'They Had Murder in Their Eyes'

On what basis do Israelis continue to expect that their cries of pain and the sight of their blood will rouse the pity of the neighbors they have systematically oppressed for decades?

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Rescue services at scene of terror attack at Jerusalem Old City's Lions' Gate. October 3, 2015.
Rescue services at scene of terror attack at Jerusalem Old City's Lions' Gate. October 3, 2015.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

“Die,” an Arab bystander told Adele Bennett, whose husband Aharon Bennett died shortly after both of them were stabbed in Jerusalem’s Old City Saturday night, when she begged him for help.

The crowd of Arabs that gathered around the couple and saw them being stabbed, Bennett related, “didn’t utter a peep, and even laughed.”

“They had murder in their eyes. And they were drinking soda all the while,” she told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan immediately ordered the police to open an urgent criminal investigation against Old City merchants who allegedly were at the scene and failed to aid the Bennetts.

Aharon Bennett, 21, (left) and Nehemia Lavi, 41, were killed in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on October 3, 2015. Credit: Courtesy

It’s clear from Bennett’s words that she was more shocked by the Arab mob’s refusal to intervene than by the terrorist’s attack. Her sense of surprise was effectively a confirmation of a primordial feeling: that the context of the situation she and her husband found themselves in is not political, but rather pre-political — that is, human — and that in this human encounter between Jews and Arabs, the Arabs lack all humanity. So it goes:

It’s the way of the world: Hatred for Jews is inherent in their enemies a priori and is not rooted in a causal relationship that could explain it. Hatred of Jews is never a result, but always a cause.

Only someone who denies the current political context of the encounter between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem’s Old City — that is, between the omnipotent occupier and the completely dispossessed occupied — could still be as surprised as Bennett was. On what basis do Israelis continue to expect that their cries of pain and the sight of their blood will rouse the pity of the neighbors they have systematically oppressed for decades?

Are the Jews upholding their part in the social/human contract that the Arabs are ostensibly violating? Or is it actually the Jews themselves who, day in and day out, damage the fundamental interpersonal fabric of mutual responsibility?

Whereas all Arabs are always held responsible for the actions of every terrorist who emerges from among them, and even refraining from offering help is considered enough to make them accomplices, different laws apply to Jewish mobs. Video footage from the scene of the incident in which police shot and killed Fadi Alloun, 18, of Isawiyah after he stabbed Moshe Malka, 15, in Jerusalem’s Musrara neighborhood, inflicting moderate injuries, show Alloun at some distance from the police officers, surrounded by Jewish youths who encouraged the officers to shoot.

“At the time he was shot, Fadi Alloun didn’t constitute a danger to anyone,” argued MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint Arab List). He recalled how police dealt with Yishai Schlissel, who stabbed six demonstrators at the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade in July, killing Shira Banki. The police didn’t shoot him; they arrested him. But in Alloun’s case, “The police arrived and heard people in the street shouting, ‘Shoot him, shoot him, he tried to stab a Jew!’”

Tibi then offered a reminder of what has apparently been forgotten: “Under Israeli law, the sentence for stabbing is a few years in prison, not immediate execution.” Was the inflamed Jewish mob that urged the police to break the law and respond with more force than necessary not an accomplice to the crime?

Speaking about Tuesday’s demonstration by Arabs in Jaffa to express solidarity over the ongoing tensions at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, deputy district police commander Chief Superintendent Haim Zargarov said, “The police won’t allow disturbances of the peace and violence.” Zargarov was voicing a delusion that many Israelis evidently share, whereby society is maintained solely by imposing order, and obedience to this order isn’t preceded by any basic willingness to accept it — that is, by consent to live in that society.

A quick glance at the papers is enough to show that the good instincts of the Israeli masses, Jewish and Arab alike, are being eroded minute by minute and threatening the foundations of our shared life. A healthy society would have focused its gaze on the person who leads it and demanded that he take responsibility for the deteriorating situation by resigning. A sick society merely becomes even more dependent on the person who is responsible for its deterioration and is leading it to destruction.

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