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Sunday, December 12, 2004

Not in my name!

Rant
In private conversations... and occasionally here on treppenwitz... I have spoken out against the so-called 'moderate Arab majority' for not publicly condemning acts of violence committed by terrorists against Israeli civilians.  My position has always been that to remain silent in the face of barbaric attacks against innocent men, women and children is morally equivalent to supporting those acts.

However, a recent article in the Jerusalem Post gave me a sobering reminder that I often fail to do what I demand of others.  It made me realize that whenever I hear about attacks against Arab civilians by Jews (however infrequently such attacks may occur), I tend to quickly create rationales and scenarios within which I can sort of excuse them.  Well, 'excuse' might be too strong a word.  Maybe what I do is more like 'let's wait until the full story comes out and then make a moral judgment'.

The problem with such a 'wait and see' approach to passing judgment on bad people and bad acts is that the investigation and criminal proceedings are often  pushed out of the spotlight by more current news stories... and the much needed scream of moral outrage is delayed until it is nothing but a soft whimper... if that.

Every few months I hear a news story about 'armed religious settlers' from places like Itamar or Bat Ayin, being arrested for allegedly shooting at an Arab car... suspicion of plotting a bomb attack against a local Arab institution... or some random act of thuggery against an Arab target of opportunity. 

My first reaction to such reports is to cringe.  After all, I too am considered a settler.  Whether or not the incident turns out to be true, the news report provides fuel to the convictions already held by people around the world (and by many Israelis) that all settlers are extreme right-wing messianic fanatics who support a Jewish version of Jihad.

My second reaction is caution, because accusations made by Arab plaintiffs and witnesses have a better-than-even chance of turning out to be complete fabrications.  In this respect the Arabs have become their own worst enemy, having 'cried wolf' so many times that even their staunchest supporters sometimes take a 'wait and see' approach to legal proceedings. 

The problem here is that Arab culture is unencumbered by the Western Judeo-Christian guilt associated with telling lies.  In fact, in Arab culture, one is considered a bit of an idiot for not weaving the most expedient story to completely outrage the listener's sensibilities.  If all Arab accusations were true, the Dome of the Rock would have been blown up countless times, every well in every Arab village would be awash in poison, and there would be nothing left of the Palestinian population but mass graves and empty villages. 

You can't argue with success though.  As a tactic, the lies seem to be far more effective than the truth!  A recent poll in Germany showed that "51 % of respondents said that there is not much of a difference between what Israel is doing to the Palestinians today and what the Nazis did to the Jews during the Holocaust."  Also that "68 % of Germans believe that Israel is waging a 'war of extermination' against the Palestinians." 

This is the root of what makes supporters of Israel scream at their televisions and radios day after day.  When CNN or BBC interviewers give equal time (and credence) to Benjamin Natanyahu and Saeb Erikat, they are completely ignoring the former's obligation to presenting the truth, and the latter's long association with what turn out to be outrageous lies.  They also willfully ignore the fact that such lies usually make much better news than the truth.  This is why the term 'even-handed' has become a dirty code-word in places where Israel's supporters gather. 

But getting back to my own reactions to hearing about real or alleged Jewish acts of violence... my third and fourth and fifth reaction are a series of frustrating justifications and fruitless searches for accurate information.  By the time I feel I have the full story (or as full a story as a private citizen is likely to get), my rage is largely spent... and in its place is a silent shame at having to to share the same label as these criminals who, by an accident of birth, happen to be Jewish.

The end result is that I rarely speak out.  My liberal democratic upbringing screams for justice, but the correct time and forum to express my outrage never seem to present themselves.

So why not now... and why not here?

Yes, I am a settler (by the broadest of interpretation of the term) and I am armed... and I am also religious.  If one were to use this check-list in the manner of the proverbial group of blind men, who after each has touched a portion of an elephant come to wildly inaccurate conclusions about what they have discovered, then one could assume this small minority of right wing Jewish extremists speaks and acts in my name, too.

I can't stop ignorant people from painting me with the same broad brush as these criminals.  However, what I can do is speak out for myself and condemn these misguided people who feel they have the right to take the law, and in effect the present war with the Arabs, into their own hands.

By saying this I don't excuse the Arabs who dance in the street when I bomb goes off in a crowded mall or bus, or when a pregnant woman and her children are shot like fish in a barrel inside the family minivan.  I don't even excuse the so-called moderates who give tacit approval to Arab terrorism by remaining silent. 

The polls that come from within the Palestinian community consistently show majority support for all acts of violence against Israeli civilians.  The only glimmer of humanity revealed by these polls is a small murmur of resentment at the various terrorist groups for recruiting such young 'martyrs'. 

These polls also consistently show that a majority of respondents reject the two state solution.  Clearly, the elimination of Israel, at any cost, remains a viable option in the mind of our enemies.

But I refuse be lowered to their level.

Israel has a legally elected central government, a defense force with a clearly defined moral code and chain of command, and the rule of law is firmly on its side.  I will not tolerate or condone the existence of armed militias or self-appointed free-lance Jewish Jihadists who do nothing more than provide the world (and sometimes even ourselves) with confirmation of the most deeply held prejudices. 

Israel is not the country the anti-Semites accuse us of being... and I am not the instrument of their blood libels. 

Anyone who is convicted of committing illegal acts of violence should be locked up along with their Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade blood-brothers! 

These people don't act in my name, in the name of my country or according to the tenets of my religion.

Rantend

Shame221_8

Posted by David Bogner on December 12, 2004 | Permalink

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OK. I can't imagine any of your readers painting you as a homicidal religious extremist, but making the declaration publicly is still the right thing to do. That’s the difference between the two sides. When Jews murder Arabs, Jewish groups bump into each other in their rush to declare “Not in my name,” as they should. When Arabs murder Jews, candy is handed out in the streets and there is celebratory gun fire. [tangent]What kind of gun training do Arabs get that makes shooting a firearm in the air an acceptable behavior to mark happy times?[/tangent]

You have stayed relatively clear of explicitly political topics (probably to the benefit of growing your readership, as partisan opinions frequently alienate half of the readers) so feel free to ignore this question. I have asked it of many people, both in and out of Israel. What do you imagine an ultimate equilibrium (if not peace) between Israel and the Palestinians looking like? Two states? The current status quo (with post-withdrawal-Gaza still being de facto the responsibility/problem of the IDF)? Egypt and Jordan reclaiming some of the previous territories without the creation of a "Palestinian" state? Again, I realize this is very controversial, and you have every right to keep your opinion on this subject in the closet. I, myself, don’t have an answer, which makes me either despair about war-without-end or occasionally fantasize about the most extreme right-wing scenarios of population transfer.

Sorry for the long comment.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Dec 12, 2004 7:04:10 PM

David, a brief comment on the poll for now and what the Post made out of it -- gosh, this is SO HELL typical for the Post. First, this poll was conducted in Europe! Second, the figures for the whole of Europe are pretty equal to the German percentages. So why does the Post pick out Germany and blend out the actual scope of this? It's the media and what they want to see, not what there IS to see. And having said this - isn't that what Israel herself is complaining about?

Has anyone around compared sources in this regard?

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | Dec 12, 2004 7:41:31 PM

Oh well - I have to correct it. The study mentioned is indeed referring to the situation in Germany. But a Europe-wide study under the same objective in 2003 produced the same % - for Germany in explicit and for the whole of Europe in not less a bitter result. So, no progress, no "worsening". Things are as bad as they were.

My point, still, is that people tend to ignore antisemitic as well as anti-Israel sentiments throughout the whole of Europe, which, I tend to think, is a tragic mistake.

Don't get me wrong. I am not intending to defend these resentments - how could I. What I do react sensitive to, however, is when media are everything else than informative in favour of consumers.

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | Dec 12, 2004 7:58:06 PM

Doctor Bean... Don't apologize for leaving a long comment! I'm the last person who can take issue with someone for being long-winded. :-)

As to your assertion that Jews rush to condemn Jewish acts of violence, I don't completely agree. Yes, the left wing is always ready to do a bit of hand-wringing when we (as a collective Jewish 'we') stray from the liberal democratic ideal. I don't mind that so much except when it goes beyond hand wringing and strays into embracing (even aiding) the enemy. My issue is actually with the center and right of the Israeli political spectrum. I am somewhere just to right of center on security issues and just to left of center on many social issues (to give a very simple peek at my politics), but I rarely hear a peep from people in the center or on the right when these crimes are committed. I am willing to assume that others, like me, suffer from a similar delayed rage... but that really is no excuse.

As to your probing question... I don't see a peaceful solution with the Palestinians, now or in the future. Not because Israel is unable or unwilling to offer a lasting peace... but because the Palestinians have no idea of what to do once they accept a peace with Israel. There entire reason for being has been, and continues to be the destruction of Israel. They see themselves as the antibiotic that will cure the middle east of this disease called Israel... but an antibiotic has no useful existence other than to attack what it perceives to be the offending life-form. With all the time and money that has been given to the Palestinians over the last 40+ years in order to help them achieve statehood, they still have no idea of what kind of economy they want... what kind of educational system will prevail... how to set up a health care system... who will build their roads and airports... what their judiciary will look like.

Unfortunately my prediction is that even if they are eventually handed a state, it will be a welfare regime incapable of self-sufficiency and lacking a central control over anything but the collection (and theft) of international hand-outs. And in the end, the world will blame Israel for the failure of the Palestinian state, even though it is the Arab world that has kept the Palestinians from learning any national-building skillsets except armed violence.

Sorry, you asked.

Mademoiselle a. ... I agree it may not be fair, but given the way the poll's question asked for a comparison between the IDF and the Nazi army, it is not surprising that the German poll figures would be of primary interest to the Israeli public.

BTW, I am looking forward to an update on your studies!!!

Posted by: David | Dec 12, 2004 10:34:13 PM

David,

Strangely enough I feel like I am at a loss for words, doesn't happen too often or for very long. But the fact is that you have spoken out and that is part of the process. Bad things happen when we remain silent and just because you are not on channel 1 or some network somewhere doesn't mean that your voice is not heard.

We can debate the merits of when, where and how to speak at a different time, the bigger and more pressing issue is seeing that people do speak out.

In my mind the need for this type of speech is not for anyone other than our people. Those that hate us will do whether we show them a white flag or give them the finger. The reason for speaking out is to remind ourselves of our own moral and ethical responsibilities, that we should be better than our enemies.

Posted by: Jack | Dec 12, 2004 11:03:30 PM

Dave: Don't be sorry. I agree with every word.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Dec 12, 2004 11:25:39 PM

i understand your reaction, because i go through exactly the same struggle when news breaks about an American soldier, who has done wrong. the news always breaks in the way to make the biggest sensation possible, and i am left wondering, what are the facts.

i have however come to realize that the facts are only important in judging my reaction to the case at hand. i can leave open my opinion on until the facts are determined. (in fact, as a Christian i probably shouldn't spend a lot of effort judging others, but that's probably not as relevant to your situation). even so, i need not have any understanding of the facts of any case to know that murder is both wrong and illegal. i oppose it and can say so anytime. further, because of the rule of law i can be confident that when the facts are known, the judgment of the state will reflect my own.

should i ever feel that the state's judgment were in error, because of democracy, i can work to change the laws by which my peers will be judged. Israel and America are similar in that both are new democracies filled up with immigrants, who chose to be there, with legal systems that are able to protect the otherwise powerless.

the hardest thing is to find the ways to protect these systems of government under which we live from those who would destroy them without fundamentally altering their character.

Posted by: rammer | Dec 13, 2004 5:46:53 AM

David,

Beautifully put - I'm very proud of the fact that despite everything that Israel has been through in the last 56 years, that I believe that the vast majority of the population would agree with you.

Chanukah sameach

Gilly

Posted by: Gil Ben Mori | Dec 13, 2004 10:39:24 AM

This story is actually pretty tame compared to the incident last week where a group of armed settlers near Kalkiliah (allegedly) invaded and bulldozed some Arab family's olive grove.

I applaud your condemnation of the lunatics who carry out these acts but also have to wonder why the Israeli government lets them get away with so much. As you say, they should be locked up next to their fellow jihadis.

Posted by: JSinger | Dec 13, 2004 11:12:24 PM

JSinger... I don't hald the Israeli government responsible! The government doesn't let them get away with anything. However, the Israeli right wing... especially the majority who do not endorse the acts of these extremists... often give them a 'pass' by not speaking out immediately to condemn them.

Posted by: David | Dec 14, 2004 9:45:25 AM

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