Terrorism: One and the Same (Mi-Ketz)

There’s a common view out there that Palestinian attacks on Israelis do not constitute terrorism.

A Palestinian man stabs an elderly Israeli woman in the back? ‘Well, you’ve got to understand: Israelis are to blame because they occupy the Palestinians.’ It’s not exactly excused but it’s understood and then dismissed. It’s justified. When terrorism strikes Europe or the United States, however, it’s another story. That’s just plain wrong. There’s no justifying that.

In the midst of a campaign of Palestinian stabbings and car rammings, Swedish Prime Minister said that these do not constitute terrorism. Swedish government minister, Margot Wallström, has gone further. She blames Israel for Palestinian attack on Israelis. Like her PM, she does not view Palestinian violence against Israelis as terrorism. They are the outcome of Palestinian suffering caused by Israel. This suffering leads to desperation and violence. According to Wallström, it’s Israel’s fault.

In London, England, a man wielding a knife shouts “This is for Syria” as he slashes random people in a subway station. People are outraged. Twitter erupts with the viral hashtag #youaintnomuslimbruv (“You Ain’t No Muslim”). The attacker’s rationale, that he was responding to the UK’s actions in Syria, is dismissed. The act is identified as terrorism. It’s his fault.

Notice, of course, that there was no similar social media campaign regarding the myriad of stabbing attacks against Israelis. One assailant slashes commuters as payback for British actions in Syria and criticism is immediate and emphatic. Multiple assailants slash pedestrians, men, women, the young and the elderly in Israel as payback for Israeli actions in the West Bank, and criticism is negligible.

These attacks, however, are one and the same.

Pharaoh’s Dreams

When Pharaoh, in this week’s Torah portion Mi-Ketz, has two troubling dreams, he seeks to decipher their meaning. He consults his experts. His magicians and his wise men are unable to interpret what the dreams mean.

After hearing that a Joseph is skilled at interpreting dreams, Pharaoh seeks his assistance. Joseph listens to the two dreams and then he says:

Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same.

Genesis 41:25

Pharaoh himself thought he was having two separate dreams. Every single one of his many experts looked at these two dreams as being distinct from each other. They all accepted that these were two unique dreams. But Joseph understood that these were, in fact, one and the same.

Likewise, terrorist assaults against Israelis and terrorist assaults against Europeans or Americans are one and the same.

Joseph stands alone amongst all other experts. Nevertheless, they – all of them – have it entirely wrong. He alone has it right. Despite everyone else believing that they are considering two things, Joseph recognizes, with full clarity, that there is a common thread that runs through both.

The Common Element

What’s the common thread linking terrorism within Israel to terrorism outside Israel? Justification.

The rationale of the individuals responsible for the recent attacks in Paris was that they were a direct result of France’s intervention in Syria. Had France not “provoked” them, nothing would have happened. It’s France’s fault.

The rationale of Palestinian individuals responsible for the recent knife attacks and car rammings in Israel and its disputed areas is that they are a direct result of “the occupation”. If Israel didn’t “occupy” the Palestinians, nothing would happen. It’s Israel’s fault.

In both cases, the terrorists claim to be justified.

A couple with allegiances to ISIS mow down random individuals at a mental health facility in San Bernardino, California. The public is outraged. The attackers’ motives are retribution against the States for their actions against ISIS. Their motives are not accepted by the general public. Their attack is identified as an act of terrorism. It’s their own fault. It’s the fault of ISIS. The perpetrators are gunned down and killed.

When Palestinians who ram their cars into Israelis or start slashing Israelis with knives and they are neutralized, Israel’s response is questioned. Margot Wallström once again chimed in and accused Israel of executing these Palestinians.

Outside of Israel, security forces stopping a terrorist is justified. Within Israel, it’s unjustified.

There are plenty of people who like to make a clear distinction between acts of terror in the rest of the world and acts of terror in Israel. When it happens anywhere in the world, it’s identified as terror. When it happens in Israel, it isn’t.

They point out that attacks around the world, and on Western targets in particular, are wholly unjustified. Many argue that the motivation behind terrorist incidents in the US and Europe is Islamic radicalization (although they often skirt the terminology). In fact, the rationale that the attackers have is very much the same: ‘your people committed a wrong against my people so I am justified to attack your people – at random’. It’s a sense of justification. It is indeed a false justification.

Beyond the concept of justification, there is a very similar idea that unites the jihadist and the Palestinian terrorist. It is a perception that intruders/ outsiders/ foreigners/ colonialists are on their land. The response is also the same: violence. The responsibility for all this violence, as they and their supporters see it, is not their own. After all, they are convinced that they are justified.

When Pharaoh accepted that Joseph’s interpretation of his dreams were correct and that the two dreams were really one, he had to make a decision about what to do. The dreams foretold calamity in the form of famine. Pharaoh took measures to prevent or, at least, to alleviate the effects of this calamity.

Until people in Europe and North America understand the commonality between terrorism on their soil and terrorism on Israeli soil, calamity will continue and suffering will continue. Terrorism in one place and terrorism in another place are not two different concepts; they are one and the same. Terrorists who believe that killing random people in North America and Europe and terrorists who believe that killing random people in Israel do not express a mentality that is different; the mentality is one and the same. The Western world’s reaction to acts of violence against innocents in Europe and the States and its reaction to acts of violence against innocents in Israel shouldn’t be different. It should be one and the same: unequivocal condemnation.

About the Author
Eyal Bitton is a cantor and composer who has penned several musicals and oratorios. His theatrical works have been produced in the US, Canada, Kenya, and China. He has directed choirs in Montreal and Toronto and is the Musical Director of Toronto's Zimriyah, a children's choral festival. As a cantor, he combines Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions along with his own original pieces at Beth Jacob Synagogue in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
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