Opinion

It’s Good to Die for the West Bank

A settler and a soldier forced to protect him are a symbolic combination of victims that in the Israeli reality seems entirely natural

A Palestinian demonstrator uses a sling to hurl stones at Israeli troops during clashes at a protest in al-Mughayyir village near Ramallah, in the West Bank, January 25, 2019.
Mohamad Torokman/REUTERS

The most recent victims in the war being waged in the West Bank between the Palestinians and the Jews are Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger, a father of 12 from the settlement of Eli, and Staff Sgt. Gal Keidan, 19 – a symbolic combination of victims that in the Israeli reality seems entirely natural. One was a settler and the other was forced to protect him.

Soldiers serving in a war zone are a “routine matter.” They are wounded and killed, and they kill. The presence of Jewish civilians, including tens of thousands of children, in such a highly charged setting is not only incomprehensible. It’s unforgivable. Israeli civilians were not allowed to enter the killing fields in Lebanon during wartime. They were removed from Gaza after a long period of terror attacks, and for about the past 12 years, they have been barred from entering the Strip.

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The bluff that they and the government have been selling the public is that there is no war in the West Bank, that everything is calm there, that we can continue to build there, start families and redeem the Land of Israel without paying any price in blood. At the same time, the Israeli army and Shin Bet security service are continually briefing the government and military reporters about expectations of an escalation, of an uprising in the offing. And some say that the escalation is already here, as if during times when there is no escalation, the situation is normal, safe and stable.

The very term escalation attests to the fact that just the opposite is the case. In this violent conflict that has been ongoing for the past 52 years, there are ups and downs that are measured primarily by the number of terrorist attacks and the number of casualties, but the tension has never dropped to zero.

It’s true that the numbers are skewed in the Jews’ favor. In 2018, 14 Israelis were killed, including six soldiers and eight civilians, compared to 290 Palestinians (254 in Gaza, 34 in the West Bank and two in Israel, according to a report by B’Tselem). That’s a ratio of about 20 Palestinians per Israeli.

There are those that would argue that such a ratio of fatalities is more that tolerable, that it even represents a major achievement. The number of deaths during the five years of the second intifada, which broke out in 2000, was far worse – a ratio of roughly three to five Palestinians per Israeli (depending on the sources that reported the number of Palestinian deaths). One could also claim that, compared to other occupied areas, for example in Algeria or other African countries, Israel is facing a deluxe occupation.

The illusion of paradise is so deeply rooted that the firing of two rockets from Gaza or the killing of a soldier and a civilian in the West Bank become a national scandal and an unforgivable insult requiring immediate adoption of the harshest possible measures against the Palestinians. Most recently in vogue is the demand for the targeted killing of Hamas leaders. Already forgotten are the wholesale assassinations, some targeted and many not so much so, that didn’t prevent a thing.

And then there is the widespread false claim that the judicial system is preventing the Israel army from achieving victory, as Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a self-proclaimed anti-terror expert, has explained. She didn’t explain why that same judicial system and that same army have permitted half a million Jewish targets, in the form of settlers, to continue to live in this firing zone, or why that same government continues to encourage civilians to put their lives and those of their children in danger there.

This is a government that is misleading its citizens into thinking that there is no war in the territories, and there isn’t even an occupation there. It embraces these misguided and misleading people, pats their heads and consoles them that with every victim, Israel is becoming stronger.

It awards their work with medals and puts a price tag on every victim, in the form of “an appropriate Zionist response,” as if the State of Israel were still being established and as if Zionism were struggling to prove its existence. A good Zionist, according to the government, is not killed in defense of the homeland that has already been established. He owes his life to the expansion plan for that same homeland.

If he is destined to die, better that it be done in the West Bank, where he can give his body to a contractors’ form of Zionism, which will build another house and another neighborhood in his name.