The Myth That Jews Are Always Victims of Persecution, Occupiers or Not

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A woman mourns near the grave of Eitam and Naama Henkin after their funeral in Jerusalem, October 2, 2015.Credit: Reuters

Because there is no official death sentence in Israel, 18 relatives of 17 Israelis who were murdered by Palestinians in 13 separate attacks are demanding that the families of the attackers be punished by “permanent” expulsion. “The real punishment that the murderers deserve is death,” explain the relatives in a letter sent to government ministers and published on news websites. “But Jewish compassion prevents us from resorting to it.” The letter and the demand are also signed by the families of five murdered Jews whose five attackers were killed at the site of the attack.

The letter rightfully points out one central fact: All the means of punishment and deterrence adopted by Israel until now haven’t stopped the wave of solo attacks. Not the killing of the attackers or suspected attackers on the spot nor the demolition of their families’ homes, neither long prison sentences nor restrictions on the family’s freedom of movement.

The letter did not specify to where the families should be expelled, but a report on the Arutz Sheva radio station fills in the blanks and explains that the intention is expulsion from the country. The writers don’t explain if they are demanding that the extended family – aunts and uncles, cousins – be expelled, or only the nuclear family, in other words parents and their children. Nor do they get into details such as how the expulsion should be carried out, by foot marches or by minibus.

But the writers know that “the family that raised the murderer, educated him and taught him to hate Jews and to murder must pay the price, if only because of the deterrence created by such expulsion.” One of the signatories is a rabbi (Yehuda Henkin), and three are wives of rabbis who were murdered (Neta Lavi, Noa Litman and Sarah Don).

The letter is written in the deceptive language that prevails around here, regarding “Jews who are slaughtered because they are Jews.” People should not be judged at a time of grief, but the signatories to the call for mass expulsion of Palestinians are adhering to the myth that is accepted not only by them or bereaved Jewish families – the myth that occupier or not, military power or not, the Jew is always a victim of persecution.

It is not due to their personal pain that their letter excels in its total blindness to the reality of Israeli military, diplomatic and economic superiority that has enabled it for 70 years to expel Palestinians, steal their land, demolish their homes and kill them in accordance with the law, order and democracy for Jews; they are willingly blind to this reality like most of the Jewish Israelis, who choose to deny it. After all, they profit from it.

And in fact Ruthie Hasno of Kiryat Arba, whose husband Avraham was run over and killed, is convinced that those sending the letter are speaking in the name of the general public. She told Arutz Sheva: “The request to expel the terrorists and their families comes not only from the members of the bereaved families but from the entire Jewish people. All the Jewish people are unequivocally asking that all the terrorists and all those who touch Jewish blood be expelled. They have no right and no part in this state.”

Mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland and attempts at other mass expulsions have defined Israel since its establishment. Jerusalemites are always at risk of expulsion. From their city and their homeland. By imprisoning 1.8 million Palestinians in a narrow strip, which is not sustainable, Israel is nurturing a desire to emigrate among about 40 percent of the population. This is an indirect attempt at expulsion. Crowding the Palestinians into enclaves A and B in the West Bank is the compromise of the Oslo governments between the ancient desire to expel Palestinians and the diplomatic circumstances that make that impossible.

The present government crosses red lines all the time, with encouragement from below. That’s why the letter should not be dismissed as only a cry of pain by individuals. It’s a dangerous directive by families who are not far from the Israeli mainstream. “Let [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu do it [expulsion] without fear,” says Ruthie Hasno. “That’s why we voted for him.”

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