Yakov Hirsch
Jul 31, 2017 · 6 min read
Image for post
Image for post

Israel is close to exploding. And that’s because Benjamin Netanyahu has successfully cultivated a new way of understanding the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Listen to the last two labor party prime ministers of Israel Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin to hear what the difference sounds like. How did they speak about their Palestinian enemies?

In 1998, Barak, then-chairman of the Labor Party, said that if he were a Palestinian he might have joined a terrorist organization. When attacked by the Likud, the former chief-of-staff and the most decorated soldier of the Israel Defense Forces responded:

“What would they have wanted me to say, that if I were a young Palestinian who has from birth undergone a Palestinian experience, I would have become a third- grade teacher in an elementary school?”

Ehud Barak can be objective about the Israeli Palestinian conflict. He can see it from both sides.

Now listen to Yitzhak Rabin address the Palestinian people in 1994 a year and half before his assassination. Like Barak, Rabin had the ability to see the I/P conflict from the other side:

“I appeal now to the Palestinian people and say: Our Palestinian neighbors, one hundred years of bloodshed implanted in us hostility toward one another. For one hundred years we lay in wait for you, and you lay in wait for us. We killed you, and you killed us… Today, you and we stretch out our hands in peace. Today, we are beginning a different reckoning.

“…The new hope which we take with us from here is boundless. There is no limit to our goodwill, to our desire to see a historic conciliation between two peoples who have until now lived by the sword in the alleyways of Khan Yunis and the streets of Ramat Gan, in the houses of Gaza and the plazas of Hadera, in Rafah and Afula.”

And this Rabin sentiment is genuine. He is telling Palestinians we both love this land and we can split it up.

How shocking Rabin’s outreach reads now indicates how much has changed in Israeli political culture.

Contrast those sentiments with what the Israeli discourse sounds today

What did Netanyahu say was Omar al-Abed’s motive for the killing of three Halamish family members in a west bank settlement? Netanyahu claimed he was a:

“Beast incited by Jew-hatred.” https://www.facebook.com/IsraeliPM/

This was no slip of the tongue. The Palestinian beasts motivated by anti-Semitism is Netanyahu’s explanation for the conflict.

And he has proselytized this understanding of Palestinian violence against Jews so well that it’s become conventional wisdom in Israel.

When a Palestinian recently killed an Israeli police woman in E. Jerusalem Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely proclaimed:

“Hadas Malka, heroine of the war of light against darkness, the war of purity against brutality,”

That extreme Manichaeism is precisely what Netanyahu preaches:

“A deep and wide moral abyss separates us from our enemies. They sanctify death while we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty while we sanctify compassion.”



This view of the Palestinian enemy has been behind a host of bitter battles between Netanyahu and Israeli security experts. Because whether Palestinians are born again Nazis or just like any other people under occupation will lead to very different policy prescriptions. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.802607

Netanyahu policies suggest he believes what he says about the Palestinians. Because if Palestinians are motivated by Jew-hatred what does it matter what Israel does anyhow? This is why Netanyahu overrules the security experts so often when they advocate for a policy of restraint in the Occupied territories.

It was “understanding” the Muslim perspective why the Mossad, the Shin Bet, and the IDF thought it “madness, sheer madness” not to remove the metal detectors from the Temple Mount.

But Netanyahu is not inclined to ponder the Palestinian Muslim experience to help him reach a decision. Because “understanding” the Palestinian perspective is legitimizing the Palestinian perspective for Benjamin Netanyahu. And in Netanyahu’s Israel, legitimizing or empathizing with the Palestinian perspective and narrative is taboo.

There are no two sides to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. There is only the Jewish Zionist narrative.

That is the moral clarity Netanyahu has successfully sold to his people. But the result for Israel is a cultural catastrophe and an existential crisis.

That is what the Elor Azaria case represents.

Elor Azaria was caught red handed on video executing a prone Palestinian in March 2016 in Occupied Hebron. Even a child watching the video can see the killing was an act of revenge against Abd al Fatah Al-Sharif for injuring his friend. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.710853

They recognize his “take that” expression at the end from the bullies in their school. So, what then are Azaria’s loudest supporters like Naftali Bennett shouting about? Have they found some exculpatory evidence for Azaria by scrutinizing the B’Tselem video?

“Talk of a murder charge against a combat soldier during a combat operation is a moral mistake that blurs the lines between good and evil. I expect this mistake to be mended.”

That Azaria arrived 10 minutes after the “combat operation” and was avenging his friend’s stabbing does not interest education minister Bennett. What Bennett finds morally objectionable is “good” Azaria going to prison for killing “evil” Abd al Fatah Al-Sharif.

This is the Israel of 2017. Look at the overreaction by Israeli political culture to the tragic killing of three Israelis by Omar al-Abed. Only in this new Netanyahu extreme Manichean world does it make any sense.

Netanyahu and Bennett have called for the death penalty for Omar al-Abed.

(Adolf Eichmann was the last person executed by Israeli) One Likud MK offered to personally execute Omer al-Abed family and another threatened the Palestinians with another Nakba if they don’t cut out the commotion. https://www.facebook.com/oren.pan

This conflict whether the Palestinian people are a Nazi- Jihadi amalgam, fixated on killing Jews or like any other people under occupation will be on full display after the July 30th final judgment on the Azaria act. The question whether Azaria should be pardoned is a question whether Israel wants to be part of the western world. Because “we are the best good and our enemies are the worst evil” is not how trials are decided anymore unless that is you want to live in the Israel of Ofer Winter.

What was the rallying cry of then colonel, since promoted, Ofer Winter, commander of the elite Givati brigade as he sent his troops into Gaza in July 2014?

“History has chosen us to spearhead the fight against the terrorist Gazan enemy who curses, vilifies and abominates Israel’s God,”

It is this Manichean tribal perspective that can’t tolerate Elor Azaria going to prison. And it is this perception of the Palestinian people that needs to be discredited before it’s too late.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store