Fanatics on both sides

Here’s an intro republicans can get pumped out: liberals should all move to one state so they can annoy each other instead of us, congregate on some northern california campus, smoke legal weed and celebrate the diversity of the female ABC exec who people are saying empowered women by cancelling Roseanne, and other exciting developments, so the rest of us can live our lives and focus on our families.

Unfortunately, republicans are pretty soft as well. They just do a better job owning that dig and throwing it at sensitive democrats.

A campus rabbi who I know and love posted a video with a settler-plugging hard right former knesset member on his bus with college students touring Israel. Agree with me or not about settlements (I’m frankly sick of doing anything on the issue except voting and encouraging others to do the same) I thought it was an interesting conversation: whether non-observant kids learning Jewish values for the first time and extremist controversial Israeli politicians on the same bus complemented one another or not.

Stats were immediately provided to me by people about anti-semitism in the the countries that surround Israel. The Jew-to-Arab ratio in Israel versus arab states was also deployed. (I condemn and applaud both items, respectively, and remain confused about the point of each). Timelines were explained to me beginning with The Creator of All Lands, guiding us through the King David Era, before a pit stop at a war you may have heard we won in 1967 and concluding with the justness of Jewish occupation in the promised land. Dude. Ten deep breaths. Fox and Friends. Whatever you people do to calm down.The rabbi was cool, we chatted offline and had a fair exchange, but the comments of others were a less complex case study of sensitivity on the right.

Guess liberals aren’t the only sensitive ones. But as satisfying as it is for a former vegetarian folk-song loving Hillary Clinton voter like me to point out that we should have policy disagreements without calling each other Bin Laden sympathizers, sensitivity on both sides easily escalates to something much nastier in Israel and around the world: fanaticism.

I argued in Times of Israel last week that democrats need to recognize the security threats Israel faces on a daily basis, and that Netanyahu should listen to his generals when it comes to the status quo he is maintaining in Gaza as he gleefully opens embassies. Among other points.

I heard from some old friends. Many agreed, and many needed a safe space after reading what they apparently saw as an endorsement of all things terrorist. Like the rabbi in the old city who’s been earning headlines by aiding the eviction of lifelong Arab residents, including an 83-year old grandmother, and helping Jews move in after laying claim to the property, because Israeli law lets Jews reclaim property abandoned in the 1948 war. “Our guys were there to help move out the Arabs’ stuff and are now helping to guard the property” he wrote on Facebook at the time. The next month he made headlines in Ha’aretz, in a story about him denying non-jews service at his business.

Jewish extremists like to tick off horrifying events for validation. It’s a popular exercise that I do not understand and makes my plea for nuance more valid. Stabbings, shootings, rocket attacks, sporadic horrific violence, suicide attacks … good people don’t like these things, and anyone who undermines them is a fool, but in what world can someone expect to crank up the hostility and expect good results? That we answer to a higher standard than terrorists goes without saying. Gasoline doesn’t put out a fire. There’s fanatics on both sides, and in each camp they do a massive disservice to the greater population. Labelling one as worse doesn’t make the other any more right.

Last week, a Mariachi band played a protest outside the Manhattan townhome of a lawyer who threatened to call ICE on a cafe employee speaking spanish to a customer. Israel would do well by treating its own extremists with such respect. If Jews and Israelis don’t speak up when members of the tribe, say, drive an 83-year old grandma out of her home on religious grounds then brag about it on social media, it becomes harder to fight what actually matters

About the Author
Matt Matilsky has been involved with Israel advocacy and American politics since college. He actively contributes for local and national publications regarding regional and Israel-related issues. He works at a recruitment firm in New York City.