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July 9, 2014 By:
After Unity and Calls for Revenge, Looking Inward for Answers
WASHINGTON — Israelis eyes are turning south to watch yet another conflict unfold with Hamas. At the same time, the national focus has turned inward, contemplating the sense of national solidarity occasioned by the abduction and murder of three teenagers and then shattered by the murder of a fourth.
Israeli media have exploded in recent days with recrimination and self-recrimination over the brutal murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian teenager from eastern Jerusalem who was burned alive last week. The killing was apparent retaliation for the murders of three Israeli teens — Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach — who were kidnapped while hitchhiking.
“A national struggle does not justify acts of terror,” the outgoing and incoming Israeli presidents, Shimon Peres and Reuven Rivlin, wrote Monday in a joint opinion piece for the Israeli daily Yediot Acharonot.
“Acts of terror do not justify revenge,” they wrote. “Revenge does not justify destruction, plunder and desolation. Even in the face of the rage and frustration, the violence and the pain, things can be done differently. Things must be done differently.”
Yoaz Hendel, a former director of public diplomacy in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office who now heads the right-wing Institute for Zionist Strategies think tank, wrote a widely discussed Facebook post in the immediate aftermath of Khdeir’s murder, before any suspects had been apprehended. In the posting, Hendel railed against Jewish rioters inflamed by the killings of the Israeli teens who had attacked Arabs in Jerusalem.
“It is unbelievable how a few hundred racist Jews can cause so much damage to an entire country,” Hendel wrote. “The results of the investigation into the death of the boy are already unimportant. After pictures of the mob shouting ‘Death to Arabs,’ the damage is done.”
Elizabeth Tsurkov, a left-wing Israeli writer and activist, blamed politicians for stoking the flames with the rhetoric of revenge. She pointed to Netanyahu’s June 30 statement announcing the discovery of the bodies of the three kidnapped teens that quoted a poem by Hayyim Nachman Bialik written after a pogrom.
“ ‘Vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created,’ ” Netanyahu said, quoting the poem, before continuing in his own words: “Neither has vengeance for the blood of three pure youths, who were on their way home to meet their parents, who will not see them anymore.”
Such statements empowered anti-Arab racists, Tsurkov said.
“It’s clear how this kind of rhetoric justifies attacking people who are not involved in combat,” she said.
But Hendel rejected assertions that the broader Israeli society was guilty, noting the condemnations of Khdeir’s murder from across the political spectrum.
Hendel has had pushback from some online commenters who objected to his condemnations of anti-Arab violence. In a follow-up posted July 4, he addressed a commenter who had told Hendel, “You are not my brother, and we do not belong to the same people.
“Believe me, I wish it were so,” Hendel replied. “I’m stuck with you.”