Who taught them that bodily harming the innocent is permitted by the Torah?
Two young Jews, two brothers, Hallel and Yagel Yaniv, age 22 and 20, respectively, are murdered by a Palestinian gunman as they are driving. There are no words for the grief, the loss, the disbelief, the externality of the hatred of Jews. At the time of their deaths, these two young Jews were in the West Bank, a piece of land on which Palestinian gunmen have murdered Jews before there was a State of Israel, before there was a Jewish military force, before there was even a Jewish majority in the land or anything close to it.
But now there is a Jewish majority, a State of Israel and a Jewish military force. It is up to Israel and the Israel Defense Forces to respond to the murder of Israeli citizens by arresting and trying the murderers. As it happens, the murderers virtually always resist arrest with lethal weaponry and are often killed while resisting arrest. As it happens, it can take some time to identify the murderers; justice is not necessarily immediate or swift.
As it happens, the immediate response to the murder of the two Jewish brothers was undertaken by Israeli Jews who live in the vicinity of the Palestinian town of Huwara, where the killings took place. The immediate response was a violent attack on the people and property in the Palestinian town of Huwara.
The attackers injured some 390 people, killed one person and burned a slew of cars, destroying them.
What follows are not the primary reasons to repudiate the vigilante response to the murder:
• The attack gives Israel a black eye in world opinion.
• The attack reinforces the false narrative that violence between Israel and the Palestinians is a “cycle of violence,” with Israel’s raids on Palestinian towns and cities being retaliation, rather than a legitimate attempt to prevent the further, cold-blooded murder of her citizens.
• The attack will end up costing Israel the compensation for the property losses and the medical costs likely to come.
• The attack confirms the view of many that Jews who live on the West Bank are “settlers” rather than human beings.
• The attack complicates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to legitimate and accelerate the growth of Jewish communities on the West Bank.
• The attack opens political fissures in the current governing Israeli coalition, or the attack intensifies political opposition to the current Israeli government, thus intensifying instability in Israel.
All of these reasons are not the primary reason to repudiate this attack. That reason is: the complete failure in Jewish ethics. The abasement of the Jewish religion. The blatant corruption of the values of the Torah. The hillul Hashem, the desecration of G-d’s name.
This bears repeating: a mob of Jews in the land of Israel perpetrated acts of violence against people who had committed no crime. One is compelled to ask: Who are these criminals’ religious authorities? Who taught them Judaism (if anyone did)? Who do they turn to for guidance (if anyone)? What corrupted their education?
Who taught them that the infliction of bodily wounds on innocent people is permissible by the Torah?
Who taught them that there is such a thing as criminal guilt by non-association?
How do they not recognize the blatant contradiction between saying that they have a right to live on the land of Israel, based on G-d’s gift of the land to the Jews as recorded in the Torah, and between acting in a way contradictory to the same Torah?
Who taught them that the miracle of the resuscitation of the Jewish state in modern times, with the accompanying miracle of the state-authorized, well trained, Jewish armed forces, is to be overlooked, and indeed undermined, by their actions?
Who taught them that this is the 1940’s in German-occupied Poland?
Who taught them that the appropriate response of the authorities to this execrable violence is to try to figure out, as Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich tried to figure out, whether it is necessary to “wipe out” Huwara, or to “identify with the pain and anger” of the rioters, or to “act in a targeted way against the terrorists and the supporters of terror”? It goes without saying that it is right and necessary to “act in a targeted way against the terrorists,” but who taught the authorities to ignore the primary response to the riot per se — namely, to identify, arrest and try the rioters in an Israeli court of law?
The Jewish people did not return to the land of Israel in order to mimic the abased morals and ethics of the terrorists. How ironic! At precisely the same time as the current government is pushing long overdue judicial reform (rightly, in our view, as argued on these pages) in order to make a more just Israeli society, the elemental requirement of justice is ignored by this very same government. That elemental requirement is the sanctity of law; i.e., the arrest of criminal rioters. How can a government speak of the need to improve its judiciary and simultaneously agonize over the mental state of rioters rather than to arrest and try them? As of this writing, at least, there have no such arrests; there seems to be a slide into the base morals and ethics of murderers who feel their acts are justified.
This is a watershed moment. It is time, yes, for the continued, sustained hunting down of the Palestinian murderers of innocent Jews, but also, yes, for the critical norms of Israel to be upheld. To be a light unto the nations, Israel must first be a light unto itself.
Copyright © 2023 by the Intermountain Jewish News
Thank you for a reasonable response to the pogrom inflected by settlers on an entire Palestinian community. It was a shonda and demeans the image of Israel.