One hesitates to write anything about what has been happening in Israel over the last few weeks, and what is still happening. The situation is volatile, in every sense of the word, and what is true at one moment may not be the next.
But things have happened, and perhaps it is legitimate to comment on them and try to get some kind of perspective on them. The kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers was an atrocious deed, whichever way you look at it. If the same fate was meted out to the Arab teenager, that is equally atrocious. All criminals must be punished and that includes the perpetrators of both those crimes.
But whether crimes committed in the name of one nationality or another justifies mass demonstrations, rioting and a general rampage of violence is another matter. When a mob runs amok, calling for revenge, causing damage to property and endangering the life and limb of innocent members of the public one has to ask oneself what values have been inculcated into these people?
Some Jews, and Israelis among them, like to consider themselves morally superior to others who do not adhere to their values. After all, they contend, it is Jews who were the first to adopt a monotheistic religion and introduce a code of law. According to the historical and archaeological evidence, this is not entirely true, but the nations with whom these ideas originated (Sumerians, ancient Egyptians) are no longer around to stake their claim. The Jews and their texts have survived.
So who are the people comprising the mobs? On the one hand there are the Arabs living under Israeli rule. The general view is that one expects no better of them; they adhere to a creed that preaches violence, their religion is a mongrel offshoot of others, and their culture is one of vengeance. That, too, is not entirely true, but it is the popular idea, and one cannot deny that the internecine violence currently being unleashed in the various countries of the Middle East bears this out – at least to some extent.
On the other side there are strident voices among Jews calling for vengeance, both on the various social media and in mobs that were hastily formed and shouted slogans that echoed the most primitive and violent ones yelled by the Arabs. Essentially, that puts us all on the same footing, with each side being equally misguided and unable to act responsibly.
The family of the murdered Israeli boys displayed admirable restraint and high moral integrity throughout, and one of them even condemned the murder of the young Palestinian. But certain elements in Israel seem to be intent on stirring up sentiments that clash with the basic values of Judaism – tolerance, forbearance and acceptance of the other (remember the commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself?).
In the present state of affairs no one is any better than anyone else, and encouraging people to behave like Neanderthals spells disaster for us all.
Click here to return to Blog home page