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A time for Jewish rage

It's an ethical obligation to the Palestinians to insist that they reclaim their humanity before God
Yosef Salomon, 70, his daughter Chaya Salomon, 46, seen at a recent family celebration. They were stabbed to death on July 21, 2017 in a terrorist attack at Halamish. (Courtesy)
Yosef Salomon, 70, his daughter Chaya Salomon, 46, seen at a recent family celebration. They were stabbed to death on July 21, 2017 in a terrorist attack at Halamish. (Courtesy)

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a moderate when it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict. I still believe in a two-state solution and I have gone so far as publicly advocating dialogue with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. I understand that along with much of the hype and irrationality, there are legitimate grievances on the other side and that it is in everyone’s best interest to think more creatively about ways to come to some sort of political solution.

Yet today, none of this prevents from feeling – and actually advocating – Jewish rage. Not to be misunderstood, I am not speaking about vigilante violence or acts of destruction. Rather, after the attack in Halamish, we have an ethical obligation to the Palestinians to shout down any of their claims to justice – until and unless they can reclaim their humanity in front of God.

Though I know more about Islam than most Jews, I do not feel it is my place to interpret its doctrines. But I have far too much respect for Islam to think that it can bear any legitimate interpretation that would advocate the killing of people while they are worshipping or serving the same one and universal God that we all worship. I have accordingly noticed that most of the Muslim world has loudly denigrated ISIS for engaging in what they have called pseudo-theology. Yet the type of acts that we are increasingly witnessing by Palestinians seem to be a close stepchild of those who would turn Islam into a new pseudo-religion with zero tolerance for Judaism and Christianity.

Were this past Shabbat table massacre to have been an isolated incident, we could attribute it to a deranged individual completely unrepresentative of Palestinian society. Unfortunately, it is not. In recent years, we have watched terrorists brutally killing Jews studying holy books about God in our yeshivot, in the middle of their prayers to God in our synagogues and now observing rites celebrating God’s creation of the world and His giving new life in every generation. Far from being engaged in political acts, the victims were all engaged in acts that most good Muslims have respected for centuries.

These incidents go far beyond simple acts of terror. I do not condone terror of any type, but I am able to understand circumstances in which one is so desperate as to resort to it. It is not relevant that I do not think that the circumstances that the Palestinians find themselves call for terror, and that their cause is ultimately hindered by it. Regardless, even terrorism must have its limits. In Judaism, violence that knows no limits is embodied by the godless face of Amalek – the face of a vicious animal no longer human.

It is hard for most of us to even fathom why Israeli metal-detectors in front of Muslim holy sites should be a source of rage. But if so many Arabs think so, they must at least compare that with the rage Jews should feel when their brothers are murdered in worship. As we are told in Kohelet / Ecclesiastes, while there is a time to love, there is also a time to hate. It is correct to hate the terrorist that violated a holy Shabbat table to wantonly kill Jews and feel good about himself when it was over. It should actually not only be correct for Jews. It should be correct for all good people, including Palestinians as well.

Indeed, no matter how fervently Palestinians may believe in their cause, they should – nay, they must – feel revulsion at what is coming out of their movement. Enough with the private guilt and muted condemnations that trickle in from the other side. I do not care one whit if public condemnations endangers their cause. Being Jewish means that standing in front of God comes before any national aspirations. I cannot imagine that the same is not true of being a Muslim or Christian.

This is not a political ultimatum. It is not a demand that the Palestinians cave in on the surface, so as to advance their long-term interests. It is a call to repentance. Palestinians can blame their deformities on Israel if they so choose. But they are the only ones who will be able to fix them. Until they face up to that, there is really not much to talk about.

About the Author
Rabbi Francis Nataf is a Jerusalem-based educator and thinker. He is the author of the Redeeming Relevance series on the Torah and of many articles.
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