We Don't Have the Luxury to Play the Blame Game

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Jerusalem reality: I am less worried about my son in the army than I am for his siblings back home.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

I asked a number of Palestinian parents in Jerusalem this week what it’s like to walk around with the foreboding knowledge that one of their teenagers could decide at any moment to take a knife from the kitchen drawer at home, cross over to one of the Jewish neighborhoods or stand near Damascus Gate, and try to stab a police officer or civilian.

Some admitted that they are keeping their kids at home these days. Others just shrugged their shoulders and blamed Israel for inflaming their youth by invading Al-Aqsa. Because what can a parent do when he or she knows that as hard as they have tried to shield and protect their children since the day they were born, they have lost control over their offspring’s destiny? Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command, and not because as Bob Dylan wrote and sang, the times are a-changing, but because it was always thus.

Last summer, during the Gaza conflict, I wrote here of the guilt of thousands of parents, like me, who having to confront for the first time that it was now their sons and daughters fighting a war, realized they had become members of yet another Israeli generation that failed to build a nation living in peace. I imagine it is much more difficult for Palestinian parents coming to terms with the fact that 67 years after their grandparents made the wrong call and rejected the United Nations Partition Plan, their generation has also failed to deliver a Palestinian state for their children.

This is not an exercise in moral relativism; neither am I about to start comparing Israel Defense Forces soldiers to knife-wielding Palestinians. If you want to read about why Israel is at fault for every act of violence visited upon its citizens or how “our” boys are true humanists while theirs are savages, you can find plenty of venues to satisfy your particular brand of narrow-mindedness.

This week I realized that right now I am less worried about my son in the army than I am for his siblings back home in Jerusalem. We have failed twice – once when we couldn’t prevent our children going off to war, and again when we bring them up in cities where they can be attacked by children of a neighboring nation.

And no, I’m not responsible for Palestinian parents or their children. I’m not interested in getting into a pissing contest over whose morality is bigger, and I don’t know why Jews gave up their survival instincts and instead of acting smart and keeping their children out of harm’s way, allowed themselves to be deflected into empty arguments over who has the moral upper hand.

I see the politicians in their interviews and the self-appointed guardians of Israel’s image online wasting their time burbling about Palestinian incitement, and simply don’t understand how they think we have the luxury to play the blame game. Let’s just assume for one moment that if we argue long enough, we can convince the entire world that we’re right and all the Palestinians’ acts of murder and terror are so much worse than our occupation of the West Bank, the closure of Gaza and inequality toward Israeli Arabs – then what? Will a PR victory save one life on either side?

Statistically, it is more dangerous to be a Jew in Israel than in any other country in the world. For all the talk of anti-Semitism and Islamist terrorism, there is more chance of being murdered today just for being a Jew in Israel than in Europe. With what right do Israeli politicians exhort French Jews to make aliyah when they can’t provide comparable security to the Jews already living here? Yet somehow it’s okay because we are right and will never give in to terror.

I don’t need to look at the concentration camp tattoo on my grandfather’s arm to be reminded that life for Jews in Europe, and who knows, perhaps one day even in America, may not be as safe as it is today, in this unique period of Jewish global prosperity. But we are not doing our duty to future generations of Jews in maintaining an independent and secure haven by trying to protect our children today with self-righteousness.

And Diaspora Jews who mindlessly rush to express their support are in dereliction of their duty as well. If Jews were being stabbed on the streets of Paris and London, the local Jewish leaderships would rightly be demanding their governments rethink their security policies immediately. Why aren’t they asking the same of Israel’s government?

In an interview Thursday morning on Army Radio, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that the current wave of terror is part of “our long war of independence” and we should at least be thankful for the fact that we are not now confronting Arab armies intent on our destruction. That’s a fair assessment of our situation, but the question he wasn’t asked was why a nation that has succeeded in securing its existence against vastly larger foes cannot reach the conclusion that the 48-year-long military occupation of millions of Palestinians will never deliver security. It will, however, ensure that children on both of sides of Jerusalem who are still in kindergarten will be stabbing and shooting each other before they are out of their teens. But it’s okay, we don’t have to search for a better alternative because we’re morally superior.

I don’t care if the BBC website reports another stabbing of a Jew in Jerusalem under the headline “Palestinian shot by Israeli soldiers” and it doesn’t matter to me if Twitter warriors can get #jewishlivesmatter trending online. Changing a BBC headline won’t bring anyone back from the dead and hashtags have yet to save lives. Jews didn’t survive for 2,000 years by being popular and Israel wasn’t founded or won those wars it had to win because of good public relations.

I don’t care if the Palestinians are more vicious and immoral and wrong than us – we’re acting stupidly, and I don’t want my loved ones to die because of our stupidity.

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