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No Easy Solution
The attacks this Shabbat were awful. But what can be done?
(Picture of the aftermath of a terrorist attack from several years ago. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs/ Flickr.)
Following the appalling attacks this Shabbat, I had some brief exchanges with both Muslim Arabs and right-wing Jews. It has become increasingly clear to me that there is both ignorance of the nature of the threat and unrealistic ideas about how to deal with it.
A lot of people don’t seem to understand the difference between this attack and other ones, such as the bombing the photo above. It appears that the young murderer in Neve Yaakov, Alkam Khairi, was not part of a terrorist cell from Jenin or anything like that. He was a “lone wolf” and he held an Israeli identity card. As experts from the security forces admit, there is not all that much that can be done to prevent such things, since there is no fence keeping such people out and there is no way to get advance knowledge. It’s all very well to talk about “unleashing the IDF” but what are they supposed to actually do? Yes, perhaps stricter punishment against the terrorist’s family will have a dissuading effect, but there will always be people who are so consumed with hatred that they will attack us regardless of the consequences.
Meanwhile, from my exchange with the Muslim Arab, along with my daughter’s experiences in Midrasha in the city of Lod, and reading Ari Shavit’s painful My Promised Land, it is likewise clear that many Israeli Arabs either support such attacks or are not especially bothered by them. From their perspective, they were living here for many hundreds of years, when suddenly a bunch of European Jews came and took ownership of their land and massacred or drove out many of their people. They deny our historical connection to the land and don’t care that we don’t have any other place to safely call home.
Many right-wing Jews say that the solution is to “get rid of the Arabs” since we are at war with them. But while one can understand this as an emotional response born from pain, it’s obviously a ludicrous suggestion to translate into actuality. Keep in mind that we are not just talking about the millions of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria; we are talking about two million Arabs that are full citizens of Israel. And also bear in mind that there is a full spectrum in Israeli Arab society, from people who actively want to destroy us to people who save Jewish lives as medics and even serve in the IDF. And even setting aside from the moral issue of evicting people that have lived here for many hundreds of years, how exactly do you evict two million people that are 20% of the population?! How does anyone think that it actually plays out in reality? Are they peacefully going onto buses? And then where do the buses take them? And will it be fine for the Jewish People to commit the greatest such expulsion in modern history, which since the Nuremberg Trials is widely considered to be both a war cime and a crime against humanity? It won’t have any devastating consequences? I find it astonishing that people can seriously propose such madness.
It’s an appalling situation with no straightforward solution. The only potential way out is for Arab Israelis (and Jewish Israelis) to come to terms with both our past history and our present reality. That’s why it was such a promising sign to see Mansour Abbas and his Ra’am party join the previous government, and so foolishly short-sighted for Bibi’s campaign to demonize them (aside from being utterly hypocritical in light of the fact that Bibi himself had tried to recruit their support). I’m under no illusions about Ra’am being great friends of the Jewish People, and it was truly disappointing to see them condemn the very necessary IDF raid on Jenin. But on the other hand, they also condemned Friday night’s attack. Such unexpected and important steps, which come at great potential personal cost, should be welcomed and encouraged, especially in light of an alarming general rise in Israeli Arab hostility. Our lives may depend on it.
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