In the three-and-a half days that passed between the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir and the Shin Bet’s official acknowledgement that the six suspects arrested were likely “Jewish extremists,” the conversations, chance encounters and social media discourse within the Israeli public reflected denial.
The conversations evolved from “I can’t believe Jews did it, it must be some kind of honor killing in the family,” to “please tell me it wasn’t Jews that did it” and finally “those murderers were not acting like Jews, we are not like that.”
Denial, upon denial, upon denial.
How far do we have to go back? To the yet unsolved killings of Nadeem Nuwara and Mohammed Abu Daher in Bitounia, hit directly by live fire during a Nakba Day demonstration two months ago – to give just one recent example of a case in which Palestinian teenagers were targeted?
Or to the “price tag” arsonists who firebombed a home in Sinjil last November, nearly burning a family alive? How about Asher Weisgan, who lined up four Palestinian workers in August 2005 and just shot them, in the hope that the murders would set off a cycle of violence that would prevent the disengagement from Gaza?
We could go back further to Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination over his attempt to achieve peace with the Palestinians, to Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of 29 Muslims at prayer in Hebron, or even back to the early 1980s when the “Jewish underground” carried out its murder spree and planned a bloodbath by planting explosives in five Palestinian buses. These are just a few examples of so many instances over the past three and a half decades.
Anyone see a pattern here?
Now that the smears against the Abu Khdeir family — that they were somehow behind their son’s murder — have been proven baseless, the standard damage-control line is that somehow, the alleged murderers have betrayed “Jewish values” by kidnapping, murdering and burning a 16-year-old.
That’s the approach the politicians are taking. As an afterthought, they add that no matter how awful this murder is, our society condemns such things, arrests the murderers and keeps them locked away. But the Palestinians, they say, glorify the killing of children and hand out sweets after suicide bombings, educating their own children to become bombers. Don’t lecture us — our murderers are rotten apples, while their entire tree is poisoned.
So what? Even if this shallow comparison didn’t disregard all the many cases of anti-Arab terror over the years and the fact that Israel has been ruling over an occupied population for the past 47 years, what kind of a competition are we trying to win here? One in which the two societies create depraved murderers but one feels better about itself because it believes its depravity is not as bad as the other’s?
The defense mechanisms are already at work — this isn’t the way a Jew is supposed to act so it’s either just a few aberrations or, even better, it’s the result of the cruel reality of Palestinian terror, hatred and incitement our enemies have thrown at us; small wonder that some Jews have begun to act like Palestinians. An eye for an eye. What comfort, we have someone else to blame.
So that’s all right then, we can allow racism to continue to flourish around soccer games, including at the capital’s flagship team Beitar Jerusalem, with its La Familia supporters club who take pride in the fact that Beitar has never had an Arab player. Yes, of course La Familia doesn’t represent the majority of Beitar fans, but why have they not yet been ejected from Teddy Stadium?
Israelis can continue to agree on a school system that doesn’t include Arabic as a compulsory subject, teaches nothing of our neighbors’ culture and barely mentions human rights in civic studies. Let’s ignore the fact that Israeli Arab towns enjoy less budget funding, planning rights and infrastructure.
And above all, let’s believe the myth that we can continue to rule over 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank without the occupation entering our souls and blinding our judgment.
Even those of us who sincerely believe we are not racist in any way have been conditioned by a situation in which Jews are masters over another nation. Ending the occupation may not bring peace with our neighbors and it won’t remove racism from our society. Xenophobia exists everywhere and is an unavoidable human condition, but we can build up our intolerance of it. Ending our control over the Palestinians’ lives will allow Israelis to start cleaning out this rot that has been corrupting us for so long.
It’s not necessarily the settlers who are at fault. There is no reason to believe that the majority of Israelis living in the West Bank are capable of cold-blooded murder or even approved of it in any way. The “price tag” hate criminals are also a minority in the settlements – many of them are not even settlers. Most if not all of the six suspects live within the Green Line; Rabin’s assassin Yigal Amir was a resident of Herzliya, the comfortable middle-class town which until recently had a mayor who was a member of the left-leaning Meretz party.
The moral blindness has afflicted Israelis in general. We are all partners in this, accomplices in complacency, if not in deed.
We would like to believe that none of us, and no one we know, could even imagine participating in such vicious acts; but we have gotten used to living in an environment where casual racism is a norm. And when casual racism is normal, the distance between normal life and hate crimes of the worst kind rapidly shrinks.
This newspaper and the small but valiant community in Israel that continues to insist on having a discussion about human rights, in not closing our eyes to the injustices carried out in our name, in believing in an Israel and in a Zionism that can flourish untainted by racism and hate crimes, rather than continuously having to delude itself, are daily accused of being self-hating defeatists for telling the ugly truth. Now those who criticize us are waking up to reality for a few brief moments — but already are putting themselves back to sleep with the soporific talk of Jewish values and how much more ruthless the other side is.
Wake up and stay awake: There is no guarantee it won’t happen again. It will, and then you will be forced to go through the stages of denial and delusion once more.
Either come to terms with the fact that Jewish values, whatever they mean, are no safeguard against cruelty and depravity, and that we are living a lie of exalted morality, or get used to these rude awakenings.