Talia Kainan

The Fissure in the Facade

Israel’s diplomacy takes a historical hit

Following the attempts to legislate the Judicial Reform, many analysts pointed out that we would lose the right to proclaim: “the only democracy in the Middle East”. Now, we are losing another edge in the regional conversation – we are losing the ability to point fingers, as we are becoming the villain.

Last weekend, following a terrorist attack killing four Jews at a gas station near the settlement Eli, Jewish residents of the area took revenge on local Palestinian villages – setting ablaze cars, homes, and other establishments. Many Israelis were surprised that these Orthodox Jews were even willing to drive on Shabbat in order to carry out what a friend called “basically Kristallnacht”.

Because of settlers rampaging, we are losing the upper hand when we talk about terror. Historically, there have been Jewish terrorists – they have recently been recounted in the popular new hit “Vengeance” (Ve’Inakma) by Roy Sharon, a longtime journalist. However, these were always considered the “fringe”, often acting as lone wolves, their actions condemned by the political echelon and all connections they held to the religious Zionist establishment denied and minimized. There has been a shift both in the actions, and their reactions. The violence recently on display in Umm Safa, Turmus Ayya, and Urif, to name a few, were not a couple of misguided souls that do not represent anyone, but rather a mob that used what in some photos seems like IDF weapons.

Turmus Ayya is not an “exceptional event”, which is how we are used to thinking of Jewish violence. It is now a rule, not an exception. This is the new equation: for every Jew killed, a village burned.

A burnt car from the rampage in Huwara. Source: Wikipedia

We would expect politicians to immediately condemn as publicly as possible these events, but those waiting with bated breath were sorely disappointed. The statements by MKs of the religious Zionist parties urged “not to take the law into your own hands”, but said little to address the worrying scale of the reaction, and the deaths caused by their constituents.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. Source: Wikipedia

In contrast, the heads of the security establishment were much sharper with their words: “They constitute, in every way, nationalist terrorism, and we are obliged to fight them,” Israel’s military chief, police chief and the head of the Shin Bet internal security agency said in a joint statement.

This is not the first hit the unity of our leadership has taken – the Judicial Reform caused the first crack in policy, when PM Netanyahu refused to hear Defense Minister Gallant’s warnings.

We are once again at an impasse – who decides what is acceptable?

While we like to point out that the Palestinians target civilians and we don’t – well, now we do too.

We like to deny association and call the settlers “them”. But they are us. They are Israel too. We must feel collective responsibility, demand change and accountability, else we are accepting that this is our face to the world.

We will feel the diplomatic consequences soon enough, but the moral consequences may be even more dire – the saying goes “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Perhaps we should refrain from beating them, joining them, or adopting any of the violent policies of the Middle East.

Hopefully, the voices of those opposing these actions will drown out those that encourage, and will shame those that are silently complicit into saying out loud the truth – we cannot afford to cause our own downfall.

About the Author
Talia is currently a law student at Hebrew University and served in the International Branch of the IDF Spokesperson's Unit. Born and raised in Jerusalem.
Related Topics
Related Posts