Sunday, March 05, 2023

Do Two Wrongs Ever Make a Right?

Esti Yaniv, bereaved mother of  two  slain sons in Huwara (WIN)
This is a tough one. But it is something that cannot be ignored. 

A few days ago, the mother of the two idealistic, young religious brothers slaughtered by a terrorist while driving through the Palestinian village of Huwara, said she was horrified by the fundraising campaign for the residents of that town. From the Times of Israel: 

“I get up every morning looking out at the village of murderers Huwara, where the murderer of my sons is walking around,” Esti Yaniv said in a video posted online Thursday. “The village of murderers, where treats were handed out [to celebrate the murder].”

She said she was “horrified” by the crowdfunding effort, “a backward campaign for the people who handed out baklavas after the murder of my children.” 

I cannot imagine what that feels like. The pain she must feel at the thought of money being raised for a town where people celebrated the murder of her 2 sons must be unbearable. I certainly cannot blame her for what she said.

Nor can I say that raising funds for this town is even the right response to what happened there shortly after her sons were killed. There was a ‘revenge’ attack by West Bank settlers from around that area that can only be described as a pogrom. 

Despite the pain and outrage those settlers must have  felt, what they did was immoral. No different than the pogroms devout Christians perpetrated against us for hundreds – if not thousands of years in pre Holocaust Europe. In both cases innocent people were hurt and killed by people inspired by fervent religious beliefs indoctrinated in them from birth.  As I recently said, their motives are irrelevant. Their actions were a disgrace. A Chilul HaShem even.  That is surely the motive behind that fundraising campaign: 

Labor party member Yaya Fink launched the online crowdfunding campaign the morning after Sunday night’s riot in which a 37-year-old Palestinian man was killed, some 300 were wounded — four of them seriously — and dozens of buildings and vehicles were torched…

Speaking to Channel 12 in response, Fink said he serves “50 days of reserve duty a year” in which he fights Palestinian terror.

“I still think, even if I’ll be the last one to say it, that we need to fight terrorists and eliminate them, but there are innocents among Palestinians, and those who burn down their homes and burn innocents have forgotten their humanity and forgotten how to be Jewish,” he said. 

Was this the right response – in the face of what generated this whole thing? Honestly, I don’t know. To raise money for people that celebrate the murder of innocent Jews is something that is so abhorent that I feel it deep in the pit of my stomach. On the other hand when Palestinians are indiscriminately attacked in a pogrom by Jews in retaliation where surely innocent people are hurt or killed - that gives me a similar feeling.

To quote a tired old cliché – two wrongs don’t make a right. But at the same time trying to rectify it by raising money for the city where celebrating the murder of Jews is a common occurence may not be the best idea either. 

A lot of people – mostly on the right – see settlers as heroes. Willing to risk their lives for the purpose of fulfilling the Mitzvah of Yishuv Ha’aretz - settling all the land of biblical Israel. There is a school of thought that says that we must do so. That the dangers of being attacked by Palestinains from neighboring towns is not much different than  the dangers faced by Jews living anywhere in Israel - including Tel Aviv. So why not try and fulfill this very important Mitzvah? 

I am not from that school of thought. I am from the school of thought that says one should not place oneself into dangerous situations. And by living near places like Huwara one does exactly that. While it is certainly true that Jews would still be attacked even if the West Bank was judenrein  - Jew free. But anyone that thinks living near villages like Huwara doesn’t exacerbate that situation is not thinking clearly. Is there any question that Esti Yaniv’s two children would still alive if they hadn’t lived in that neighborhood?

Please do not misunderstand. I am not blaming the victim. (A favorite accusation of the pro settler people who say things like that to me when I ask that question.)  Nor is it my intent to hurt the family. And if they should read this, I hope they do not take offense. But the plain and simple truth is that if Yaniv family hadn’t been inspired to live there, those two brothers would very likely still be alive. I don’t think that is arguable.

If there is a single individual whose motivational rhetoric can be blamed for this kind of fervor, it  is the late Meir Kahane. He was worshipped by the late mass murderer Baruch Goldstien. Who was himself worshipped posthumously as a martyr by fellow Kahanists. These are very likely the types of people that attacked Huwara last week.

Meir Kahane is a tragic figure in Jewish history. An idealistic religious Jew who cared deeply for his people and the land of Israel. His personal interpretation of Jewish law led him to the extreme ideology he promoted. Which through his fiery rhetoric inspired his many followers. But Rabbi Kahane’s ideology was strongly rejected by the vast majority of religious leaders. Including my own Rebbe, Rav Ahron who was himself very pro settler. Rabbi Kahane was once asked why ‘the Gedolim’ don’t agree with him and he responded by saying they secretly do but can’t say so publicly. I seriously doubt that was the case. 

Rabbi Kahane was a brilliant man and one of the few people who understood all the issues with respect to the Arab Israeli conflict. He was ahead of his time in the regard. But his way of dealing with it was just as wrong as was the attack against Huwara. - likely inspired by people who adopted his ideology. And at the end of the day an ideology that is Chilul HaShem.