We were sitting in sand dunes waiting for a helicopter to come pick us up when someone told us all the news that there had been yet another terrorist attack. So began an argument between me and the men of my reserve platoon. That was over a week ago and since then the situation in Jerusalem and all Israel has gone from bad to worse.
It didn’t take long before I found myself the lone voice arguing for a resumption of negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The argument raged and tempers flared as the sun dipped down behind the desert dunes leaving us all blanketed in darkness so thick we couldn’t see the rage in each other’s eyes. The stars appeared above us in force, the galaxies visible in all their glory but no one looked up to see them. We were too busy shouting at one another while waiting for the sound of rotors to come upon us.
“You damn Israel to Intifada after Intifada until the end of time!” I shouted at Amir, the 45 year old who hasn’t needed to do reserve duty for the past five years and yet volunteers each time without fail. People were shouting at me that the Arabs needed to understand that Israel wasn’t going anywhere while also arguing that there was no possibility of negotiating with Arabs because “this is how they are”.
The second argument negates the first. If this really is “how the Palestinians are” then it’s impossible for them to come to understand anything.
I didn’t convince anyone that day. Blood calls for blood and those reserve warriors wanted blood in exchange for our own victims. There was no process there was no future, there was only eternal conflict. Perhaps they’re right, but if so it means that this is quite simply as good as it gets. An Israel in control of the West Bank but suffering terror attacks. By this logic each and every terror attack should be expected. Merely another example of the messed up mentality of an eternal enemy. No process will work, nothing Israel can do will affect its own future. So the argument goes.
After my reserve duty ended I took the train home. A man got on the train and sat behind me. He was speaking loudly on the phone in Arabic. I worried that he was going to stab me.
This is what terrorism does. Even though my rational brain knows it’s nonsense I still feel an irrational fear simply because a man on the train is speaking Arabic. The fact that a mere handful of terrorists have committed these crimes is irrelevant. The reflex is now to be suspicious of all those who are around us, because one of them really might want to kill me.
In the wake of an attack the fear we feel is an instinct that makes us afraid and angry and wanting revenge. This is a natural instinct but it isn’t rational.
Don’t mistake that irrational instinct for something useful. Don’t confuse that hate and that anger and that despair for a coherent strategy. It is not.
But really the die is cast. Since that argument in the sand dunes things have deteriorated a great deal more. The sadistic murder of rabbis at prayer and the cop who tried to save them have taken things to a new low. While Abbas wanders around condemning in English what Fatah glorifies in Arabic it is clear that my friends will get their wish.
There is no longer a process to revive.
All that remains is the on-going descent into violence that can no longer be prevented. We will simply have to wait and see how bad it’s going to get this time.