Questions from a Zionist - and some answers, Part 2

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A Facebook acquaintance of mine – let’s call her Ruth – is perennially critical of my position on the Palestine/Israel issue. She recently lobbed a string of typical Zionist talking points my way, some of which I have responded to. It might be instructive to tackle a few more.

Ruth’s most recent discourse came from a place of pain: Ari Fuld, the Jewish settler who had just been killed in a stabbing attack, was a friend of hers.

I offered my condolences and gave her some space. 

Out of respect for her loss, I will try to be restrained in my comments here.

Ruth made some assumptions about Fuld’s killer: “No doubt he was taught from birth that Jews are the enemy and that it is his duty to fight them. Throughout his life, he heard imams, teachers, parents, and friends encourage, praise, and incite this kind of behavior.”

She declared that the killer is being “heralded as a hero” and “his family is receiving accolades.”

She asserted that Palestinians are “a damaged people, raising hateful, damaged children” in an “insane culture of violence.” “There is hate, there is intent to kill, there is ambition” to take over Israel and kill all the Jews that stand in their way. 

She cited Ari Fuld, who died “merely because he was a Jew standing on a street corner in land claimed by an intolerant people, who refuse to coexist.” And now, “a heartbroken widow and children will mourn the loss of their light, their protector.”

Let’s unpack.

 Ari Fuld

Ari Fuld

Only human

Ari Fuld was, first and foremost, a human being. He was a husband and father. He was the first Israeli to be killed in almost 2 months, and his death was unnecessary and tragic. 

25 Palestinians were killed by Israel during the month of September alone – this is rarely mentioned in mainstream media – and they were also, first and foremost, human beings.  

7 of those human beings were under the age of 18; one had “reportedly tried to stab” IDF soldiers before he was killed; one was beaten in his home in the middle of the night by dozens of Israeli soldiers; another was shot multiple times and bled to death while soldiers prevented an ambulance from approaching.

Most of these Palestinian human beings were killed while peacefully demonstrating at the Gaza border – here is a video (warning: disturbing) of one of them, a 16-year-old boy who presented no threat to anyone, being shot by an Israeli sniper.

These Palestinian human beings were sons, brothers, and in some cases husbands and fathers, like Ari Fuld. Except for the one who was involved in a stabbing, they were not dangerous – certainly not dangerous enough to warrant being killed.  

I would ask my Facebook acquaintance to acknowledge their humanity and the unnecessary tragedy of their deaths.

Believing the worst

Ruth hypothesized that Fuld’s killer was acting on hate messages he’d always heard: “imams, teachers, parents, and friends encourage, praise, and incite this kind of behavior.”

This is a classic accusation: the Palestinians are responsible for Palestinian deaths: a built-in “intent to kill”; Israeli snipers and warplanes and drones and rifle-butt beatings are merely self-defense.

In fact, as Ruth knows, the killer’s parents tried to stop the attack but were unable. No reasonable parent would want to see their child commit murder, but if you believe all Palestinians are savages, it’s not a stretch to believe they worship death and encourage each other to kill. This is called dehumanization, and it is a low blow to imply that a people group are less than human.

But that’s one way to explain why the group with the snipers and warplanes, who have killed over 220 (including 40+ children) this year, are nonviolent, while the people with slingshots are terrorists.

Not perfect

Ari Fuld was a loving husband and father. He was innocently shopping when he was attacked.

He was also a full-time staunch, vocal supporter of Israel who appeared frequently on television. A bit of a Sean Hannity, he talked loudly, controlled interviews with an iron fist, and always had the last word.

As Associated Press reported, Fuld was known for his “outspoken manner that included verbal clashes with Palestinians and critics of Israel that could land him in trouble” – for example  having his Facebook account suspended. (Considering the close relationship between Facebook and Israel – Israelis are rarely censored  – Fuld must have had some pretty disorderly moments to get himself banned.)

Does that mean he deserved to die? Not any more than the 20+ Palestinians who died at the hands of Israel for exercising their right to protest. Are Israel advocates willing to admit this?

 Palestinian children on their way home from school encounter a group of Israeli soldiers at the bottom of the school steps

Palestinian children on their way home from school encounter a group of Israeli soldiers at the bottom of the school steps

“Taught from birth”

Is Ruth so naïve as to think that Palestinian children need someone to teach them to be angry?

Could she honestly attribute Fuld’s attack to blind, unfounded hatred of all Jews, learned from adults who also had an irrational contempt for Jews?

Isn’t it more likely that after 50 years of checkpoints, night raids, torture, and humiliation, Palestinians might have deduced that Israel is the source of their suffering? Is it possible that after an 11-year blockade, Gazans have discerned where to invest their rage? There is no need to implicate the education system. Implicate the government from whence come the policies of apartheid and oppression. It’s not rocket science.

Palestinians also understand nuance well enough to recognize that “Jew” isn’t the enemy. “Zionism” is. Older Palestinians still remember the days when they lived next door to Jews in peace. It was the ideology of Zionism that created enmity where there was none.

Money

It’s likely that Fuld’s family will receive some kind of death benefits from the Israeli government, and that is as it should be. They’ve lost their breadwinner, and they will need financial help. So do the families of IDF soldiers wounded or killed. They are not being rewarded for the killing of Palestinians – they are being financially supported when they need financial support.

The Palestinian Authority fund that has been so widely disparaged works the same way. When a family is in need because it has lost its wage-earner, the government steps in with aid. The bulk of families receiving aid have the head of the household in prison: Israel is currently holding over 5,700 political prisoners (illegally) and almost 500 administrative detainees (illegally) – 270 of those being held are children.

That is well over 6,000 breadwinners behind bars, 6,000 families in need.

 Palestinian administrative detainees - held without charge (illegally)

Palestinian administrative detainees - held without charge (illegally)

Other recipients of aid include families of the thousands who have been beaten, severely injured, or killed by Israeli forces. These too are needy.

There is no denying that the family of Ari Fuld’s stabber will also receive assistance. They will suffer for the loss of an income – not to mention the demolition of their home (illegally). Does this mean that the PA rewarding a killer? Do young men kill for the money?

While it is possible that some are desperate enough to do this, evidence suggests the opposite. Especially given the poor condition of the Palestinian economy, the fact that only 5 non-military Israelis have been killed in 2018 (5 too many) points to money as a non-incentive.

“Merely because he was a Jew”

“Ari Fuld was an innocent victim of terrorism, killed because he happened to be Jewish.”

Indeed, he was innocently shopping, not provoking anyone. And the stabbing was terrorism. No argument there.

Unfortunately, Fuld “happened to be” more than just Jewish. To the perpetrator, he represented two evils: Zionism and the United States. Fuld happened to be an English-speaking Israeli in the vicinity of someone with a vendetta against Zionists and Americans.

Ruth seems certain that the killer is “being heralded as a hero” and “his family is receiving accolades.” I haven’t been able to locate any proof of that statement. It sounds like another stereotypical description of a barbarous people.

(The saga of Elor Azaria is an actual, chronicled story of a killer being heralded as a hero.)

 IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who shot dead a neutralized Palestinian attacker in Hebron on March 24, 2016, seen after his release from military prison, as his family celebrates his return outside their home in Ramla on May 8, 2018. Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90

IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who shot dead a neutralized Palestinian attacker in Hebron on March 24, 2016, seen after his release from military prison, as his family celebrates his return outside their home in Ramla on May 8, 2018. Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90

“Mourning the loss”

Fuld’s family, “a heartbroken widow and children will mourn the loss of their light, their protector.” Of course they will grieve over this unnecessary tragedy. But at the risk of sounding flippant, here’s a newsflash: the families of all those Palestinian young men will mourn just as deeply for their loved ones.  

Not only are Palestinians dying in droves (mostly during the course of peaceful protests), but they are demonized as they die; they have been slowly dying for years under occupation and blockade. A sniper’s bullet or a bomb just speeds the process along. 

All innocent death is wrong. And the more innocent Palestinians Israel kills, the more anger and backlash Israel can expect.

Kathryn ShihadahComment