It is a blessing, never to be taken for granted, to live in a country where the fate of three teenaged boys commands the attention of every government official, every military official, every newspaper, and every citizen. There are no strangers in Israel; one mother’s child is every mother’s child. How wondrous that the people of Israel continues, even now, to heed her ancient clarion call to “choose life”.
At the same time, this latest unfortunate episode reminds us that it is a curse, apparently never to be undone, that the same people of Israel who unflinchingly chooses life, simultaneously, and with the same determination, promotes self-sabotage.
No matter the provocation—be it kidnapped soldiers, rockets, flotillas, or these kidnapped kids—over and over again, Israel reacts in the same self-destructive way, reinforcing her global pariah status even as she seeks to safeguard her citizens. Perhaps it is Israel’s sacred devotion to life which blinds her to the purpose of terror, and so has her repeatedly fumble in its wake.
Terror is a trap. Its sole purpose is to provoke acts of counter-terror. The best acts of terror provoke acts of counter-terror so disproportionately forceful that they command the undying attention of the world. These provoking acts of terror tend to happen when their sponsors are getting too much unwanted attention in the global corridors of power. Before Iranian stooges kidnapped the three IDF soldiers in 2006, the world was approaching an anti-Iranian consensus. Following Israel’s ensuing invasion of Lebanon, Israel topped the world’s chart of infamy, and Iran, unscathed, was back to business as usual. Ahmadinejad could defiantly address the United Nations inside its hallowed chambers, while Israel’s then-Foreign Minister Livni was left to whine on the dirty sidewalk outside.
Terror, while it inflicts physical harm, does not have a physical purpose. The abduction of the three soldiers was not principally about reducing the ranks of the IDF by three, even if, regrettably, that was achieved. The showering of Ketyusha rockets on Sderot is not about killing Israelis in Sderot, even if, regrettably, that, too, is sometimes achieved. And, yes, last week’s kidnapping of the three yeshiva boys is not about killing three Israeli teenagers, even should that, God forbid, come to be achieved.
Terror’s purpose is to summon the deployment of the world’s best weapons of mass distraction—the Israeli Army. For no images say evil better than those of the IDF. With the IDF on the march, the IDF fills the airwaves. With the IDF filling the airwaves—witness The New York Times’ recent headline, “Tensions Mount as Troops Scour Hebron in Search for Missing Youths”—who is counting the dead in Syria, or in Iran, or in Iraq, or even within Palestine’s internecine struggles? Syria is not responsible for tensions. Iran is not responsible for tensions. Iraq is not responsible for tensions. Israel is. Mission accomplished.
Focused only on her three precious boys, Israel once again misses the wider strategic picture. Yes, Israel should do everything she can to bring the boys home. But at the same time, she must ask and answer the only question that matters: “Which terror-sponsors ordered this provocation at this time?”
Were that question to be answered and its answers to be broadcast to the world sparing none of its gory details, the world might find its way to seeing the death-cult that holds the peoples of the Middle East in its grizzly grip. Rather than hunching over her sad story of three innocent victims, Israel could be standing tall recounting the despicable story of some three masterminds of terror. Rather than adding the names of three households to the eternal encyclopaedia of Jewish suffering, Israel could be adding three household names of infamy to the list of the globally most wanted. Instead of the Jewish World’s not-so-viral #bringourboyshome campaign, the whole world could be tweeting #bringterrorsponsorstojustice. And then perhaps even Palestinian school children, now holding three fingers aloft in celebration of the kidnapped trio, would be taught instead to point accusing fingers at those who sponsor death.
Terror is real, but it is also staged to produce a new episode of the world’s favorite reality show, “Evil Israel.” If Israel wants to skip the reality show and to fight terror unfettered with whatever it takes, she must do whatever it takes to get the world to change the channel. Until the most important question — “Which terror-sponsors ordered this provocation at this time?” – can be answered in full, with vivid images and taped conversations and bank accounts and eye-witness testimonials tweeted and texted and videoed and blogged to the far-flung corners of the world, the only thing any Israeli official should say when asked about the three boys is, “We hope that Mrs. Amina Abbas’s leg is recovering from her recent surgery in Tel Aviv. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Abbas family at this difficult time.” Now that would sound like a nation who chooses life.