By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Is the current wave of terror in Israel, particularly around the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the result of the frustration and the sense of hopelessness on the part of Palestinians, particularly the young? Or is it the outcome of the incitement orchestrated by the Palestinian Authority taking advantage of the despair of its people, particularly the vulnerable?
If you’re the Secretary-General of the United Nations or an opponent, within Israel or abroad, of the current government of Israel you’ll opt for the former. If you’re the prime minister of Israel or his supporter you’ll insist on the latter and accuse those who think otherwise, including the UN Secretary General, of anti-Israel bias or even anti-Semitism (“Jewish self-hatred,” if you happen to be a Jewish opponent to the occupation).
If you’re free from the kind of ideological bias that blinds you to reality you’ll say yes to both questions. The IDF chief of staff seems to think so. Nobody should accuse him of being blind to the anti-Israel propaganda by the Palestinian Authority, yet he stated recently that it behooves us to help instill hope in the Palestinian population and to make a distinction between the terrorists and the overwhelming majority of peaceful Palestinians. One of the ways to do so is to allow the 120 000 Palestinians currently employed in Israel and in the settlements to continue to do work because their livelihood and the livelihood of their families depend on it in the absence of a solid economic base within the territories.
There’s nothing to suggest that the chief of staff is a bleeding heart liberal. His recommendation is based on a solid strategic assessment serving the interests of the State of Israel. The question is whether by now the government is so infested with reactionary ideology that it’ll be prepared to jeopardize the very existence of Israel. That ideology is already tampering with the efforts of the ministers of education and culture to control the school curriculum as well as artistic creativity and thus tamper with democracy.
Similar attempts are seemingly also being made within the defense establishment by seeking to indoctrinate soldiers with the help of the Orthodox-nationalist rabbinate and perhaps also in other ways. Mercifully, however, strategy and military conduct have not been affected. The chief of staff may be implying that he intends to keep it that way.
He also appears to know that Palestinian terrorism, though it doesn’t constitute a real threat to Israel – not in comparison to the danger of Hamas infiltration in the South and Hezbollah inroads in the North – cannot be defeated militarily. Only a political solution can stop the murdering and maiming of innocent Israelis and the killing of the attackers. As things appear at the moment, that isn’t on the agenda of the current governments, neither of Israel nor of the Palestinian Authority.
Nothing of the above is intended to exonerate the actions of the Palestinian Authority. To cover up its own impotence it’s sending vulnerable youngsters – many of them in their teens – to a certain death by inciting them to violence against Jews. Israel cannot do anything about that; it can do much to adjust its own policies and attitudes.
The politicians seem unable to do so. Will the subtle hints by the chief of staff fare better in the court of public opinion?