Lessons learned

If you keep up with the news, you may know how many terror attacks have been perpetrated against Israelis in the last couple of weeks, how many have been murdered or maimed. For myself, I’ve lost count.

Here in Rehovot we’ve been lucky. So far we haven’t experienced what they are undergoing in Jerusalem, or even Ra’anana. There’s still plenty of anxiety. When my daughter was very small and we read her the story of Little Red Riding Hood, she expressed concern about wolves. We reassured her that there were no wolves anywhere near where we lived. “Do they have feet?” she asked. Terrorists have feet, cars, and the ability to ride buses and trains like anyone else.

When something bad happens, we should make it a learning experience. What do we know about this latest murder epidemic and what lessons can be learned?

Some terror attacks seem to be organized by groups like Hamas, and some are spur-of-the-moment attacks by amateur terrorists, young women, university students, municipal employees, telephone installers, and 13-year old boys. All you need to do is take a stout kitchen knife with you in the morning. If you see a Jew, come up behind him and bury it in his neck. Anyone can do it. Someone may shoot you, but martyrdom is part of the appeal.

It seems to be extra points to get a soldier (female soldiers are sometimes softer targets), but visibly religious Jews also seem to be singled out.

Many have noted the cold hatred, the lack of empathy that characterizes the terrorists and those that cheer them on. Odel Bennett, whose husband Aharon was murdered and her son injured in a vicious stabbing attack in the Old City, reported that local Arabs laughed and spat at her as she bled from her wounds.

Some Israelis and other Westerners have difficulty understanding the motivation of the murderers and the apparent ease with which they can approach a stranger and try to slaughter him or her in cold blood. It seems to me that there are three important explanatory factors.

One is ideology, closely intertwined with the second, Islam. And the third is Arab culture.

When Israel made the historic mistake of reintroducing the poisonous PLO and particularly Yasser Arafat into its own body, the very first thing Arafat did was take control of the mosques, media and educational system of the territories. Imams, teachers or journalists were required to follow the PLO line, and anyone who did not was removed. They were instructed to teach the myth of an indigenous ‘Palestinian people’ who were dispossessed from their ancestral land by the subhuman Jews from Europe, and to aspire to the ultimate ‘liberation’ of all of ‘Palestine’.

Part of what they learned is that as an oppressed people they have the right to use any means necessary to achieve liberation. The choice of terrorist violence, peaceful protest, lawsuits, diplomacy or all-out war is entirely based on the efficacy. Whatever works is good.

Every subject taught in the schools, every sermon in the mosques, radio and television programs, summer camps, everything was utilized to carry the message of Palestinian victimization and ultimate vindication, along with generous helpings of anti-Jewish themes taken from Islamic and European sources, and countless stories of how the Jews have stolen from, humiliated, raped and murdered Palestinian Arabs.

Jews are not seen as individuals, with personalities and families. Jews are Zionists or ‘settlers’, representatives of the forces of oppression.

This is what I refer to as ‘ideology’, and you can hear it echoed in the speeches of the Arab members of the Knesset. Every ‘Palestinian’ believes this to a greater or lesser extent, and much of it is taught in Israeli schools in the Arab sector.

The influence of Islam is important: the constant humiliation of Muslims living in a state where the sovereign power is not only non-Muslim but Jewish; the availability of triggers for furious action, like the always-effective lie that “Al-Aqsa is in danger,” which has been used to provoke riots and murder at least since the 1920s; and the appeal of martyrdom, especially for young or especially susceptible Muslims.

Traditional Islamic Jew-hatred is invoked in the mosques of the PA and Hamas, where Jews are dehumanized as descended from apes and pigs. So not only are Jews not individuals, they are not even people.

Today the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and the Islamic Movement in Israel are saying over and over that Israel plans to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque and build a third Temple on its ruins. Some are explicitly calling on Muslims to become martyrs in its defense.

Finally there is the Muslim-Arab culture, with its honor-shame motivators. Every day that an Arab allows the humiliations and thefts to stand takes away from his honor and adds to his shame. The honor must be regained and the shame wiped out – and the only act powerful enough to do this is a violent one, the bloodier the better.

I must also note their familiarity with the slaughter of animals – every year on the holiday of Eid Al-Adha, mass public slaughterings of cows, sheep and goats take place (videos too disturbing to link), and Palestinian children participate in slaughtering animals at home. In general, Palestinian Arabs are exceptionally cruel to animals by Western standards.

We can put this together: the ideology provides a reason for violent acts and a justification for them, Islam ignites their anger and provokes action, and culture demands that the action draw blood. And their particular relationship to slaughter makes plunging a knife into living flesh – especially if that flesh belongs to a being that is less than human – a comfortable, or at least familiar, act.

Westerners, including most Israelis, may be able to understand the ideology, but the religious motivations are harder to grasp, particularly the veneration of martyrdom. The honor-shame concept is also alien in the West. And how many of us have slaughtered an animal with a knife, or could do so?

All this contributes to our latest learning experience.

In 2000-2002, we learned that the Arabs, led by the PLO and Hamas, didn’t want their own state; they wanted ours. In 2005, we learned that withdrawal from any part of the land of Israel brings war and not peace.

In the short term, this uprising will have to be put down by force. There is no one to negotiate with about it. The inciters will have to be stopped as well as the terrorists themselves, something that has never been tried. Maybe now we are beginning to learn how important that is. That’s the first lesson of 2015.

The second lesson, which is nothing new and is really just being reinforced, is that the conflict isn’t about borders or anything concrete. It’s about Arabs denying our right to be here, arrogating our indigenous status and ownership of the land to themselves. It’s about Muslims who won’t live under Jewish sovereignty and who will only tolerate us in a subordinate role. It’s about lost honor that can only be regained by murder.

There is another lesson from all this. That is that there is no way we can change to make it possible to coexist with them. Either they must change or one or the other side will disappear.

I promise it won’t be us.

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One Response to Lessons learned

  1. Keefe Goldfisher says:

    Another wonderful essay.

    The only part I do object to is what you’re calling the honor-shame dynamic of Arab/Muslim culture and its connectors with your other points. As ‘motivators’, you’re counting the combination of being ruled by non-Muslims whose culture is ascendant, and articulating a false narrative that says, in the Israeli case, Jews–in Europe and America it would be Christian infidels–have stolen your land or exist outside of the protections of your own true faith, and, in fact, the unbelievers deny your true faith and therefore must suffer whatever consequences to cure your honor and reduce your sense of shame for the mere fact that they dare to enjoy their sovereignty and defy your faith.

    You have been very consistent about mentioning this cultural bent as a motivator over the years.

    Ideas contend–we’re used to this in the West. Authoritarian cultures suppress dissent and do not let ideas contend. I think that Arab/non-Arab-Muslim cultures, quite apart from the variety of the culture we’re referring to… Indonesian, Iranian, Saudi… tend always toward autocracy. They do not allow facts to exert themselves on behalf of a worldview that sees the strength of a winning idea:

    Women become chattel their treatment codified by religion and culture.

    Non-Muslims are not to be tolerated a perceived common humanity.

    This is about asserting an ideology that does not want to include reality or independent thought as a modifier and that has a political goal of subsuming everyone outside the fold.

    I regard self-professed honor-shame in Arab/non-Arab-Muslim cultures as spin for denying reality and using a prolific and inhuman brutality as the chief means for coercion of other cultures. In other words honor-shame is a practiced and studied excuse for violence against non-Muslims, and should be called deny-beserk or something like that that encompasses the religious-fanatical, thought-denying and the willingness to do harm.

    The only reason I quibble is that honor and shame really do mean something in Western cultures, and it is nothing like the use to which these terms are being put by trying to describe the Palestinians, Iranians, ISIS, Syrians, Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah and myriad others’s behaviors from the inside out. These groups’ actions are definitionally dishonorable and without shame, despite the hurt feelings and protestations for having a basis.

    100% agreement on the rest.

    The West must fight being swamped by these groups in every way, using not just your lessons, but 14 centuries worth of lessons. And it will be a long fight still to come.

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