I opened my newspaper Wednesday morning to read that two Palestinian terrorists had attacked a security guard in a car on the oft-targeted Jerusalem light rail. The guard was stabbed twice; one of the terrorists was shot and the other overpowered by passengers.
The thing is that the terrorists were cousins, 11 and 14 years old.
The 11-year old, who was shot by the guard he or his cousin had stabbed, was taken to Hadassah Hospital, where – as I find myself writing yet again – he will receive the best medical care available in the Middle East. Because of his age, he will then go home to his parents. Israeli law makes no provision for attempted murderers below the age of 12.
When I was 11, I was a Cub Scout. Not even a Boy Scout, for which you had to be 12. I built model airplanes and crystal radios, played ball in the street and rode my bike to the swimming pool in the summer. The greatest violence I had experienced in my life was a fight with a boy my age that resulted in a bloody nose.
It’s been a long time, but I can’t begin to imagine myself or any of my friends or acquaintances planning and carrying out an attack intended to cause the death of a stranger, simply because he was a member of a group defined as an enemy.
To plunge a knife into the flesh of a human being. Think about it. Think about how you would need to feel in order to do it. Most of us would have a hard time killing an animal, even a chicken we intended to eat. Then think about planning to do it in advance, sharpening a knife and hiding it in your school backpack so that you could go out and stab Jews after school. Think about doing this when you were a kid.
There are cases of children committing murder in the US, but they are rare and usually the child is in some way psychologically defective. But there are numerous cases of Palestinian teenagers, girls as well as boys, committing stabbing attacks. A few weeks ago, another pair of cousins aged 13 and 17 seriously wounded two Jews, one of whom was also a 13-year old, in a stabbing spree that ended when the older assailant was shot by police and the younger one hit by a car.
One reason it’s hard for us to comprehend their behavior is that most Westerners really don’t get the concept of an enemy. You belong to a tribe, and there is an enemy tribe. When you meet a member of the enemy tribe, you fight. If you can kill him you do. Often killing an enemy is justified as revenge for a series of crimes committed by the enemy tribe. It doesn’t matter who he is as an individual.
The other difficult concept is hate. We use the word loosely: not wanting to sit next to a person of a particular race on a bus isn’t hate, regardless of how reprehensible it may be. Hate is the emotion that makes you want to plunge a knife deep into the neck of the hated person. Most 11-year old children haven’t experienced real hate. Most grown-ups in Israel and the West may have felt it a few times and certainly only a very small number have acted on it.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is asymmetrical because most of the hate and the enmity is on one side. A US State Department spokesperson will say “both sides need to exercise restraint” as if both sides are doing the same, unrestrained violent thing. Jeffrey Goldberg referred to Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs as “two warring tribes” as if both tribes treat the other as an enemy. These expressions are misleading, because in this conflict Jews are primarily defending themselves out of necessity while Palestinian Arabs are attacking them out of tribal hatred.
Of course there are exceptions. The Jews that burned Muhammad Abu Khdeir to death saw him as a representative of a hated enemy. His murder was a classic case of revenge against a member of an enemy tribe.
But note that Jews are in the majority, have access to more and better weapons and have an organized fighting force. If they were as suffused with hatred for Arabs as Arabs are for Jews, there would be no Arabs left from the river to the sea. And if Arabs had the means that the Jews have, there would be no more Jews.
There are several reasons for the Palestinian Arabs’ hate, and they seem to have combined to create a perfect storm of murder.
- The honor-shame character of the Arab culture calls for humiliation to be extirpated by blood.
- The violation by Jewish sovereignty of the Islamic hierarchy which places Jews several steps down from male Muslims is an endless source of humiliation for them.
- The idea that Jews are lower than Muslims, close to animals, makes it easier to consider killing them. And Arabs, even children, are familiar with the slaughter of animals.
- The essential aspect of Palestinian – not just Arab – culture, the fact that it’s defined in opposition to Jews and Jewish sovereignty, makes Jews blamable for everything bad that has happened to Palestinian Arabs.
- The flood of hateful indoctrination that Palestinian Arabs receive from the Palestinian Authority and Hamas makes them furious and gives their fury an object – the Jews. Any Jews.
- The approval their society gives terrorists validates their behavior as not only normal but laudable.
- Incitement on children’s programs on regular media plus social media is aimed directly at children.
There is nothing remotely similar to any of these in mainstream Jewish culture. So while we may fight Hamas on a regular basis and push back at the violent ‘demonstrations’ incited by the PLO, we don’t systematically or sporadically try to kill Arabs. And we certainly don’t encourage our children to do so.
All of these strong emotional motivators act on children as well of adults, but in children the safety mechanisms that might make an adult pull back from actual murder aren’t well-developed. Emotions go straight to action, hate straight to stabbing.
The encouragement of children to become terrorists is not an accident. The Palestinian educational system is designed to do it. Child soldiers are nothing new, but their use as self-guided terrorist missiles is a Palestinian innovation. It can be counted along with the other Palestinian contributions to humanity, like the popularization of airplane hijacking, the Qassam rocket, and automotive terrorism.
The Palestinians have tried to appropriate Jewish history in the land of Israel, to create a ‘holocaust’ for themselves, to claim our holy city and our holy sites, even to claim the Jewish founder of Christianity for themselves. But one thing that they did not copy was our love and concern for our children. Instead they cynically and cruelly use them, as soldiers, human shields, human bombs and terrorists. They have created a generation of haters and killers. Karma is not a Jewish concept, but I expect that they will pay dearly in the future for what they are doing today.
Evelyn Gordon wrote this week on the same topic, with a comparison of the Palestinians to Tibetans and American blacks circa the Rosa Parks era (I would add India under the British). She noted that this is not a normal expression of a people that feels themselves oppressed, to wage a terrorist war on potentially every civilian one meets. The last 3 examples were notable for their refraining from violence and working against greater odds than the Palestinians have had to.
Isi Liebler also wrote this week about the moral depravity of including the Israelis in the recitation of these acts as a part of two ‘warring’ factions. He naturally tends toward counseling a unifying approach on the part of Israel’s citizens to confronting this evil, and directs his ire toward Israel’s MKs who sabotage this unity out of political ambition rather than a true concern for national security.
Still it is very odd to read in the same Liebler article that more Israelis die on the roads than from terror attacks. And odd too to compare what the Chinese did to the Tibetans, and racist Americans did to blacks, and Brits did to the Indians to what Jews may have done to Palestinians (to be fair, Ms. Gordon only chose to talk about the Palestinian actions, but one’s mind wanders to the hurt that each group felt to imagine what the Palestinians feel). But this putting oneself in ‘their’ place, is the undoing of a moral judgment. Only the threat of imminent harm could warrant such behavior. And there is none to justify it.
The mind shrinks from what must be done. The ferocity of attacks will have to be much worse to allow any action, and world pressures will soften the correction. But the Palestinians must be transferred away, by force if necessary. They do not belong among the Israelis, and the whole long, unending, horrible intifada that they’ve undertaken–more as Islamists than Palestinians–needs to be separated away from the natural human emotion to empathize so that there is no calculation about what the right number of Israelis dying by violence is, or whether something really bad was done to those wielding the knives that justifies this wave of terror. There is no suffering there to warrant the attacks, just a tried-and-true formula for getting rid of and subduing populations. The longer the incited stay inside the walls of Jewish life in Israel, the worse the situation will become.