Friday, July 04, 2014

Revenge is Not Sweet!

Bnei Akiva Head, Rabbi Noam Perel
I know there is a lot of anger. That is a natural reaction once the grief has moderated a bit. I am angry too. In the past when I experienced anger like this I have said things I later regretted.  But when anger is expressed by a religious leader  - calling for the murder of innocent people, regret is not enough. And I’m not even sure he regrets it. I am talking about what Rabbi Noam Perel, the Religious Zionist leader who heads the World Bnei Akiva Movement, has called upon the Jewish people to do in response to the murder of the 3 teenagers. From the Forward
“The travesty will be atoned for with the enemy’s blood, not with our tears,” Perel wrote. “A whole nation and thousands of years of history demands revenge. The government of Israel is convened for a meeting of vengeance that is not a mourning sitting. Leaders have gone crazy at the sight of the bodies of our sons, a government that would make the army of searchers into an army of avengers.”
 Perel also suggested that Israel should heed the lesson of the Bible when it comes to taking revenge on enemies. 
“A government that turns the army of searchers to an army of avengers, an army that will not stop at 300 Philistine foreskins,” Perel wrote, alluding to the biblical tale of David, who killed 200 Philistines and gave their foreskins to King Saul as the bride price for his daughter. 
Perel later deleted the post and on Thursday issued an apology
He did regret it, And he apologized. But neither of those is enough. Because that anger is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s still there. He may regret saying it. But I question if he regrets believing it. One thing is certain. There are people who don’t just think it or even just advocate it. There are people who act on it.

Mother of slain teen shows a picture of her son at their home in Shuafat (Reuters)
The killing has already begun. The victim is Mohammed Abu Khudair, a Palestinian teenager found murdered in a ditch with his body badly burned. I’m not sure who is responsible for it. My hope is that it was not one of us. (By one of us - I mean a Jew). According to Ha’aretz the jury is still out on who is responsible. The Israeli police and the Shin Bet security service say it is possible this was carried out by Palestinians for other reasons.

But if it was a revenge attack - killing an innocent child as an act of revenge is an act so vile, that it defies expression.Considering the sentiments of Rabbi Perel, it is not that unlikely to have been extremist right wing nationalist Jews who did this as an act of revenge.

Golda Meir once said the following:  ‘We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children’

I do not agree with her. I can’t forgive the savages who murdered the 3 innocent Jewish teenagers. It is neither my right, nor my wish to forgive them for that. Nor do I forgive the Arab/Muslim world for teaching their children to hate Jews so much that they cheer when an innocent Jewish child is murdered. No just society can forgive a people for fostering an environment like that. Not to mention forgiving them for all the suicide bombings and rocket attacks the Jewish people have been - and still are - subjected to.

But I am in agreement with the sentiment that making murderers out of us is a lot worse than making us victims of murder.

If my suspicions (and those of just about everyone else) are true, and this kidnapping and murder were done as revenge by Jews, then they are murderers. And ought to be treated no better than the murderers who killed our boys.

Aside from the immorality of spilling innocent blood, and bringing grief and mourning into the lives of that boy’s family, they bring shame onto the Jewish people.  Not to mention exacerbation of the hatred Arabs already have of us. It is one thing to say their hatred of us has no basis. But when you give them reasons to hate you, then you lose the moral high ground. I can think of no better reason to hate someone than if he kills your child… and then to hate the people who tolerate him …and thereby increase the likelihood that violence against us will increase, God forbid.

And who is to blame for this? Pretty much the same people who are to blame on the Arab side. The people who teach their children to hate another people.

I’m not saying there is any moral equivalency here. There isn’t. I have no illusions about the Palestinians. I know that they all would prefer if we weren’t there. I know that they think all of Israel belongs to them and should be called Palestine. I know they resent us and blame us for all their problems. Some more.  Some less.  Some act on it. Some don’t. Virtually all hate us– to one degree or another. But teaching our children to hate them is a prescription for the kind of thing that has happened here. When people are dehumanized, then killing them is no big deal. It’s like shooting an animal.

Certainly Arabs have vilified and dehumanized us and continue to do so in a multitude of ways. In their media, their textbooks, their Mosques, their schools, and in their entertainment. But in some of our circles, are we not guilty of vilifying and dehumanizing them? 

It might be understandable that a Jew - whose people have a history of being victimized throughout the ages culminating in the Holocaust – might lead him to react this way. But is it right? Is it right to kill innocent people because of this? Is it right to think that they are all guilty and deserve what they get?

I think Rabbi Perel is a victim of this mentality. And comments like those he made on his Facebook page express his deep convictions about it, despite his regret in actually posting it. He is but one of many who have this attitude. I’m sure that those who carried out this heinous revenge attack (if that’s what it was) feel the same way. Much like the extremist right wing ‘Price Taggers’ who react with vengeance towards innocent people when they are crossed.

There needs to be some serious introspection in those circles about how they educate their children. Hatred does not equal Emes. They need to teach Emes. Not hatred.

But in the meantime the only appropriate response to a brutal revenge attack like this is a clear condemnation from all segments of the Jewish world. Every responsible Jewish leader from right to left – politically or religiously – has to speak out and demand justice for this Muslim teenager, no less than the justice they seek for those 3 Jewish teenagers. While that may not bring solace to those who grieving their loss, it is the least any of us can do.