Okay, okay, let’s all stand up and say it together: We are appalled at the kind of Jews who deface graves, burn down mosques and spray-paint hate slogans. I don’t know a single person in this country who disagrees or could find any way to excuse, condone or rationalize such indecent behavior.
Do we feel better now? I know what would make me feel better: never having to read another self-righteous, one-sided demonization of “settlers” or another hand-wringing, groveling apologia from my government. Although I suppose the words have to be said, they do no good, except to make the writer or speaker feel superior. They don’t illuminate the problem or in any way set us on a road to redemption.
Instead, let us all open up the books and look directly at the pictures in this bloody album, something we Jews in Israel are loath to do, preferring – if we agree to look at all – a soft-focus lens, or, better still, to shift focus completely, like the post-bus-bombing haste to pick up body parts, wash away blood and hide the charred metal carcasses before, God forbid!, a foreign reporter can snap a picture.
See, we are back to normal, whoever-is-in-charge seems to be saying with a smirk of self-congratulation. Good as new. Don’t make a fuss. Suck it up.
That actually works for most of us in Israel, most of the time. But there are those few who find it hard to move on, who want closure of some kind, call it justice, retaliation or revenge. That said, very few of them are arsonists or the ones with the spray cans.
Those are mostly idiot kids, or the kind of criminal element that always finds its way into extremist circles in all countries, religions and movements. The ones that concern me are the normal people forced to face extreme circumstances, who could very well be pushed over the edge.
Let’s start with the people of Itamar.
On March 11, at 10:20 p.m., Amjad Mahmad Awad and Hakim Awad of the adjacent village of Awarta entered the home of the Fogel family, people they did not know or have any personal past history with. They entered through the living room window, but did not notice the six-year-old sleeping on the couch.
They moved on to the bedroom, where Amjad slashed the throats of Udi (37) and his little boy Eldad (four), while Hakim held them down. When mom Ruth (34) came out of the bathroom, Amjad stabbed her numerous times, and then Hakim shot her. They found Yoav (11) reading in bed.
Amjad stabbed him in the heart. About to leave, they heard a baby cry. Amjad returned to slit the throat of three-month-old Hadas.
At their trial, the two murderers smiled constantly.
In a statement to the court, Amjad said: “I am proud of what I did.”
On September 13, Hakim was sentenced to five consecutive life sentences. Explaining their decision not to invoke the death penalty, the judges said: “The imprisoned criminal, whose life would be taken after being sentenced to death, might turn into a martyr, a shahid in their terms, with all the meanings that are attached to it.”
Dear judges, so what? He’ll go on the PA national heroes list, with every other suicide bomber and other scum. He’ll have a street named after him in Gaza. Isn’t that better than making him into an incentive for yet another terrorist kidnapping, subjecting us all for years to the pleas of desperate, grieving parents, and inevitably opening the doors and setting him free? As if that decision weren’t enough, last week residents of Awarta were permitted by Israeli authorities to enter Itamar to harvest their olives. The result could certainly have been foretold. Residents of Itamar, who firmly believe that Amjad used the last harvest to scout their homes and plan his barbaric slaughter, claimed that the Awarta villagers had drawn fingers across their throats and told them they’d be “Fogeled.”
Whether or not this is true, and I tend to believe it is, the policy-makers responsible for allowing this scenario to develop must accept full responsibility for fanning the flames of hatred and its consequent results.
ON SEPTEMBER 23, the same day the Palestinians made their bid for statehood in the UN, Asher Palmer (25) and his baby son Yonatan, residents of Kiryat Arba, were killed when their car flipped over on their way home. The police and IDF hastily reported that no rock-throwers had been sighted in the vicinity, and claimed the large boulder in the car had fallen inside when the car overturned.
Jewish residents of the area were furious, claiming the road had a long history of Palestinian violence, and that the IDF had ceased to secure it. Soon it was established beyond doubt that Palmer and his baby were victims of a terror attack, leaving residents seething.
“The police/security establishment has one fear, and one fear alone. It is not dead Jews.
It is dead Arabs,” David Wilder wrote in the Internet magazine Hebron on September 25.
The alleged terrorists, residents of Hebron, were arrested; they now await trial and hopefully justice.
On October 3, vandals torched the mosque in Tuba Zanghariya, a Beduin village known to support the State of Israel and have many residents serving in the IDF. Why did vandals choose this village? According to Israelstreet.com, this entire area of the Galilee has suffered years of bitter conflict and vandalism so severe that Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi and nearby Kibbutz Amiad have had to abandon 1,700 dunams of land as a result. Feeling abandoned themselves by authorities, the farmers formed Irgun Hashomer Hahadash, a volunteer force whose stated aim is to “prevent incursions onto agricultural lands by hostile neighbors who steal crops, herds and farm equipment, often using arson as an effective tool. Those involved in these illegal acts are wearing away at farmers and ranchers on a daily basis, creating financial havoc.
Meanwhile, the authorities have been unable to prevent these acts.”
Since we don’t yet know who set fire to the mosque in Tuba Zanghariya, a despicable and inexcusable act putting the perpetrators on a par with the lowlifes in Gaza who destroyed numerous synagogues in Gush Katif, we can’t really judge motivation. But the graffiti they left behind included the name Asher Palmer.
NO ONE can predict the emotional damage to the victims of terrorism as a result of our government’s recent move to free 1,027 convicted terrorists, but the reactions have already begun. Shvuel Schijveschuurder, 27, whose parents, Mordechai and Tzira, brother Avraham (four) and sisters Hemda (two) and Ra’aya (14) were murdered in the suicide bombing of the Sbarro restaurant in 2001, poured white paint over the Tel Aviv memorial to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in response to the proposed release of Ahlam Tamimi, convicted of driving the bomber to the site. Predictable outrage followed: Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said, “Hands that allow themselves to hurt what is sacred and important to the people of Israel must be cut off.”
Yes, I agree. But I disagree about what is sacred and important.
Pursuing justice and implementing it is sacred and important to the Jewish people, and all people.
At the moment, the greatest thing the State of Israel can do to stop Jewish vigilantes is to stop creating situations that cry out for revenge. The government can start by wiping the smile off Amjad Awad’s face. His crime cries out for the death sentence. It is long overdue and will go far in reassuring us all that justice is possible, and in the right hands.
This article was first published in the Jerusalem Post on Friday, 21 October 2011.