Why Are Israelis So Startled by This Particular Murder?

It’s hardly the first time that Jewish terrorists have struck. But this time the so-called ‘sane’ Israelis have understood something truly terrifying — about themselves.

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Israeli peace activists hold a candle in the Dawabsheh family's home in the West Bank village of Duma, site of the fatal arson attack by suspected Jewish extremists.Credit: AFP

Why has there been such a stormy response in Israel to the arson attack on the Dawabsheh family in the West Bank village of Duma? After all, harassment, attacks, and even murder of those who belong to a different community – Arab, gay, or just plain left – are nothing new in the Jewish state.

These Jewish terrorists didn’t land from Mars. They were and always will be Israeli-made, blue-and-white. You can start from whatever point you like – the murder of Emil Grunzweig at a Peace Now rally in 1983; the massacre at Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994, the murder of Arabs in Shfaram by soldier Eden Natan-Zada in 2005, or the burning to death of East Jerusalem teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir last year. The difference is that after each of those crimes the public found refuge or comfort in the protective collective.

Exceptions, wild weeds, the acts of individuals – that’s how the Jewish collective in Israel managed to avoid being branded with a mark of Cain. After all, in the Arab and Muslim collective, those who seek peace and quiet are the crazy exceptions in a mainstream culture that is murderous, whereas the Jews have a moral culture. Even when they are occupiers, it’s an “enlightened” occupation. This collective, like all collectives, will tell itself the boldest lies, will drink from the cup of self-righteousness until it chokes, and will smash any mirror that dares to suggest they are not the fairest ones of all.

But the collective was gradually sucked into the black hole of settlement, which has spawned a cultural and moral revolution. It began with fundamentalist evangelism, which abolished the territorial approach and cultivated the consciousness of the Land of Israel as an idea and not a state. It has no territorial borders and never will, because only God will set its borders.

The Judeo-Israeli collective that still clung to the Green Line believed that its secular-traditional nationalism would immunize it against the new messianism. Even after an enclave of Salafist Jews sprouted and flourished in the hills of Judea and Samaria, they were regarded as curiosities, “propellers,” in the words of Yitzhak Rabin.

Even after the establishment of an autonomous district that houses more than half a million settlers, with special budgets and a private army of armed militias, and even after it was already clear that this alien controls the sovereign Jewish state, there was still this false belief that Israeli culture had strong moral foundations and would overcome any insanity.

The illusion that the Green Line is a strong barrier that separates the Judeo-Israeli culture from the settler culture persisted. “They” burn children and churches, uproot trees and break bones. “We” warn and condemn. After all, “we” still know how to distinguish between right and wrong.

But the territory, the budgets, and the gangs of thugs are only the beginning. Contrary to the usual process whereby a state sprouts from a nation, the settlers have established a state and a nation has sprouted up within it. The settler nation has a culture and language of its own, with unique morals and ethics, and a collective that gathers around intellectuals and rabbis, alongside “heroes” who murder and burn.

This is the reason for the fear that has suddenly gripped the Jewish-Israeli collective that lives within the Green Line. One may be able to withdraw from territories and evacuate communities, but the settler culture cannot be uprooted or stopped.

It’s not the burning of the Dawabsheh family that’s generating this fear, but the culture that led to it. And like a family member afraid that it has inherited a madness gene, the ostensibly sane, liberal and universal Israeli collective is terrified. After all, we were born into the same family, and we can no longer say that it’s only our crazy cousins who burn children.

The Dawabsheh family doesn’t need Israeli condolences. It’s those coming to offer them condolences who need compassion,as the signs of insanity in the family become undeniable.

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