In Paris, Beirut, and Hebron: The Enemy of My Enemy Is Love

Just one thing before we kill this peace and love stuff for good. I saw it, this month. Peace. And that other thing.

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
A Hong Kong vigil for the victims of the Paris attacks. November 16. 2015.
A Hong Kong vigil for the victims of the Paris attacks. November 16. 2015.Credit: Reuters
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

After all this time, after all this horror, after murder after murder after murder, I am learning to love more than I hate.

I have ISIS to thank for that.

On Saturday, claiming responsibility for its Friday night mass murders, ISIS explained its choice of target, in part, by calling Paris the "capital of adultery and vice." It said that it had struck at a concert hall where, it said, "hundreds of apostates were attending an adulterous party."

I don't know why it took me so long, so many life-destroying, family-annihilating terrorists, close as the next sidewalk, to come to this. I don't know why it took me the specific barbaric evil of ISIS to see:

The enemy of my enemy is love.

The enemy of my enemy is people going about their lives, doing God's work in ways as simple and as crucial as falling in love, and going to a wedding, and loving their children, and just being children.

The enemy of my enemy is love that is blind. In the best sense. Love that heightens sensitivity to the idea that God's children going about their lives are God's children, whether in Paris, or in Beirut, or flying over the Sinai, or in Jerusalem or the West Bank.

The enemy of my enemy loves blindly. Loves the victims of terrorism, whoever they are, wherever the murderer may have slaughtered them.

Hate, I know only too well, sees with the slit-focus self-interest eyes of the predator. Hate, couched in terms of a righteous cause, can make you feel terrific, productive. Hate can make you feel you belong. Hate in a pack, even a kill pack, like ISIS, can make you feel, maybe for the first time in your life, like one of the cool kids. No wonder that their enemy is love.

My enemy, in all his many forms, yaks on ceaselessly about God. Then he goes out and butchers more of God's children. For being at a rock concert. Or being gay. Or being female. Or being Jewish. Or being Palestinian. Or Kenyan, or American, or Australian, or Kurdish, or a Shiite, or a Sunni, or a settler.

My enemy renders it impossible these days to use the word "peace" straight out, without apology or scorn. My enemy, in his methods, renders irrelevant the word "justice." My enemy, in his hatred of the majority of humanity, makes a mockery of the concept of God.

My enemy is always at the ready to condemn the terrorism of the other side, whatever side that may happen to be. With 400 dead in the attacks over Sinai and in Beirut and Paris, Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah all lined up to condemn ISIS for terrorism.

Closer to home, a former Israeli defense minister writes in an opinion piece "There are no good terrorists."

I agree. Except when Moshe Arens fails to mention, for example, the terrorists who brutally incinerated the Palestinian Dawabsheh family in July, and whom Israel has been all but unable to apprehend, find evidence against, or charge. Perhaps, where it comes to our side, there are no Jewish terrorists.

I'm sick to death of the justifications: Our terrorist as freedom fighter (Choose one: Yasser Arafat or Yitzhak Shamir). Our terrorist as a natural and legitimate response to oppression, injustice, hopelessness, evil, history.

I'm sick to death of the distortions, the crap about martyrdom and the world to come, of the armchair extremists who mistake hating for helping.

I'm sick to death of how terrorism, whether it's that of Hamas or Baruch Goldstein or ISIS or Yigal Amir, has set its lethal sights on peace. And succeeded.

I get it. At a time when hatred is the proud guide of politics, the concept of "peace" itself has become taboo, an artifact, a dirty word, uncool, counterproductive, condescending, or kitschy, or Kumbaya-grade pollyannish. We don't go near it anymore, if only because the word makes the public suspicious or infuriated.

And what about "love"? You must be kidding.

I just wanted to say one thing though, before we put this peace and love stuff to bed for good. I've seen it. Peace. And that other thing. I saw it this very month.

It was when I went to a funeral that was completely about life. It was the funeral of a man who was a Palestinian and an Israeli, a Christian who voted Communist, a man of great knowledge and wisdom who'd barely had the chance to go to school at all, a man whom war drove from his home in the mixed Arab Jewish city of Jaffa, to make a new home in the mixed Arab Jewish city of Ramle.

It was the funeral of a man who defied every accepted convention of hate. A man whose hard-to-find restaurant brought together people from all over the world. A man whose heart was so big his huge chest couldn't begin to contain it.

A man who believed in a goal of equal rights for everyone here, and whose heart made others believe.

When his funeral procession began, the city of Ramle closed its main boulevard, and kept it closed until the last of the hundreds and hundreds of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim mourners had reached the cemetery. Motorists waiting in their cars were respectful and patient.

Because of the lifelong way my friend, my cousin, Samir, loved God's children in defiance of the temptations of hatred, it was, for a few short hours in the mixed town of Ramle, a true peace.

It was blind love. The common enemy of our common enemy. It was a vision not of this world of short tempers and long grudges. It was a vision of the world to come.

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