“It serves the Europeans right,” the taxi driver said last night. “Now they’re getting a taste of how we live. Before they wouldn’t listen, but now they will.”
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These are good days for Israelis. Paris is reeling, Brussels is in shut-down and other Europeans are wondering when their time will come. The shoe is finally on the other foot.
They complained about how we dealt with terror – now they’ve got tanks on the streets. They told us to talk peace with terrorists – just look how their guns are talking today. They called us war criminals for bombing terrorists in Gaza – and now they’re doing exactly the same against ISIS in Syria. They mocked us for living in fear – but who’s living in fear now?
Let’s face it, the Europeans had it coming, with their moralizing and their constant carping about the occupation and the rights of the Palestinians. They complained about the security at Ben-Gurion – well, where have their open borders brought them? To a network of terrorist cells in the heart of Paris and Brussels, that’s where.
We told them that having millions of Muslims living in their midst was asking for trouble, but did they listen to us? They told us we were exaggerating. Nu, some people have to learn the hard way.
Terrorists are terrorists and terror is terror. Arabs hate Western culture and they kill for the sake of killing. There’s no logic in it; no cause and effect. We’ve been right all along and the proof is in the bitter pudding that Europe is now eating.
It’s a persuasive argument, mainly because it makes us feel so much better about ourselves. Schadenfreude – deriving pleasure from the misfortune of others – is a wonderful balm for a guilty conscience.
Never mind that the current state of alert in Europe has a lot more to do with the nihilism of ISIS than it does with the shortcomings of Europe. Never mind that Europe has been far more supportive of Israel than it has been critical – that Europe has embraced and showered largesse on Israel, despite its moral misgivings about the occupation and Israel’s brutal suppression of the Palestinians.
Schadenfreude doesn’t deal in logic or history. It’s pure emotion, a collective delight in seeing someone we both envy and resent fall from grace. And we’re loving every minute of it. There’s nothing like seeing soldiers in the streets of Europe to make us feel good about our soldiers in Hebron.
We should treasure this moment and enjoy it while we can, because Europe will return to normal – but we won’t.
The world will eventually overcome ISIS because it is a death cult that has no place among the living; because it negates and wants to destroy everything that makes life worth living for most Westerners. ISIS is a barbaric anachronism – a primitive cancer – that feeds off modernity but intends to kill it.
“Our terrorists,” on the other hand, represent the values that the West is trying to uphold in its fight against ISIS – liberty, human rights, freedom of choice. Not that they are all secular democrats – there are certainly fundamentalists and fascists among the Palestinians, just as there are fundamentalists and fascists among the messianic Jews who claim the right to Palestinian land.
But their struggle is framed – and is seen by much of the western world – in the context of democratic and humanistic values. When it comes to Palestine, Israel is the transgressor, and no amount of fleeting glee at the troubles of Europe is going to change that.
Just because the paucity of our expression compels us to describe both ISIS nihilists and desperate, 15-year-old Palestinians with knives as “terrorists,” that does not make them the same – even if they both target random civilians. The one wants to destroy the west while the other is ostensibly fighting to join it.
That is Israel’s conundrum. We want to see ourselves – and to be seen – as being in the same boat as Europe, but we’re not. We want the world to regard our enemies as ISIS clones, but the world doesn’t see them like that. We want Europeans to regard their fight as ours and ours as theirs, but they don’t.
Unlike most Israelis, Europe has not forgotten the occupation and it does not live in a stupor of denial. It may be sidetracked for a while by its current problems with ISIS, but it will be back. People will return to the restaurants and concert halls of Paris.
And when they do, Europe will return to labeling settlement products and to its insufferable moralizing about the occupation. Because the Palestinians are not ISIS and colonial Israel is not on the side of humanity and justice. Israel and Europe occupy different moral universes.
So let’s enjoy our pleasure at Europe’s misfortune while we can.
Roy Isacowitz is a journalist and writer living in Tel Aviv and an editor at Haaretz.