Ha'aretz , May 17, 2001


By Israel Harel

Before entering the cave where the murders had been perpetrated, M.C. paused for a moment, put a hand on the stone wall and rested his head inside the natural arch. M.C., who, for the past 20 years, had seen and experienced almost everything, gathered his strength, took a deep breath and, his voice still shaking, pointed to the protuberances on the rocks against which the murderers had banged and shattered the heads of the two young boys."When we combed the cave," he was now once more in command of his normal speaking voice, "we could immediately discern the projections against which the heads of the two boys had been banged and where their skulls had been crushed. Only after they were already prone on the ground, apparently when they were still alive but dying, the stoning began. As a result of the stoning, their faces were so distorted that we could barely identify them. Despite the dedicated and strenuous efforts of the volunteers who come with their cloths and plastic bags, it was impossible to remove the bloodstains from the rocks."

Outside, once you could breathe freely once more in the open air, your breath was once more taken away by the blindingly beautiful landscape of the Tekoa stream and the cliffs of the Judean Hills.

In the face of this magnificent natural setting, which has not changed since the spirit of God descended upon Amos, the sheep rancher from Tekoa, the prophet of morality ("Hate evil and love good, and see that justice is carried out at the city's gate"), the prophet of rebuke ("For the three sins of Edom ... for his having pursued, sword in hand, his brother and for his utter ruthlessness"), the prophet of solace ("I will plant them firmly on their soil and they will never again be uprooted from it"), it is almost impossible to comprehend the base cruelty of the murderers.

Nadav Shragai (Ha'aretz, May 13) is wrong when he argues incitement in the Palestinian media and in Palestinian textbooks is the main factor behind the murderous behavior of the Arabs. In Algeria, the populations of entire villages - including children and the infants - have been slaughtered over the years, and not because of any inciteful broadcasts by Palestine Radio. In the not-too-distant past, the same thing occurred in both Syria and Lebanon.

Thus, it is difficult to understand why Rabbi Avi Gisser, the rabbi of Ofra settlement decided to lodge a complaint with the police against Ze'ev Sternhell for having written (Ha'aretz, May 11): "Many in Israel, perhaps even the majority of voters, do not doubt the legitimacy of the armed resistance in the territories themselves. The Palestinians would be wise to concentrate their struggle against the settlements and avoid harming women and children..."

Rabbi Gisser's complaint that such statements are incitement and they encourage murderous acts against men like him who live in the settlements of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was proved blatantly groundless last Tuesday evening.

Around the time Rabbi Gisser filed his complaint, the Arabs once more committed murder, the victim this time being a young woman, Idit Mizrahi, and they once more inflicted injury on a child - her brother, Amit.

Granted, it can be understood from the complaint that Sternhell is being accused of having rebuked the Arabs for a lack of tactical wisdom but not for their acts of murder. However, it makes no sense to claim - surely, an individual like Rabbi Gisser, given his standing in society, should comprehend this point - that one of the Israeli academic community's most prominent crusaders for moral and ethical behavior actually intended in the article, written only two days after the gruesome stoning incident near the Tekoa stream, to encourage murderous acts against Rabbi Gisser or any other settler.

Similarly, there is no basis to the argument that, for much less severe offenses, the Israeli system of justice sent Tatyana Susskin to serve a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence and sent Rabbi Ido Elba to serve a three-year prison sentence. How, one must ask, is it at all possible to compare the offenses committed by Susskin and Elba to what Professor Sternhell has done?

In order to kill Jews, my most esteemed Rabbi Gisser, the Arabs have no need for any encouragement from Jews. The Arabs have enough self-motivation without any outside help, although perhaps they do require moral backing so that their murderous acts can appear legitimate in the eyes of the world. The truth is they enjoy - irrespective of the ghastly nature of their crimes - cartloads of legitimization.

Thus, the words of a respected academic ("Many in Israel ... do not doubt the legitimacy of the armed resistance...") have no real impact either way. Not much logic can be found in the question or complaint as to why Jews rail against the moral indifference of the world when here in Israel Jews write and say things about other Jews that are far worse than anything written or said about Jews in Europe or America.

Through Oslo the murderers received more than just rifles. Oslo deepened and widened - and this is one of the major catastrophes it produced - divisions among Jews. Oslo also established a bond - a true Gordian knot - between the Arabs of Israel and the Arabs of Palestine.

In addition, Oslo gave rise to the idea of the Nakba. From a term of negligible importance, the Nakba has been promoted, in the wake of Oslo, to the status of a Concept, a magic ritual that has devastating implications for the entire Middle East, especially for Israeli Arabs.

At this point in time, most Jews, even those who are represented by the government of Ariel Sharon, have no answers - moral, ethical, military or political - to the chain of disasters Oslo has brought down upon the heads of Israel's Jewish population

(c) 2000 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved

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