Gov­ern­men­tal de­cep­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Miriam Sha­viv

THE IS­RAELI RE­AC­TION to the rev­e­la­tion that an Arab teenager, Mo­hammed Abu Khdeir, was al­legedly mur­dered by Is­raeli Jews has ranged from de­nial to — more com­monly — dis­gust and de­pres­sion that Jews could be re­spon­si­ble. Is­raeli min­is­ters, ei­ther gen­uinely shocked or to show how dif­fer­ent they are to the Pales­tinian lead­er­ship, have rushed to dis­avow the crime in the strong­est terms.

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu promised to treat Jewish ter­ror­ism as harshly as the Arab va­ri­ety. “We do not dis­tin­guish ter­ror from ter­ror,” he said. Even ac­cord­ing to the hawk­ish min­is­ter Naf­tali Ben­nett: “Abu Khdeir’s mur­der is a heinous act that is anti-moral and anti-Jewish.”

These sen­ti­ments are ap­pro­pri­ate. But the of­fi­cial re­sponse has lacked one im­por­tant el­e­ment: chesh­bon ne­fesh, or soul-search­ing over the Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties’ own re­spon­si­bil­ity for the hor­rific events of the past month.

Specif­i­cally: did the govern­ment de­lib­er­ately, and need­lessly, help cre­ate the al­most hys­ter­i­cal at­mos­phere which ul­ti­mately led to Abu Khdeir’s mur­der?

On Thurs­day night, June 12, three Is­raeli boys were kid­napped by Pales­tinian ter­ror­ists. At 10.25 pm, one of them, Gi­lad Shaar, phoned the po­lice to re­port that he had been cap­tured. Sec­onds later, while still on the line, there was a burst of gun­fire, and the sound of boys moan­ing. Then, si­lence, save for the Is­raeli ra­dio in the back­ground; and sev­eral sec­onds af­ter that, a Pales­tinian singing hap­pily, and cry­ing out: “Three!”

This tape was heard by the high­est au­thor­i­ties the very next day — the same day that the car in which the boys were taken was found torched, con­tain­ing blood­stains and the boys’ DNA. Any­one with ac­cess both to the record­ing and the phys­i­cal ev­i­dence would have rea­son­ably con­cluded that, while there was no de­fin­i­tive proof they were dead, the chances were very, very high. .

That is not what the pub­lic was told, though. While teams qui­etly ploughed He­bron fields for bod­ies, De­fence Min­is­ter Moshe Yaalon pub­licly de­clared that “our work­ing as­sump­tion is that they are alive”.

The phone call was kept un­der wraps through a gag or­der, and suc­ces­sive of­fi­cials ex­plained that the call was very hard to un­der­stand (not true).

Is­rael stoked the mass delu­sion that the boys were alive

Mean­while, con­cerned cit­i­zens launched a cam­paign to “Bring Back Our Boys” — the im­pli­ca­tion be­ing, “alive”. Ral­lies were or­gan­ised; school­child­ren prayed; every­where you looked, on Face­book, on t-shirts, the faces of these three poor boys — by now long dead — stared back.

It was an emo­tional frenzy. As a re­sult, when the bod­ies were found, the col­lec­tive shock and grief was al­most un­prece­dented. Is it re­ally a sur­prise that mobs bayed for re­venge?

All this, while the govern­ment knew with 99 per cent cer­tainty that Naf­tali, Gi­lad and Eyal were dead. Yet even if, for op­er­a­tional rea­sons, they could not say so out­right, they did noth­ing to calm the na­tional mood, said noth­ing to tem­per people’s hopes. On the con­trary, govern­ment min­is­ters and pres­i­dent-elect Reu­ven Rivlin spoke at the ral­lies, stok­ing the mass delu­sion that the boys could yet be saved.

Why? Per­haps pre­tend­ing they were search­ing for live cap­tives gave the army more lee­way to work in He­bron, and to sus­tain in­ter­na­tional pres­sure on Ha­mas. These may be wor­thy causes, and the prayers gen­er­ated com­fort­ing to the three fam­i­lies but the de­cep­tion was not harm­less. The bond of trust be­tween the govern­ment and its people has frayed for many. And an­other in­no­cent boy has died.

Yes, Mr Ben­nett, the mur­der is “anti-Jewish.” When are you go­ing to recog­nise that your govern­ment helped cre­ate the con­di­tions that made it pos­si­ble?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.