Don't Complain About Hilltop Youth When Israeli Ethics Contradict the Rest of the World's Ethics

The thunderous laugh of history rang out Sunday after the government backed the bill forcing representatives of NGOs to wear a special tag. Oh, Europe of the benighted 1930s, we have returned.

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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A Palestinian boy playing on June 22, 2015 outside the remains of his Gaza City house that was destroyed during Operation Protective Edge. Credit: AFP
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

Author Emile Habibi once used the term, “The thunder of history’s laughter.” The sound of the words in Arabic expresses its essence. The same thunderous laugh of history echoed grandly in my ears last Wednesday, when I viewed the “wedding of hatred” video on Channel 10.

What did you think? That it’s possible to paint the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in colors of mystical zealotry, or “irrational energies,” in the words of the hero in Amos Oz’s book “The Gospel According to Judas,” and expect a generation to emerge that seeks peace? You’ve got to be kidding. Go back to history.

When the secular founder of the state, David Ben-Gurion, was asked by Lord Peel, if, as someone coming from a foreign land, he had a deed giving him the right to replace those living on the land for generations, Ben-Gurion picked up a Bible and said, “This is our deed!”

If the deed to the land is the Torah, how can you complain about the so-called hilltop youth who are striving to actualize this divine document? After all, this deed has passed muster with the international legal and moral tribunals for generations; it’s no wonder that the hilltop youth are persuaded that it will be acceptable to the legal and moral tribunals in Israel as well.

Given the fundamental principles that governed the country’s founding fathers, the youth are correct. If according to the Torah it is permitted to occupy land, in stark contravention of all international conventions, how can we ask them to obey the orders of the state’s secular institutions? The Arabs say, “The crooked furrow is the work of the biggest ox.”

Sixty years ago, Moshe Dayan expressed complete solidarity with the residents of Gaza, saying, “How can we complain about their fierce hatred of us? For eight years they’ve been sitting in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we are turning the land and villages in which they and their ancestors lived into our homestead.”

Yet in the same breath, despite recognizing the injustice, he said, “This is our life’s choice; to be prepared and armed, strong and tough.”

If so, what kind of generation will emerge here? If it is decreed that this miserable generation continue the injustice without any willingness to fix it, we are talking about a recipe for new heights of evil.

Indeed, how can you complain about the hilltop youth if Israeli ethics contradict the ethics of the rest of the world? The whole world says that the killing of more than 2,000 Gazans during Operation Protective Edge last year was a war crime, while only here they claim, in good conscience, that it was self-defense. And if that weren’t enough, Zionist Union cochairperson Tzipi Livni said following that awful wedding video that her Judaism is different. Is there someone out there who can explain what role “Judaism” plays in the context of that terrifying dance? What did it have to do with Judaism, or Islam, or Christianity for that matter? The question is one of morality in its universal sense; why deviate to national or religious distinctions?

After giving Livni’s comment some thought, I realized that everyone here has their own brand of Judaism, and that leaving tens of thousands of Gaza residents homeless after Operation Protective Edge fits her Judaism perfectly. Even the terminology here reflects an approach grounded in the assumption that Jews are different than other people. Their morals are different, their heads are different, and last, but not least, their chutzpah is different. All this abundance and we’re only talking about secular Jews. We haven’t even gotten to the religious ones.

But all the thunderous laughter of last Wednesday was nothing compared to the thunderous laugh of history that rang out Sunday after the government backed the bill that would make representatives of human rights groups wear a special tag. Oh, Europe of the benighted 1930s, we have returned.