Israel's left needs to wise up to Middle East reality
How would the left have reacted had Juliano Mer-Khamis been murdered by Jews?
It is not hard to imagine what would have happened had Juliano Mer-Khamis been murdered by Jews. The murder would receive a huge headline in Haaretz. Under the headline, five furious analyses would appear - one of them mine.
The writers would harshly denounce the Jewish murderousness and urge a culture war against Jewish fanaticism. Others would demand not to repeat the mistake made after Baruch Goldstein's murderous rampage and to evacuate the settlements immediately. Others would demand to look into the goings on in the Hesder yeshivas, which offer Torah studies alongside military service, and the state-run religious education system.
Selected racist quotes would be pulled out of primitive rabbis' writings, historic comparisons would be made to Emil Gruenzweig's murder and Yitzhak Rabin's murder and Martin Luther King's murder.
Within a day Mer-Khamis would become an icon. On Saturday night thousands would gather holding torches to mourn the peace hero and rise up against the powers of darkness. Mer-Khamis' murder at the hands of Jews would rebuild the left, reunite it and send it to a new battle against murderous Jewish fascism.
But Juliano Mer-Khamis was not murdered by Jews. So instead of a huge headline he got a story below the fold. Instead of five angry essays, he received only one (beautiful ) eulogy.
Nobody talked about racism, fanaticism and fascism. Nobody spoke of education systems spreading hatred and about primitive clergy. Mer-Khamis did not become an icon and thousands of people did not demonstrate.
Mer's murder raised neither protest nor outrage nor holy rage. The Israeli left, which knows exactly what to do with a murder by Jews, does not know what to do with murder by Palestinians.
The murder of a peace hero by Palestinians has no place on the left's emotional and ideological map. The murder of a freedom hero by Palestinians is a dogma-undermining, paradigm-subverting event for the left. Mer-Khamis' murder by Palestinians is a murder doomed for repression.
This is a deep, broad issue that goes beyond just the Israeli left. One of the outstanding characteristics of Western enlightenment in the 21st century is its inability to denounce forces of evil in the Arab-Muslim world. Western enlightenment likes to criticize the West. It especially likes to criticize the West's allies in the East. But when it runs into evil originating in the East, it falls silent.
It does not know how to deal with it. It is easy to come out against pro-Western Hosni Mubarak, but hard to come out against the Muslim Brotherhood. It is easy to come out against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but hard to come out against Bashar Assad. The enlightened West is incapable of fighting Iran's Ahmadinejad as it fought against America's Bushes, South Africa's Botha or Serbia's Milosevic.
The result is a long line of distortions. The blood of the Marmara flotilla fatalities is thicker than the blood of those who were murdered and hung in Iran. The blood of the people killed in Gaza is thicker than the blood of those killed in Damascus and Dara'a.
A post-colonial complex makes Western enlightenment systematically ignore injustices caused by anti-Western forces. Thus it loses the ability to see historic reality as a whole, in all its complexity. It also makes it act unfairly and unjustly.
It discriminates between different kinds of evil, different kinds of blood and different kinds of victims. It treats third-world societies as though they are not subject to universal moral norms.
It is not yet clear yet who murdered Mer-Khamis. The motive could have been financial, personal, religious or cultural. But it is clear he was not murdered for being an occupier, or an oppressor or a settler. Mer was murdered because he was a free man, who spread freedom in a society that is not free.
This is the hard truth we must deal with. This is the hard truth we must look at straight in the eye. The Western enlightenment and the Israeli left cannot continue to ignore the dark side of Middle Eastern reality.