuses. Some commentators here go on and on about how Jews don’t even belong here. So how is peace ever going to come if the “progressives” continually explain away the terror and the Palestinian leaderships disastrous failure to provide their people with a decent life in an independent state which they WERE offered?
      By continually feeding Palestinian feelings of supposed “victimization” and rationalizations as to why they shouldn’t agree to a compromise peace, “progressives” like those here at 972 are themselves condemning the Palestinians to an bottomless pit of despair while Israel continues to grow and prosper, in spite of the pain caused by atrocities like this one at Sarona.

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      • Ben

        Ike, the flaws in your complaint are: Israelis play the victim role at least as much as the Palestinians and pretend the violence erupts out of nowhere; by “opportunities to end the occupation” you really mean surrender (to our dictates because for example we gotta have Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and E. Jerusalem and a lot else because we feel entitled to it); and because when the Palestinians are violent they get nowhere but when they choose nonviolence they get ruthlessly put down, with violence, by the Israeli state. The occupation is state terrorism. The indignation about terror and violence is hypocritical. The posture that if only the other side would be reasonable there would be peace is dishonest.

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    3. Or El

      This is just arab-paid girl whose the only talent is good english and anti-semitism: so I think she just gets money for her bullshit “talent”. Polls show that 93% “palestinians” are truly jewish-haters (not just israeli haters!). It is crystal clear after israelis left Gaza and Lebanon – two very different areas – the results have been the same: (1) immediate rule of terrorists (2) uncontrolled arming of various weapons (3) terroristic attacks and war, where hundreds of israelis and thousands of arabs died. These two scientifically pure experiments unambiguously showed that withdrawing Israeli forces results in incomparably more dangerous situations, thousands of dead, and in case of larger territory it could be danger for Israel existing at all- this is what 93% arabs ultimately want – to wipe ISrael from the map, they wanted it from the beginning of the state, and their dream becomes more and more desirable after such left betrayers wash brains to young Israeli with their distorted and heavily misleading anti-semitic lies.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ralph

      I am incredulous that the only article in +972 speaking of the article is this.
      Every nation under a terror attack tries to respond by continuing to live its life. France, Belgium, USA, UK,… And yet the only thing the author does is using a word that Houldai said as a hook to speak about the “hopeless” Palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
      • David James Vickery

        Ralph, it seems you did not fully understand the article. Have you ever met or known a Palestinian? Are you capable of empathy for those people, any at all?

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      • Ben

        Every nation under a terror attack does not try to respond by continuing to live its comfortable, complacent life while its population steadfastly ignores a brutal 49-year occupation its people are sustaining. What countries are France, Belgium, USA, UK occupying? Algeria is independent. Vietnam is independent. India is independent. Congo is independent. Israel is independent.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Rascal

      I always enjoy the Zionist’s recitation of history: If the facts don’t jibe with your assertions, make up your own history a la “Ike”. A lot of damage has been done. The only way forward is to consign the evil pipe dream of a “Jewish” state to the dustbin of history it so richly deserves. Instead, resolve that the state will be a state of “all its citizens” and institute both a Constitution enshrining equal rights for all, and a legal system which does not privilege “Jews” over all other inhabitants. Then create a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to air out the grievances of both Jews and Palestinians. It is too late for the idea that the Jews would voluntarily leave the area yet, an acknowledgement and at least monetary recompense for the land stolen from the Palestinian indigenous inhabitants is definitely in order. As a first step, all settlement in the West B should be immediately frozen, internal checkpoints within the West bank should be dismantled and the unconscionable siege of Gaza should be immediately lifted. All of these items are solely within the ability of the Israeli government and should be implemented without any idea of “reciprocity” from the occupied populations.

      Reply to Comment
      • i_like_ike52

        We’ll consider giving up the idea of a “Jewish state” when the Palestinians and other Arabs states no longer identify themselves as “Arab” , e.g. “The Arab Republic of Egypt”, “The Syrian Arab Republic” and the Palestinians remove the first clause of their Constitution which states that the Palestinians are an integral part of the Arab Umma (nation). You should also demand that the Arabs states and the Palestinians no longer state that Islam is the “state religion” of those countries (add the UK to the list where the Anglican Church is the state religion of the UK and the Queen is the head of the Church). Finally, you should demand that the international conference of Islamic states disband since there is no such organization of “Christian states”. You tell these people to make their countries “states of all their citizens” and get rid of any preference for Islam, THEN come back to us Jews in Israel and we will consider your request. If the idea of an Arab state with Islam as the state religion doesn’t bother you, then the idea of a Jewish state shouldn’t either.

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    6. Bruce Gould

      Efraim Halevy, former Mossad director:

      “…Efraim Halevy, who said last week that the wave of Palestinian knife attacks was inevitable because of the occupation, and that Israel should stop demonizing Hamas because military leaders want to work with Hamas. Exactly the opposite of what Netanyahu has said.”


      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        The pathologies of the U.S.-Israel relationship–pathologies that would exist without Netanyahu but which are cynically exploited by Netanyahu to an unbelievable degree–are well described in this article.

        “The bottom line on this interview is that Halevy is trashing Netanyahu right and left on Al Jazeera and none of this is in the American press. Netanyahu is still treated as a sacred figure in our MSM, even after he insulted our president; and the head of a Democratic thinktank fawns over him like Ghandi or Mandela and Hillary Clinton says he’ll be coming to the White House if she’s elected in the first month. He is never questioned like a normal politician, while everyone in Israeli leadership knows him as the most cynical politician they have ever met. What contempt Netanyahu has for American politics…..But no politician in the U.S. could make this series of honest accusations and criticisms against Netanyahu and withstand the storm of criticism that would follow. Clinton has yet to utter a word against him; and Donald Trump will be visiting Israel soon to get his photo-op with the leader called a fascist by the men who know him best.”

        Reply to Comment
    7. Rascal

      Poor little Ike. Doesn’t have an answer that makes sense so he just spouts drivel. In the first place, being Arab is purely cultural, not religious. An Arab can be Muslim, Christian, Jewish…whatever. It is not analogous to “Jew” which professes religiosity (Judaism) nor Zionism which is a political philosophy giving license to solely Jewish domination and therefore its excesses and criminality. Is inventing straw men the best you can do? Instead I ma proposing a secular state where all inhabitants are citizens and subject to secular laws passed by representative government of all of the citizenry with a Constitution enshrining equal rights for all and equal justice under law. Why does that frighten you so much? Is giving up Jewish domination and the brutalization of the Palestinians so difficult? May I suggest that yours is a well worn path which will, in the end, lead to the a rise in what you want to call “antisemitism” which will be well deserved, and a never ending cycle of violence.

      Reply to Comment
      • Eilon

        Rascal – you seem to be mentally-challenged. The Jews WERE largely expelled from the Arab states and the Christians ARE being largely expelled from the Arab states.

        Reply to Comment