Gedalyah Reback

Condemning What’s Actually Wrong in Jerusalem

Rabbi Moshe Twersky on the right, his brother Rabbi Mayer Twersky to the left.

Four people have been murdered this morning in Jerusalem by gunshot and axe, including Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Toras Moshe. Hamas and Islamic Jihad immediately praised it.

Mahmoud Abbas however has been using both sides of his mouth to speak two different messages over the last few weeks. He condemned the attack, but just a day ago his own political party was airing documentaries justifying the expulsion of Jews from European countries in medieval times.

Europeans, and increasingly Americans, are frustrating themselves over their positions. They have applied immense public pressure on Israel, which has resulted in blowback, but little public pressure on the Palestinians.

Without a global slap in the face to the Palestinian cause, its leaders will not shape up. The Palestinian Authority is being given a pass based on the assumption they are the proverbial toddler compared to Israel as an adolescent. They both need to be treated as if they are the same age and much older than the world typically perceives them.

I don’t celebrate this, but I fear that if this is a third intifada, the Jewish response will be unique to the other two. The revenge attack this summer, however off kilter the attackers were, does reflect a rage that Jews have not experienced in past wars with the Palestinian Authority. Israelis feel they are backed into a corner, held to an impossible standard where their disagreements with the international community are treated as human rights violations (whether it is permissible to build in East Jerusalem), while notably Arab offenders of truly barbaric crimes are often given a free pass. This doesn’t even approach how Israelis view things in the face of lenient rapprochement with Iran.

It baffled me why people burn down mosques, but the response to this is clearly more important than a night-time arson. Human lives are not cheap.

The response to this is clearly more important than approving future building plans for some neighborhood in a settlement that is still battling for a budget to build paved roads. Palestinian intransigence is upping the ante with Israel. Palestinian justification of civilian murder or their constant dehumanization of Israelis is the immediate cause of someone justifying assassinating a Rabbi after a talk about prayer or assassinating a Rabbi while he is praying in a Synagogue by shooting him in the back.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses Israeli students in Ramallah, on February 16, 2014. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Ignoring Israel’s complaints is what enabled this summer’s war in the first place. Ignoring Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israelis’ humanity and the Palestinian Authority’s permissiveness to it both ensured this summer’s war. Calling spades spades or clubs clubs is what this conflict needs. No one is agreeing with Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies by saying outright, “Okay now, that murder is a bullshit response to something about houses.” Where the hell is the sensibility in selling out people constantly over the disagreements with that people’s current Prime Minister? This irrationality needs to end.

I will give the international community credit though where credit is due. I would not be surprised if Haredi opposition to joining the army begins to fade away after this unprovoked, unsolicited assassination in Har Nof, Jerusalem. It might de-emphasize the trivial disagreements between groups in Israel and rally people across the Jewish board.

We’re pretty sick of this. The way European governments callously condemned every single bullet Israel fired this summer while whimpering helplessly as its minorities went to civil war at the same time is a reminder that Israel not only cannot depend on the diplomatic reason of other countries, but that it has to consider a long-term power strategy as threats seem not evaporate from its neighbors but to amplify.

I’ll be honest again, the Israeli government definitely needs to be more mature and strategic about the way it pushes building in this neighborhood, or uses it as a mode of retaliation when it will put dents in the good will of people around the world. It’s irrelevant what’s right on this front, because we have to be realistic and detail-oriented about the repercussions of our actions. We have to say to ourselves, “We know Palestinians are more prone to violence for matters that are not even of life and death.” That hardly excuses the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Islamic Jihad nor all their enablers. Ultimate responsibility still falls with them.

Here we are, with no recognition anywhere around the world that violence related to the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif is unnecessary and ridiculous. There has been no diplomatic admission that the situation on that holy plateau is simply unfair and untenable. There has been an expectation for Israel to calm things down though, as if their police closing down a flashpoint site to avoid rioting was really something worth condemning and not something worth praising.

So while I do finally read some uncompromising statements from John Kerry (“The Palestinian Authority must end days of rage.”) and the US ambassador, we’re still not where we need to be on consistency on stances in the peace process, much less condemning acts of terrorism.

About the Author
Gedalyah Reback is an experienced writer on technology, startups, the Middle East and Islam. He also focuses on issues of personal status in Judaism, namely conversion.
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