Sunday, August 07, 2005

my thoughts on last week's murders

In Reap what you sow, Treppenwitz admonishes some of the Israeli bloggers for not discussing Natan Eden Zeda's murders of four Israeli Arabs on a bus in Shfaram last week.

I didn't do a poll of how many bloggers did relate to it, but I know I didn't, so I'll take the opportunity now to mention a few thoughts.

  • It goes without saying that the murders and the murderer should be condemned clearly. There's no justification, and although clearly the army could have done a better job handling him, in the end it was his own evil crime.
  • It is important that we take a clear stand against his act, and I'm glad to see that it has pretty much been that way. After Goldstein's attack in Hebron in 1994, there were all kinds of rumors that it was justified because the Arabs were planning an attack. While it shocked some people, no one really thought about it too much. I think that attitude is what let the Rabin assassination come to be. I remember after Rabin was killed, that someone mentioned the example of Shimon and Levi - when they weren't dealt with severely after killing Shchem & crew, it didn't take too long for them to go after Yosef.
  • I don't buy into any conspiracies here either. While they can be comforting for us to hear, you only need to read the news on a daily basis to know that we have plenty of bad people on our side.
  • On the other hand, it really bothers me when people say, well, we're no worse than them. We have a commandment from God not to be as bad as anyone else (like the Caananites and the Egyptians), so I don't understand how when we act that way, somehow it becomes justified.
  • A lot has been made of how it is important to call him a "Jewish terrorist." There was a time when Jews proudly called themselves by that name. My cousin, Amichai Paglin was the chief military officer of the Etzel, and Menachem Begin tells the following story about him in The Revolt. Giddy (Paglin's nickname) and his fellow Etzel members, dressed as British soldiers, snuck into a British army base to steal arms for the movement. Begin writes:
    The real British soldiers had saluted the tall captain (Giddy). He returned the
    Giddy put his hand on his revolver and said quietly:
    "Hands up, please."
    The British soldiers thought the captain was drunk.
    "What's that?"
    "Hands up!"
    "Hands up, quick. I'm not a bloody British officer, I'm a terrorist of the Irgun Zvai Leumi."
    All the hands went up, quickly. The soldiers had learned from experience that such Irgun requests had to be fulfilled.

    But despite Paglin calling himself a terrorist, he wasn't one like we see today. The Etzel made every effort to avoid civilian casualties. In Yosef Evron's book, Gidi, The Jewish Insurgency Against the British in Palestine, he tells the story of how in 1944, he was given the task of blowing up a British government office in Haifa (which on a Saturday night was empty of workers). He determined that with a 12 kilogram bomb on the ground level the building would collapse, but how could he distance the Arab guard of the building so he wouldn't be hurt? So Gidi asked a man and woman Etzel assistant to distract the guard somehow. They went to the side of the building, and "became absorbed in a passionate embrace...The curiosity of the guard got the better of him, and he left his position in order to see better." That's when Gidi went in to place the bomb.
    So I don't even think that Zada deserves to be called a "Jewish terrorist." Some worse title should be available for someone who goes into a bus and simply starts shooting at civilians.
  • I do however, have a problem with one part of Treppenwitz's post, where he states that "I hate to admit it but I too am glad he was killed...". I'm not saying that I don't understand David's emotions, but there were a number of politicians (I heard Arab ones mentioned, but I'm not sure they were the only ones) who claimed that it would be improper to investigate and punish any members of the mob who killed Zada. At the heart of this claim lies a basic racism that really bothers me. Not against Jews, but against Arabs. As long as Arabs (particularly Israeli citizens) aren't held to the same moral standards as Jewish Israelis then their humanity (the source of our demand for morality) is also put on a lower level. If I was an Arab, I wouldn't stand for it. This obviously applies when you see the way the world treats Arab suicide bombers (in Israel, and perhaps even more so in Iraq), but it applies here too. If a Jew were to kill a bound Arab terrorist, he would be prosecuted fully (see the Yoram Skolnik case.) We should demand no less from an Arab, if we expect them to live up to our own moral vision.