More than a day after the terrible attack in Jerusalem, I think it is now safe to begin thinking about the repercussions. It’s a shame that Israeli politicians didn’t take a deep breath as well before making bellicose declarations and wild accusations. But with emotions running high, and facing the awful images from the scene, it’s hardly surprising that the reaction was so extreme.
The images of prayer shawls stained in blood, torn Torah scrolls and books, and a defiled synagogue, brought up from the deep abyss that is our national soul, collective memories from some of the worst traumas we have experienced as a people. The Holocaust is always there in the back of our mind, waiting to resurface like a monster from the deep.
I was no exception to this rule. For me, the images immediately brought up the picture of a religious Jew being ridiculed by Nazi soldiers standing over a row of dead bodies. Funny, hey? How our mind works? But as hard as it is, emotions must be put aside to make room for calculated and cool-headed decision making. Calling yesterday’s attack a pogrom brings us back to a time when we were powerless and weak, a persecuted minority. We are light years away from that reality – we live in an independent and strong state with more than competent security forces. Responsible decisions can and need to be made.
Israel’s continued campaign against Abu-Mazen must stop. To claim that the terrorists executed their attack after listening to Abu-Mazen’s speeches is akin to claiming that Price Tag activists burned the mosque last week after listening to Netanyahu’s speech. Palestinian terrorists don’t give a damn what Abu-Mazen says, just as the Jewish hooligans don’t give a damn what Netanyahu says.
True, speeches made by Abu-Mazen over the past few weeks have been full of demagogic lies about Israel and the history of the conflict. Yes, he has been acting to diplomatically isolate Israel in the world (God knows Netanyahu has been helping his cause immensely). But he is far from being a terrorist. Israel’s Shin Bet Chief, Yoram Cohen, reaffirmed this fact yesterday, stating in front of a Knesset committee that Abu-Mazen is not supporting or encouraging terror. On the contrary, he has ordered his forces to fight terrorism and has denounced the attack yesterday. Netanyahu is obviously trying to de-legitimize Abu-Mazen’s diplomatic offensive by portraying him as a terrorist. Yet no one in the world is buying this story. Why, just yesterday Spain voted on a non-binding motion calling on the government to recognize a Palestinian state in coordination with any similar EU move.
Additionally, the logic in Netanyahu’s decision to accept Lapid’s demand and order the destruction of the houses (the first was destroyed last night) needs to be questioned. The effectiveness of this measure is debatable. The IDF for example, believes it only plants the seeds for the next attack. It is clear that the government wishes to demonstrate that it is on the offensive. On the one hand, there’s nothing like the picture of bulldozers turning a building into rubble to satisfy the public’s thirst for revenge, and yet on the other – it also feeds the thrust for revenge on the other side.
It is also high time we decide upon the status of the Arabs living in East Jerusalem. Either we take full responsibility for these neighborhoods with all that this entails or we separate ourselves from them. I see no clear interest in holding on to hundreds of thousands of Arabs, giving them Israeli ID cards, and paying them social security benefits. There is no economic or security benefit in Sur Baher, Jabel Mukaber or Kfar Akeb. When was the last time one of those swearing their commitment to a united Jerusalem placed a foot in any of these neighborhoods? How many Israelis even know where these places are?
So we can destroy houses, make more arrests, place blockades and send in reinforcements. All these acts will not change the fact that Jerusalem is slowly being engulfed in a religious war. And history has shown us that fires involving God cannot be put out until the flames have consumed everything around them. In Iraq, Syria and Sinai – a dark force watches with satisfaction as its agenda is carried out unintentionally by Israel and the Palestinians.