Israel’s Cabinet has authorized security officials to use “administrative detention” and “aggressive questioning” against suspected “Jewish terrorists,” following the arson attack at Duma that left an Arab baby dead and other family members in the hospital.
This was done against a background of national mea culpas by everyone from the President and Prime Minister on down, both for this crime and for the stabbing murder of a young girl and injuring of several others at the Jerusalem Gay Pride march.
All of this is happening despite the fact that there are as yet no suspects, Jewish or otherwise, for the Duma arson. It is also true that no connection can be demonstrated between homophobic murderer Yishai Schlissel and any Jewish nationalist movement or ideology.
The coincidence of two terrorist murders, one committed by a Jewish fanatic whom I would call ‘criminally insane’ and the other by unknown perpetrators capable of spraying graffiti on a wall in Hebrew, has given rise to a national paroxysm of guilt.
President Reuven Rivlin, in particular, connected the murders, attributing both to “incitement” and “hatred.” He accused “Jewish terrorists” of the Duma firebombing. He called for Israeli Jews to express their shame (for being Israeli Jews?):
On the eve of the 15th of the month of Av, the Jewish festival of love, six Israeli citizens were cruelly stabbed, in the heart of Jerusalem. To my great horror and shame, the letting of blood, the path of hatred and murder, did not stop there. Over the course of the same night, Jewish terrorists burned down the house of the Dawabsheh family in the village of Duma, killing their baby son Ali.
On Friday, I visited the family in Tel Hashomer hospital, I visited, silently, ashamed, ridden with dread for the power of hatred. Ashamed that in a country which has known the murder of Shalhevet Pass, of the Fogel family, of Adele Biton, of Eyal, Gil-ad, Naftali and Muhammad Abu Khdeir, there are still those who do not hesitate to ignite the flames, to burn the flesh of a baby, to increase the hatred and terror.
This morning a Hebrew poem appeared on Facebook in which the writer described removing the mezuzot from his doors, putting them and other Jewish ritual objects in a plastic bag and throwing them out in the street. Take your religion, I don’t want it, he wrote.
It is a little early for all of this. There are good reasons to suspect that the Duma arson may not have been perpetrated by Jews. In addition, there are many other cases – the alleged shooting of Mohammad al-Dura in 2000 stands out as particularly successful – in which Jews have been accused by Arabs of crimes that they did not commit. In particular, false accusations against ‘settlers’ are a major part of the demonization enterprise against the Jewish state.
Which brings me to actual misbehavior by extremist Jews, ranging from graffiti to arson (usually of unoccupied buildings): it needs to stop.
“Price tag” attacks and similar acts aren’t going to drive Muslims and Christians out of the land of Israel or make Arabs stop committing acts of terrorism against Jews. They do nothing for our side. They simply provide the best ammunition for the demonizers. Every actual incident is used as ‘proof’ that ten made-up ones occurred. Every one is claimed as justification for ten acts of Arab terrorism.
It needs to stop, but we don’t need to go overboard. I have been reading about a “Jewish underground” made up of “hilltop youth” – teens and twenties that want to overthrow the state and replace it with a kingdom governed according to halacha (Jewish law). This isn’t going to happen. It’s a fantasy and some of the fantasists have already been arrested. I could be wrong, but I am willing to bet they are not the ones that threw the firebombs in Duma. We’ll find out.
If I am wrong, if it turns out that these are the ones that burned the Arab child to death, I will retract my words and apologize. But at this point I see a nation unnecessarily bursting at the seams with hysterical guilt.
Let me add a few words about the maniac, Schlissel. He exists, and so do others that share his beliefs, although very few would take violent action on them. But Israeli society is not so different from others; people are regularly murdered for being homosexual in the US and other countries. The fact is that Israeli society as a whole is far more tolerant than most of the others; we have no need to engage in collective self-flagellation.
There is a pathology here, and it’s in addition to the pathology of Schlissel and of whomever is responsible for the Duma arson. It is a pathology of self-hatred, a need to find a reason to leave the country, to renounce Judaism, to apologize, to agonize, to be ashamed of ourselves, to blame the whole society for the crimes of a few.
It is a sickness, a Jewish sickness.
Pathological guilt isn’t a problem only because it leads to stupid Woody Allen movies. The demonization of the Jewish state by our enemies has a purpose: to provide reasons to oppose our self-defense, which is presented as just another war crime. By feeding and supporting it, which we do every time we apologize for yet another non-existent ‘crime’ – al Dura, the Gaza beach incidents of 2006 and 2014, shelling the Lebanese village of Kfar Kana in 2006, the Mavi Marmara affair, etc. – we participate in our own demonization, and amplify it.
The damage isn’t confined to the international arena. What other country is so obsessed, in its public discourse, journalism, art and literature, with its supposed moral failings? While other countries – think of Turkey or Russia – try to write embarrassing episodes out of history books, our historians, sometimes very creatively, look for sins to put in. We have a major newspaper – Ha’aretz – dedicated to besmirching our nation, every day. How many serious films made in Israel have you seen that don’t suggest that something is rotten here? What do most academic researchers in the social sciences and humanities prefer to write about? Do we even need to ask?
Possibly because of my American background, I am really attached to the principle that an accused is innocent until proven guilty. Here a crime is committed and before there is even any evidence, we fall over ourselves demanding that we be punished!
Naftali Bennett was right: stop apologizing. We don’t need the unearned guilt. We live in a great nation, which, like any other nation, has some bad people in it. Let’s punish the criminals, not the nation.