Why I fail to be impressed by the wails emanating from the religious right, in four points
The strange call for denunciation: My colleague, Dimi Reider, wrote a sensitive post, calling upon leftist activists to denounce the massacre in Itamar. A list of leftist organizations – from Peace Now to Rabbis for Human Rights – have already done so, as did the Bil’in Popular Committee against the Wall.
I must say I find this demand strange. It plays straight into the hands of the right-wingers who say the leftists are responsible for the Palestinian struggle; it dances awkwardly with Ariel’s mayor Ron Nachman’s mad waltz on the blood, in which he demanded the left be investigated for its alleged participation in the massacre. As if someone has to earnestly explain he objects to the slaughtering of infants; as if you have to explain you truly support a heavy punishment for the perpetrators, assuming they are caught and legally convicted. A denunciation is, in its way, participation in the all-too-Israeli orgy of victimization we’ve seen since yesterday morning, and your role is that of the demon who has seen the light and begs for forgiveness. No, thanks. Not from the settlers.
The Beasts: When I woke up yesterday morning and read about the massacre, there already were reports about settlers’ reprisals, pogroms which the IDF, as usual, did not stop. Were one to use the IDF’s logic, all of the settlements should be have been put under curfew as soon as the massacre took place, to prevent acts of vengeance: After all, after Baruch Goldstein carried out his massacre in the Cave of the Patriarchs, the IDF put the Palestinians under curfew, precisely for this reason. The IDF proved, once more, it either incapable or unwilling to defend the majority of the residents of the West Bank, contrary to its duty under international law.
The leaders of the settlers went into a seizure, challenging each other to be more ruthless (Hebrew). The prize goes, as usual, to the representative of Kahane and Rabbi Wolfa in the Knesset, Michael Ben Ari: “I call upon the government to carry out a ‘price tag’ [euphemism for pogrom – YG] and expel the residents of the village from which the murderers emerged, and to demolish the village and build in its place apartments for young couples of army veterans.” In short, Ben Ari wants a Lidice-like collective punishment. MK Zevulun Orlev, supposedly more moderate then Ben Ari, blamed the government for the massacre – the usual tactic of the settlers, from the 1970s onwards – and also demanded a ‘price tag’ operation.
The government rushed last night, several hours after the end of the Sabbath, to accept those settler demands, and announced it will build 500 new housing units in the settlements. This wasn’t enough for Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who demanded the price (the price tag?) to be “a thousand apartments per child.”
We’ve heard much about the bottomless monstrosity of the Palestinians who carried out the terrorist attack. What shall we say, then, of the humanity of people who measure the lives of children in acres and real estate? A teenage girl is good enough for a three-room apartment, but an infant – that’ll cost you a whole villa. And, again: This isn’t new. This is how the settlers have operated for decades. Every body is, as far as they are concerned, the equivalent of real estate. They used to call it “a proper Zionist response”: Perhaps a better name would be “construction for cadavers.”
What can you say about a public that moves so speedily from mourning to organized violence to the demand of ransom? I lived in Greater Tel Aviv when it was the preferred target for suicide bombers. Twice, all that stood between me and death was a delay of ten minutes. I never even considered the idea of grabbing the nearest Palestinian, burning his property, or beating him up. And most Israelis were just like me. We took the attacks on the chin, gritted our teeth, and kept ourselves from whining. The settlers, on the other hands, have gone native. It used to be Palestinians who brandished bloodied Israeli bodies; now it’s the settlers who do so. Things being what they are, I have a hard time accepting their demands that I join them in mourning. So sorry, you have besmirched it – and in record time.
Demons: The Israeli media preferred treating the murderers of the Fogel family as human-shaped monsters. The record was broken by Gilad Sharon, the shady son of the former prime minister, writing in Yediot. According to Sharon (Hebrew), “You can put a mask on the Palestinian wild beast, such as a speaker who speaks fluent English. You can put it in a three-piece suit and a silk tie. But once in a while – when the moon is born, when a raven defecates on the head of a howling jackal, or when the pita-bread with za’atar (hyssop) has gone wrong, the beast feels this is its night, and out of a primal instinct it goes ambushing its prey.” And to think that Netanyahu has the gall to speak of “Palestinian incitement.” President Peres brayed that “this is an act showing the lack of humanity, and no religion or faith in the world allows such acts of horror.” Peres apparently has not read the new bestseller in the settlements, “Torat Hamelech,” which not only allows those acts of horror but actively promotes them, according to the teaching that the commandment ‘though shalt not murder’ applies only to a Jew who murders a Jew.
There are, of course, no two-legged beasts; there only humans, and most of them can rationalize just about anything. The person who popularized the term “two legged beasts” in Hebrew was Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who dispatched the Israeli air force to bomb Beirut indiscriminately. The Lebanon War of 1982 cost the Lebanese no less than 17,000 dead (this number does not include the number of Palestinian and Syrian fighters killed, estimated at 9,798). The total sum of Israeli dead from terrorism since the creation of Israel did not, at that time, exceed 500. Begin, one of the more decent prime ministers we’ve had, had no qualms at killing 34 Lebanese civilians for each Israeli dead.
Hold on! How dare you compare the two? Is there any Israeli, who would kill a Palestinian child? Of course there is: You only need a bit of memory. The Bat ‘Ayin Underground (Hebrew) tried to activate a cart bomb next to a Palestinian girls’ school. Its members were acquitted of the killing of eight other Palestinians, one of them a child (then who did kill them? the case were never closed). Two of the Bat ‘Ayin conspirators were sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment, another was sentenced to eight years, and two others received two years’ imprisonment each. The security coordinator of the Hadar Beitar settlement, Nahum Korman, was convicted of the killing of a 10 year-old Palestinian child, Hilmi Shusha, after hitting him on the head with the butt of his pistol. Korman was sentenced to six months of community service (!). Pinchas Wallerstein, one of the mainstays of the settler movement, chased a Palestinian boy, Rabbah Rhanem Ahmed, whom he claimed threw stones at his car, and shot him dead. Naturally – Wallerstein is a Jew and a settler – he was not charged with murder, but with manslaughter, was convicted of wrongful causing of death, and atoned for his actions with a mere four months of community service.
Korman and Wallerstein, and to a lesser extent the men of the Bat ‘Ayin group, were embraced by their communities. Turns out that if you’re a Jew who shoots a Palestinian child in the back, or bashes his head in with a pistol, or just try to blow him to kingdom come with his classmates, you’re not a two-legged beast; you’re a pillar of the community.
Such are the joys: It’s not easy to remember the last time Binyamin Netanyahu danced such a jig on spilled blood. I think it was after the attack on the number five bus in Tel Aviv, during the Rabin government. Then, Netanyahu blamed the government for the attack. Naturally, that’s not how he spins it today.
Netanyahu has finally found his excuse to stall forever, and he’s going to squeeze this lemon for all it’s worth. Now he can avoid the hated duty of yet another hollow policy speech. There was a massacre! We’re saved! Once more Israel proves it is a peace refusenik: If there are no terror attacks, there’s no reason to speak to the Palestinians; if there are any, of course, we surely can’t talk to them.
There is only one viable way to end the conflict: Non-violent Palestinian resistance. It drives Israel crazy.