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Israelis Killing Israelis

The shooting of two police officers on the Temple Mount has a motive, a reason and deep roots. But discussing them is considered treason and a justification of terror

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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The funeral of Advanced Staff Sgt. Maj. Hael Sathawi in Maghar. Sathawi was killed in a shooting on Temple Mount in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017.
The funeral of Advanced Staff Sgt. Maj. Hael Sathawi in Maghar. Sathawi was killed in a shooting on Temple Mount in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Five armed Israelis were killed Friday at the entrance to the Temple Mount after a brief gun battle. Three Israelis from Umm al-Fahm killed two police officers from the towns of Maghar and Hurfeish in the north. Then the assailants were killed, in a fight over control and presence at this holy and occupied place. The assailants’ motives were religious, nationalist or a combination, but either way, they used violent resistance against the presence of police at the entrance to what they consider a holy site.

Just the ethnic affiliation of the five would be enough to shuffle the deck: This wasn’t a terror attack like the ones we’re used to. The assailants weren’t Palestinians from the territories, their victims weren’t Jewish Israelis, and the operation wasn’t a terror attack; terror is directed against civilians. This wasn’t the beginning of a civil war, but it was a reminder that even in Israel there are people who will join in the armed struggle against the occupation. It’s a reminder that should worry every Israeli.

>>Did the shooters get help from inside? The taboo that was broken on Temple Mount>>

Israel’s response was knee-jerk, as it always is after an attack where Israelis are killed. It tried to show that what happens after a Druze in uniform is killed is the same as what happens after a Jew in uniform is killed – collective punishment and a harsh response. The Temple Mount was closed for two days because something had to be done, and the mourning tents in Umm al-Fahm were demolished – perhaps as an alternative to demolishing the assailants’ homes – an infuriating infringement on the right to mourn. Would anyone even think to prevent Jews from sitting shivah no matter who they were?

Politicians also vied to see who could condemn the attack in harsher terms, as if that mattered. In the condemnation competition the winner, not surprisingly, for the first time and probably not the last, was Labor’s newly elected chairman and rising star of the Zionist left, Avi Gabbay. He deemed it a “vile terror attack” and called the perpetrators “despicable murderers.”

In his unpromising debut, he competed with the style of Likud’s Ofir Akunis and Gilad Erdan. If this was a “vile” terror attack, what would Gabbay call blowing up a bus filled with people? And what does he say about Border Police officers who from time to time kill a passing Palestinian girl or a boy with a knife? And maybe the assailants don’t have anyone “sending them” on a mission? Maybe there are Arabs who decide on their own? That’s not the way to build a left-center opposition.

But the comic relief was supplied, as usual, by the politician who’s losing what remains of his self-awareness. Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid wrote, apparently in all seriousness: “In their death they have commanded us to live.” Lapid lives in Ramat Aviv Gimel thanks to the death of the Border Police officers at the entrance to Al-Aqsa. Even that has a certain logic, and everyone recited in a syrupy chorus: the blood alliance with the Druze community, the sacred alliance.

And in the background was the usual and impertinent demand for a condemnation from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and from the Arabs of Israel – in fact, from the whole world, while Israel almost never condemns that acts of its soldiers and police, even when they kill innocent civilians.

And above all, once again, no one is asking why it happened and why it will still happen many more times. The killing of two policemen is a serious incident; the fact that Israelis killed them makes it worse.

But even incidents like these have a motive, a reason and deep roots. Discussing them is considered treason and a justification of terror. Israel doesn’t even ask itself whether it’s worth it to pay the price of this bloodshed for control of Al-Aqsa or the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the refugee camp at Balata or Jenin. It prevents these questions from coming up because it knows full well the answers and it flees them as from fire.

The answers lead to only one conclusion, a conclusion that few Israelis are willing to accept. And so Israel is actually saying: Shed more of our blood. Shed blood until it hurts so much that we can’t escape the answer to the most fateful question of all: Do we want to continue this accursed occupation that will continue costing blood until its last day?

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