After more than 1,600 people have been killed and 10,000 wounded, and enormous devastation, a good friend of mine expressed his genuine pain over what is happening in the Gaza Strip. He spoke in a firm tone, saying that Israeli Arabs must stop blaming the Israeli government and blame Hamas, the real criminal, instead.
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After this declaration, I could not help but say: My dear friend, if the leaders of my people were to kill 1,600 Jewish civilians in greater Tel Aviv, which is about the size of Gaza, wound another 10,000, and turn the southern part of the city into rubble – I would be too ashamed to look you in the eye.
That was my first reply, which expressed shock more than a rational response to the dulled senses with which Israeli society has regarded the terrible suffering in Gaza.
But if my own leaders were to wreak such evil, my response would be to cry out against public opinion among my people. I would cry out against the way they do not bat an eyelash after perpetrating all these atrocities, and then I'd place the blame on the Zionist leadership, which situated its military headquarters near Ichilov Hospital and in the heart of a residential neighborhood.
I recently had an opportunity to speak with good Jews, people within whose hearts the sacred fire of morality burns. They could no longer tolerate the horrific killing being done in their name. One of them told me: “We have become ‘them.’” “Them” refers to those who committed crimes against the Jews.
I did not agree to such self-flagellation. Those who fight against evil, even if that evil comes from the leaders of their own people, are not part of the collective that walks unthinkingly behind the poisoners of hearts and minds. Just as one must not blame the majority for the sins of the individual, one also must not blame individuals for the sins of the majority. If we do otherwise, we will turn into another version of Ayelet Shaked, who sees all the Palestinians, their women, children and even property, as enemies.
After I read Miron Izakson’s recent essay, entitled “Compassion begins at home,” in Haaretz Hebrew edition, I was reminded of an Arab saying that I abhor: “Let a hundred mothers weep as long as mine does not.” In my mind’s eye, I imagined my mother, smiling and happy that her son had remained safe and sound, surrounded by a forest of weeping women.
“We must direct the compassion and solidarity within us first of all toward our own,” Izakson writes, as if Israeli society has suffered from being over-compassionate toward the Palestinians, and has nary a drop of mercy left for “our own.”
But the "compassion" directed toward “our own” here has exceeded all bounds. It is not odd that instead of directing a drop of compassion toward the Palestinian families who are going through hell, what is being directed toward such families is hatred and schadenfreude, as people gleefully sing: “Gaza is a graveyard.”
There is morality, and on the other side there is a contemptible morality shown only toward the injustices done by others. But since the world began, morality has refused to be the province of those who ignore injustices committed by their own side.
Mahmoud Abbas condemned the kidnapping in June of the three yeshiva boys at every opportunity, and his own camp accused him of being a collaborator in the occupation. Gideon Levy, who criticizes the actions of Israel Air Force pilots who bombard Gaza, has been subjected to a smear campaign of unprecedented proportions. Still, there is a small difference between those moral people: The former is the leader of the Palestinian people while the latter, a Haaretz journalist, is unfortunately portrayed as a traitor by his government's coalition chairman, Yariv Levin.
Morality complements patriotism. Morality does not negate it. The moral person lives better, sleeps better, and his conscience allows him to enjoy life. But for those who only act as though they were moral, the road to trouble is a short one.