Neither God, nor Judea and Samaria
The terrorist who murdered eight students of the Mercaz Harav yeshiva last week could not have picked a more symbolic target.
The terrorist who murdered eight students of the Mercaz Harav yeshiva last week could not have picked a more symbolic target. Naturally, the yeshiva students expressed their pain and anger in very political language. The incident was not yet over when one of them nearly grabbed the microphone from the hands of a television reporter and screamed that Shimon Peres was at fault: Peres had given the terrorists guns - and he is guilty of the murder.
These things can happen during live broadcasts, and this is a fine reason not to air raw material that is still not appropriate to be aired to the rest of the world. But recorded and edited material does not always deserve to be broadcast. MKs on the right were allowed during the week to say terrible and embarrassing things, competing with each other over who will propose a more spectacular act of vengeance against the family of the terrorist, his village, the entire population of East Jerusalem, the Arabs at large.
This is the real danger of terrorism: It lets loose the most basic instincts of people, and blocks their ability and willingness to use their brains. There is also an opposite response: The families of the soldier that was killed in the Gaza Strip said that his death was pointless, because after all he should not have been there in the first place.
There is nothing worse than this feeling. Not many are able to express it rationally. As such, it is not fair to stick the microphone in their faces, while the dead are still warm. They must be given time to think of what they want to say, if anything, to the TV cameras. But this is not merely an academic discussion in a course on media ethics, but one of the deepest dilemmas of the Israeli experience; not many delve into it.
The family members of Arab terrorists find solace at times in the fact that their son died as a shaheed, and the rabbi who eulogized the eight murdered yeshiva students in Jerusalem said that they died for kidush hashem (as martyrs). Secular people also need to feel that their soldiers did not die for naught. That is what every one of the defense ministers since the establishment of the state has said in an annual message sent to the bereaved families during the annual Memorial Day for fallen IDF soldiers. This is the spirit of the statement attributed to Joseph Trumpeldor: "It is good to die for our country."
During one of the annual memorials for Trumpeldor, Yitzhak Rabin said that it is not good to die for our country; it is good to live for it. At the time, his statement was considered a watershed in the way Israeli society viewed bereavement: It was privatized. The death of a soldier is today not considered to be, in every instance, a loss that contributed somehow to the security of the country. For example, if he was killed in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. This is the overwhelming view among many of those who identify themselves politically with the left.
However, even on the left there are many people who still identify the most exalted form of being Israeli with military service, and encourage their sons to volunteer for combat units. They abhor the occupation and the oppression of the Palestinians; they hate what is done there in their name - but they will be brimming with pride when they see their son at the graduation ceremony of officers school. In many cases, they will put their political views on ice and be proud of their son serving in the territories; when they die there too.
Contrary to the believers, they have no source for consolation: no God and no Judea and Samaria. They can only blame themselves. Usually, they do not do this. Normally, they continue to feel proud of their son's military service after his death. In many cases, they continue to oppose the continued opposition.
It is not easy to explain this phenomenon; it is barely evident in public discourse. On this point, historian Ilan Pappe was asked whether he wished his children would serve in the army. In an interview with Ayelet Negev, which appeared on Friday in Yedioth Aharonoth, Pappe said that the children would decide for themselves, but he would prefer if they did not serve. "So long as Israel has an occupying army, a pretty vicious army, I would not want them to be part of it."
As a Jew and an Israeli, he loves this land very much, he said, and would very much like to live here. He says that he will not challenge the right of the state to exist, but he really does not like it. He has a solution: a country that will belong to all its citizens, Jews and Arabs. This is an option that most Israelis reject; including the majority on the left. Because most of them do love their country.
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