Terrorist attacks, such as the recent kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, are meant to put Israel in a quandary: One the one hand, Israel is obligated to protect its citizens – not only is that one of the basic functions of government, but also, Israel was founded specifically for the purpose of protecting Jews from violence. At the same time, engaging in military action plays into the hands of the terrorists by increasing Palestinian resentment against Israel, thereby providing current terrorists with the the tools they need to recruit future terrorists.
But it’s not only terrorists who are dedicated to widening the rift between Israelis and Arabs. That’s also the aim of the price tag attacks: Fostering Israeli Arab and Palestinian resentment of Israel ensures that Israeli Jews are too scared to fully integrate Israeli Arabs into society, or to trade land for peace.
While price tag attacks are in no way as physically violent as Palestinian terrorism, both types of attacks use fear to try to influence Israeli policy. We respond to terrorism by praying, by holding rallies, and by sending our soldiers to protect victims. But how do we respond to price tag attacks?
So far, no one seems to have pegged the price tag attacks as anti-Zionist, even though they target the Israeli army because of its involvement in dismantling settlements, and they prioritize protecting Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria over protecting the State of Israel. Yet anyone who dares to utter the word “peace” is immediately labeled a dirty leftist, and we all know that leftist is synonymous with traitor. “Death to the leftists” is a common right-wing slogan, especially since the Hebrew word for leftist rhymes with the Hebrew word for Arab, so you can use one rhyme to sing about both.
I hate writing something critical of Israel at a time like this. On a day like today, I really just want to hold my husband a little closer, and to whisper some prayers. I want to walk around the streets feeling grateful that in this country, at least we share each other’s pain.
But I also think that it’s precisely on days like today that we need to speak out, because if we allow the terrorists to prevent us from looking critically at ourselves, they rob us of the chance to grow as a nation. I don’t know what the solution is to lessen the resentment felt by Palestinians or Israeli Arabs, in part because I don’t think there is one grand solution. But perhaps there are many micro-solutions, that add up to something more than the sum of their parts. Maybe some of us should be working on email pen pal programs between Israelis and Palestinians, or even just finding ways to let the Palestinian civilians know that we’re sorry the price of our boys’ safety is an Israeli soldier standing in their home. Perhaps it means initiating an after school program where children from Ashkelon and Ramallah meet up once a month to spend time together, alternating between each city.
I don’t know the exact solution. And I certainly don’t pretend that making gestures of goodwill will cause all the hatred on the other side to magically go away. But I do know that lessening that hatred is crucial to ensuring our long term security. And I believe, that with the power of human creativity, the solution is not beyond us – it is simply hiding in our hands.