Shayna Abramson

Moral Equivalency (Why I’m Tired of Hearing It)

Monday night, my husband and I went out for sushi. On the way, we stopped at the local falafel joint, which had interrupted its World Cup coverage to show the news of the kidnapped boys’ death on its large-screen TV. Everyone else on the street stopped too, and we shared a collective moment of mourning. In a bizarre way, I realized that this was why I had made aliyah – to share these national moments, even if I’d rather they were happy moments, like Israel making it into the World Cup. (Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?)

We debated a bit before deciding to still go out to dinner. Even though this wasn’t a shock, it seemed so surreal. How could Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali be dead? People reached out to each other, because we didn’t know where to place our sadness.

But among it all, the world stays silent – or at least, most of the world: David Cameron made a very moving statement. A friend of mine pointed out that there’s no reason the world should care about three boys in a tiny country. This would be true, if the world was not generally obsessed with that tiny country, which means that a “minor” terror attack should matter. I’ve also heard the theory that the world doesn’t care because it sees the kidnapping as roughly morally equivalent to Palestinian youths who are in Israeli prisons. I think that theory has a grain of truth, and it angers me. So here I go, spelling out things that should need no elaboration:

The Occupation is not a legitimate excuse for terror attacks. There are many ways to successfully fight an occupation that do not involve intentionally targeting civilians. The mismatch in weaponry between the Palestinians and the Israeli Defense Forces is not a good reason for choosing terror as a means of resistance; first of all, countries that won their freedom without using terrorism were also not evenly matched against their occupiers. Second of all, Palestinian terror attacks often involve sneaking terrorists past check points in order to target civilian population centers, even though targeting checkpoints would be the easier option. The terrorist organizations prefer targeting Israel proper over targeting the occupied territories, even though targeting the territories is easier, simply because they want to kill as many Israelis as possible.

Then, there is the myth, that sure, Hamas operatives kidnapped three Israelis, but what about all the Palestinian youth in Israeli prisons? First of all, much of that youth is imprisoned because it committed crimes. All legal systems however, make mistakes, and have innocent people who fall through the cracks and wind up wrongfully imprisoned. Israel is no exception. But as a parliamentary democracy with a functioning Supreme Court, Israel also has the legislative and judicial bodies to rectify such problems.  Sure, it’s an ongoing process, but there is constant progress; Palestinians wronged by Israel have won their cases in the Supreme Court. Besides, there is a big difference between innocent youths who are the victims of a well-meaning justice system with its own flaws, and between three boys being kidnapped by terrorists.

I feel like I’m preaching to the choir; most people who justify the kidnappings probably don’t read the types of website that would allow a Zionist like me to write for them.  Even scarier: Maybe they do read those types of websites, and somehow hold these views despite not being completely misinformed. Of all the posts I’ve written, this feels the most self-indulgent, because it is my attempt to deal with the pain. Everyone seems to have something so eloquent to say about this tragedy, but I have no words. What can you say to a mother who has lost a son? I think that’s why the rabbis gave us a formula – they understood the human need for speech, even in a situation that demands silence. So:

May the families be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.



About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.