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October 6, 2015 | 23rd Tishrei 5776

Terrorism Once Again

September 14, 2003
Marc Rosenstein

The question:
When a Jew opened fire on innocent Arabs in a mosque, the vast majority of Jews in Israel and the Diaspora raised a huge outcry, condemning him, expressing remorse, seeking whom to blame, attacking the minority who defended his actions. When Arab suicide bombers perpetrate similar attacks on innocent passersby, the leadership of Arab communities issues formal condemnations. Many individual Arabs in Israel feel depressed, angry, frustrated, and afraid, and will say so if asked. On the other hand, there is no outcry, no clear voice raised in anger, in reprimand, demanding an end to such behavior. Why?

A few possible answers:

  1. The Arabs in Israel are torn between their desire to "make it" and achieve equality and integration in Israeli society, and their loyalty to their people and its struggle for independence. They know that they are perceived as sellouts and even traitors for their acceptance of their place in Israel at a time when the Palestinians see Israel as an oppressor.

    Their own identity is in conflict, and they cannot bring themselves to identify out loud with either side. Inside Palestine, the society is riddled with mistrust and betrayal - after all, virtually all of Israel's intelligence about who is a terrorist and where they can be found for assassination comes from informers within Palestinian society. Speaking out against terror as a means of struggle is not only politically incorrect, but likely to prove fatal.

  2. Israel has a highly trained and well-equipped army. The Palestinians understand that they are no match for the Israeli army. They have been living under Israeli rule, against their will, for 36 years. It is not clear that the leadership of Israel is interested in the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Therefore, the Palestinians have come to believe that their liberation will come only through violent struggle, and that the only serious weapon in their arsenal is terrorism. Israeli Arabs, sympathetic to the Palestinians' desire for a state, may think that terror will in the long run be counterproductive, or that it is simply evil, but they don't have any evidence to show the Palestinians to suggest that there is another way that will be more effective. So all they can do in their frustration - and solidarity - is to say that they condemn terror, but "understand" why the Palestinians resort to it.

  3. They are bloodthirsty Jew-haters and are basically happy every time Jews are killed, hoping that eventually we will have had enough and will leave the area.

  4. The asymmetry is not as great as you might think: Jews who kill Arabs in fact tend to get relatively light sentences, and investigations of Jewish terror suspects tend to get bogged down. And there are lots of Jews both in Israel and abroad who are not at all outraged by the killing of Arabs.

More questions:
How can we know which answer(s) is/are correct? How should we behave in response?


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