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Julian Resnick writes from Israel

Like many people here in Israel, I was deeply affected by the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv on Thursday night, 7 April. It took me a few days to respond on FB as I was unsure that I had anything important to add to the conversation.

When I did post something there were some fascinating responses. This is part of the conversation which followed…

My FB post on April 10th

JR: I was a simple infantry soldier in the IDF doing my compulsory service in the late 1970s, and my reserve duties until the late 1990s. I was, I suppose, a grunt. A soldier who turned up every year for
30 days to do either border patrols, generally along the border with Jordan and once along the border with Syria; or during the first Intifada in the area of Jericho, facing occasional small groups of young, angry Palestinians.

I never went to officers’ school, in fact not even to the NCOs course. Not because I was not good enough, but possibly because of the injury I sustained during a training exercise. I would not qualify for hero status and, more importantly, do not have the qualifications to make any authoritative statement about military strategy.

So, having put myself down appropriately, unlike so many FB commentators who would have us believe that they are in possession of vast amounts of knowledge which qualify them for the status of ‘experts’, I will now make a statement, although some might question my right to do so. 

But first, I need to identify who I am ideologically, with pride. I am a Jew. I am a Zionist. I am a progressive. I also need to say that I am the father of three Israeli children who live in Israel and the grandfather of six Israeli grandchildren who live in Israel. And I care about them desperately.

So why put myself on the spot where many can now fire potshots and accuse me of a variety of things (the adjectives will probably not reflect on what I say, but will reflect the position on the political map they wish to claim for themselves)? Possibly because I am so saddened by what happened in Tel Aviv on Thursday night and possibly because this is going to continue to happen until we recognise something (I am now preparing for the first arrows) we have not fully recognised.

We have not recognised who the enemy is (fire away, but wait a moment, this is not the ‘equivalency’ pitch, not at all). I am not going to waste your time by telling you who the enemy is not, I am going to state very clearly who I think the enemy is.

The enemy to a peaceful life here in Israel and in Palestine (take an arrow out of the quiver) are all those racist haters in our society. Whether they hate because of their false readings of the Koran, the Torah or the Scriptures, they are the enemy. 

They are the enemy whether they support the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad or Otzma Yehudit. 

They are the enemy whether their hatred is aimed at Jews, Christians, or Moslems. 

And secular folks are not going to get off the hook here either. If their hatred is based on false readings of Karl Marx or Ayn Rand, it makes them no less part of the hate brigade than those who profess a religious basis for their hatred.

We need to rid our society of these people.

This is the battle we need to win.

Part of the conversation which followed:

JG: This is not fundamentally a military problem, is it?

JR: While not fundamentally military, we also have to employ the instruments of law, policing and military tools to deal with what education cannot take full responsibility for. I believe that progressive societies have to, at times, use force to prevent the forces of reaction and hatred from exploiting our understandable reluctance to use force to maintain open and fair societies. As we used to say in one of the positions I once had, “There is nothing soft and fluffy about believing in human rights.”

PA: Too true; but how to “rid our society of these people”…. That comes across as more sinister than you meant.

JR: there is nothing sinister implied here. What is meant is having laws which protect the open society and actions supported by these laws, with full access to a robust court system for those who would destroy the open society.

PA: as I said it came across more than you meant — I was sure you intended nothing untoward. It is about protection from and education of…

JSR: 100%! But of course, the wording “get rid of” leads to several interpretations. Knowing you are not a violent man; the question is, how. Because so far not much seems to be working. In the case of the hilltop youth, this is really on our justice system… They get little to no consequences. But for those outside our community… The change needs to come from within their own society.

JZ: Welcome to the mud-wrestling ring. So far, nice people are saying nice things. And in a way you are saying nice things… all extremists are to blame. Which in this case is true. Unfortunately, my experience is that in ruthless conflict, usually one side is to blame. Just look at Eastern Europe right now. So, the conclusion is that all bad, radicalised people are to blame. So, what’s new?

JR: I am not claiming that this is an original opinion. I think that for good reasons we often fail to see what the real issues are, especially at painful moments such as these.

GLL: I still think that the gap between racist hate and killing is vast. We’re talking about taking the lives of innocent people.

Prejudice, the precursor of hate seems to be a human trait.

‘Thou shalt not kill’ probably easier to deal with and enforce…

JZ: Agreed, but sometimes the state machine creates a culture and an environment that enables its actors, down to the simple soldier, to commit crimes. We have a situation today where Palestinians are shot and killed for rioting, and protest sometimes without any violence to cause that, and its done without too much thought because the rules are gray and the culture enables that. Take that loss to a family who has lost a father, and you can be sure it will never be forgotten. 

We have a problem here, and we have created a monstrous reincarnation of Kahanism since the assassination of Rabin, who many still regard as a blessing. That trickles all the way down. Sometimes it isn’t necessarily the madman, or the hate-filled terrorist who pulls the trigger, it’s the simple soldier at the check-post who takes things a bit too far. The damage leads to exponential hatred which is hard to reverse. (see article by Gideon Levy and Alex Levac, Ha’aretz 1 October 2021) one of many that we gloss over and don’t think about too often. Sometimes it’s not only the extremists. It’s the guy on a hill hundreds of metres away, with a gun, not thinking too much…

DM: I believe that sinat hinam (baseless hatred) is something that eats away at societal strength from within, and in no way am I belittling that as a corrosive factor. I do however take issue with that fact that you are not looking at the general political picture. I believe that the Palestinian terrorists are very astute manipulators of the media. It is clear that this rash of terrorist activity started up with the recent collaboration of all the international foreign ministers meeting in Israel to cooperate in dealing with the Ukraine Russian war. Israel has been named a king-pin in the negotiations by both the Ukrainians and the Russians. It is much to the Palestinians’ dismay that they look on, as all the work to make Israel look like the world’s most abusive country is turned on its head, and Israel is seen as the saviors. Israel has also had a bout of accords being signed with Arab countries. The Palestinians have a lot of experience in knowing how to make Israel look bad in the media, and how to make us (Israel) respond violently, and hence they play the terror card so well. I am a firm believer that internally and throughout the world, we should extend a hand to each other in collaborative endeavors on a personal level. 

We can only win if we can anticipate such media-driven events which drive Palestinian terror and Jewish retribution. Being ahead of the game is what will protect us all. And on a personal level, making the effort every day to reach out and develop real relationships.

JR: Thank you for such a thoughtful reply. You have opened the picture onto a much wider canvas and thank you for that.

May we always disagree in this spirit and never get to the moment when we move from difficult discussion to violent responses.

Julian Resnick was born in Somerset West and grew up in Habonim Dror. He studied at UCT, and made Aliyah in 1976. He’s conducted numerous shlichuyot and educational missions on behalf of Israel, to Jewish communities in England and the USA. He works as a guide in Israel and around the world (wherever there is a Jewish story). He’s married to Orly, with whom he has three children and six grandchildren, and is a member of Kibbutz Tzora.

Published in the PDF edition of the May 2022 issue – Click here to read it.

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