Jewish Grief, Arab Grief

Jewish blood is dearer to me than Arab blood, yet a grieving Palestinian mother mourns her loss with the same intensity as a Jewish mother.

Razi Barkai
Razi Barkai
Palestinian relatives cry during a funeral held in the West Bank village of Sae'er for four Palestinians killed by Israeli military after trying to attack soldiers, January 9, 2016.
Palestinian relatives cry during a funeral held in the West Bank village of Sae'er for four Palestinians killed by Israeli military after trying to attack soldiers, January 9, 2016.Credit: AP
Razi Barkai
Razi Barkai

Some of us are experts at inflating balloons, selling illusions, while others like to cynically prick them. A handful of people belong to a third camp, rushing to stick pins into balloons they themselves have inflated. These are the verbal acrobats, only interested in arguing for argument’s sake, spineless and lacking a position of their own.

Read Benny Ziffer’s writing from three or four years ago. What a balloon of solidarity with Palestinian suffering he inflated when his daughter lost a Palestinian partner, killed by IDF bullets. Then read him in last Friday’s newspaper, punching a hole in the balloon he floated in earlier times.

A few weeks ago I made a comment, a legitimate journalistic one in my view, addressed to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. Why should we hold on to bodies of Palestinians, how is that different than the refusal of Palestinians to return the bodies of our soldiers for burial? Erdan said what he said, raising a furor. In the meantime, and not by coincidence, I was forced to pay a professional price, with the duration of my morning program on Army Radio being halved, but I won’t dwell on that. I received both positive and negative reactions, complimentary and angry ones. They all had a common denominator – they expressed an opinion. Ziffer’s acrobatics, on the other hand, were sui generis.

On one hand he writes in the February 26 Haaretz Hebrew edition that my statement was “idiotic,” expressing a “primitive mindset.” On the other hand he claimed that I was proof (!) that the critical Western way of thinking was superior to the Mizrahi-Arab one. I loved that one.

Here is my position, without the filters of commentators. There is no yardstick with which one can measure the intensity of grief. Attempts at “justification,” on our side and theirs, lead grieving families to different modes of coping. Jewish blood is dearer to me than Arab blood. (I have legitimization for this from MK Ahmed Tibi who, in one of his interviews with me, told me, with chilling simplicity: When an Arab is killed I’m sadder.) And yet, a grieving Palestinian mother (you’re right, a grieving father as well) mourns her loss with the same intensity, sometimes in a manner that drives us nuts. (What’s the difference between her irksome candies and “It is good to die for our homeland”? Myself, I prefer the version that says Trumpeldor actually muttered a Russian curse.)

I made one mistake, which I regret. With grieving families, one should remain silent and respectful. I shouldn’t have put Simcha Goldin, the father of slain soldier Hadar Goldin, on the air.

To simplify the argument between Ziffer and me, he and his ilk wish to penalize Palestinians. I, and people like me, want to humanize them. In this duel, Ziffer is the big winner.

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