Israeli leaders and media indulged in their knee-jerk responses -‘We’re all to blame” and “”We all ignited the flames” – to two separate, individual Jewish hate crimes, repulsive though they were. It should be a far cry from universal condemnation of the fire bombing of the home of a sleeping Palestinian family, burning a toddler to death and critically three members of his family, to collective self-flagellation and loud laments that “The whole house is on fire,” and “Israel has fallen.”
The whole house is not on fire and we are not all guilty, although this was the message President Reuven Rivlin offered the nation Saturday night, July 1, in an outpouring of raw emotion that will inflame passions instead of offering remedies.
Equally counter-productive was the linkage of the murder of a Palestinian baby Friday, July 31, with the stabbing attack by another individual from a separate fringe group of radicals on the Jerusalem gay pride parade Thursday night. This linkage was made by far-out groups of protesters in order to point the finger at their standard culprits – the ruling parties – and force the entire nation to bow their heads in shame. It did not matter that the heads of all government factions, from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu down utterly denounced both crimes and condoled with the victims.
But gay protest leaders saw fit to deny Education Minister Naftali Bennett and MK Magal Yinon a platform for speaking in support of their Tel Aviv rally, because they refused to sign a document put before them enumerating the gay community’s demands. While not at all funny, this incident recalled a scene from the Seinfeld comedy series when Kramer was pushed out of a gay parade in New York, when he refused to attach the parade’s official pin to his shirt.
The same Israeli opposition groups never used the superlatives they are throwing out now when three Israeli teenagers were brutally kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by Hamas terrorists on June 12, 2014. There were no cries that the “house is on fire” then, or when a Palestinian firebomb brought 11-year old Ayala Shapira close to death in an Israeli car driving on a West Bank road near her home, least of all for the countless Palestinian terror attacks committed during the years before and after the 1967 war.
No one makes a fuss, certainly not President Rivlin, when hardly a day goes by without fire bombs and firecrackers being tossed into Jewish homes in Jerusalem and civilian and law enforcement vehicles as a matter of course. By some miracle, no one has been burned to death, only their homes and cars trashed.
None of this of course justifies in any way the murder of Palestinian children or a knife attack on a gay parade in Jerusalem. But living in the nostalgic past when we believed we were different and special is unrealistic. Life in Israel is tough, hardscrabble and fraught with security threats never far away. People are rougher than they would like to be. The self-styled “liberal” media, by falsely depicting two Israels – one enlightened and progressive, the rest hooligans, murderous mobsters and trigger-happy soldiers – pour kerosene on fires set by certain parties for personal or political advantage.
In an environment of crisis such as Israeli society is undergoing today it is more important than ever to keep a sense of proportion.
Equating an undoubted act of terror by Jewish individuals against Palestinians with the organized, self-condoned Palestinian terrorism against Israelis and Jews, decade after decade, is an oversimplification that clouds the path to a constructive approach. Both should be energetically addressed, but they are different in nature and call for different remedies. It is important to de-emotionalize the atmosphere, put a stop to the orgy of self-flagellation and collective blame and turn to a professional, objective course of action.
A lesson in calm and good sense in a crisis came from an unforeseen source: Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. His first reaction was a decision to turn to the International War Crimes Court at The Hague – over the top, like that of Israelis. But the next day, he instructed Palestinian security forces to act firmly to prevent the outbreak of violent Palestinian protests and, above all, the use of firearms.