The Israeli Right Wing's Weird Take on Palestinians' Lone-wolf Attacks

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The scene of an attack at Jerusalem's Damascus Gate over the weekend.
The scene of an attack at Jerusalem's Damascus Gate over the weekend.Credit: Emil Salman

What’s up with the temper tantrum the right wing is suffering after Channel 13’s reports on the recent wave of attacks titled “Personally Motivated Terror Attacks”? What set these rightists off?

In one report last week, journalist Or Heller quoted “security sources” who found a common thread linking the recent attacks. It turns out the security services found that the suspect in each of the five latest attacks underwent a personal event before the incident.

Graphics on the screen read: “Attack in the Old City – his wife had left him,” “Stabbing in Jaffa – the terrorist had argued with his family,” “Stabbing at Damascus Gate – the terrorist is embroiled in a family feud,” “Car ramming at the Te’enim checkpoint – the terrorist, 15, had fought with his father.”

The right couldn’t handle this. Social media boiled over. From the right wing’s perspective, Heller was denying the existence of the conflict and maybe even the attacks themselves. He was immediately painted as a “progressive leftist” – he definitely isn’t – and was accused of “manufacturing consciousness.” In other words, he was distorting the truth.

During Noam Fathi and Yotam Zimri’s radio program, Heller tried to explain over and over that he wasn’t denying the political backdrop of the attacks. “Professionals analyze what’s happening here … they’re incensed Palestinians, because it’s clear that the motivation for terror attacks isn’t personal,” he said. “There are elements of a personal story that add to it.”

He reminded them about the so-called knife intifada of 2015 and 2016 – also lone-wolf attacks. Nothing; it was like talking to a wall.

“Talk about twisting things around. They say I’m manufacturing consciousness,” Heller said, pleading for his soul. But Fathi and Zimri showed no pity. Another moment and they would have demanded that he condemn the attacks the way they would of an Arab Israeli legislator.

But nothing is more obvious in life than the mixing of circumstances, whether personal, political or national. What are heroes made of? And what turns a person into a tyrant? Look what happened to the world in the 20th century after a student never got into art school. Wait, does that mean that the Holocaust and World War II happened “for personal reasons”?

And in general, it’s unclear why the right thinks personal distress detracts from the gravitas of the conflict or reflects doubt about the assailants being influenced by the Palestinian narrative (which according to Israel is incitement against Israel and Jews, teaching Palestinians to kill Israelis). The opposite is true. I think this distress points to the privatization of terror, and it’s much scarier.

It means you no longer have to go to the “university” of terror with Hamas or Islamic Jihad or some other organization to become a certified terrorist and be sent on missions. It’s enough to have a kitchen knife and a personal crisis, and you have a martyr’s degree.

It means there’s a heroic way to put an end to all your problems, and who doesn’t have problems? It means that suicide by the Israeli army has become an over-the-counter tool for anyone fed up with life. It’s a two-for-one deal: death plus immortality.

It means that the resistance groups have more battalions of potential volunteers: young people suffering an identity crisis, vulnerable women, humiliated men; people up to their necks in problems – and life is tough – who are simply looking for a cause bigger than they to escape to and through. And there is no shortage of big causes for the Palestinians living under the occupation.

Maybe that’s what scares the right wing that attributes to the Palestinians nothing but national Palestinian motives and is only willing to talk with them about “civilian issues.” Here’s a reminder that you can’t separate the issues. Even a fight between a husband and a wife spills over into the conflict. However you look at it, it’s impossible to continue ignoring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over ownership of the land.

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