Shulamit S. Magnus
Jewish historian

There is Only a Shared Future Here, Time to Act Accordingly

However and wherever we define the lines, there is only a shared future here.

The violent, hate-filled fantasy of certain groups on both sides, of the other– Jews, Palestinians– disappearing or being driven out, is just that. Actions based on this fantasy, enabled by a lack of clear government policy, are dragging us all into an abyss of trauma, death, and despair that threatens not one area but Israel as a whole.

Because we are the ones with a State and an army, our government needs to articulate and enforce a policy of zero tolerance of violent acts, specifically including destruction of property, crops, or herds; encroaching on land or property; marauding; stone-and-boulder throwing at cars, buses, or people; incitement to violence and acts intended to terrorize, whoever commits these. That policy must be enforced conspicuously and vigorously with all the force at our disposal, which is considerable.

Any and all who defy the legitimacy of this State and its institutions and organs and act as vigilantes, with whatever terms they use for themselves– it is what we call them that matters– must be found, arrested, prosecuted vigorously, and taken out of the field of action. And their behavior clearly marked as not tolerated, period.

Our government must make clear that any who act on their own to create or enforce policy– in the absence of policy taken officially by this government, whose culpability here is paramount– are not acting legally or legitimately, and that their actions will not determine the policy of this State, this society, or this polity.

The absence of such a policy by the government of Israel, not the previous one/s, led by Netanyahu during his long reign of wink-nod neglect and ad hoc reactivity, nor this one, gives oxygen to terror and to an escalating reality in which not only actual governance by an elected government but the very notion of such an order, erodes.

The hour about this is very late and this is one recipe that definitely does not improve with time. Slow cooking in this instance is already bringing this mix to a boil.

The political echelon must order the IDF to enforce zero tolerance of violence of any kind, from any group, from any direction, and declare that henceforth, “Defense” and “Israel” and “Force” in “IDF” also mean defending every civilian under Israeli rule, with no distinction as to their political status or lack thereof; ethnicity; religion, beliefs, or opinions, with all the legal force needed to be effective.

This act would not be a political solution in an overarching sense, which is not in Israel’s hands alone to deliver, but it is the  bare minimum that we must do, which this situation cries out is needed, now. Not as a favor to anyone but ourselves and the State and society that are so infinitely precious.

1967 was not 54 weeks or months ago but 54 years ago. A government that does not confront basic reality even in the most egregious manifestations that threaten the whole society with anarchy, is guilty of the failing the fundamental purpose of any government. And of the larger meaning of a force that defends Israel.

About the Author
Shulamit S. Magnus Professor Emerita of Jewish Studies and History at Oberlin College. She is the author of four published books and numerous articles on Jewish modernity and the history of Jewish women, and winner of a National Jewish Book award and other prizes. Her new book is the first history of agunot and iggun from medieval times to the present, across the Jewish map. It also presents analysis and critique of current policy on Jewish marital capitivity and proposals to end this abuse. Entitled, "Thinking Outside the Chains About Jewish Marital Captivity," it is forthcoming from NYU Press. She is a founder of women's group prayer at the Kotel and first-named plaintiff on a case before the Supreme Court of Israel asking enforcement of Jewish women's already-recognized right to read Torah at the Kotel. Her opinions have been published in the Forward, Tablet, EJewish Philanthropy, Moment, the Times of Israel, and the Jerusalem Post.
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