Open Zion

08.17.12

How Will We Sleep Tonight?

As a writer and activist, I’m forever asking people to consider the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from another perspective—whatever perspective they might happen to have.

And so today I ask: What would Israel, the Israeli people, and American Jews be doing if the following news reports concerned an Israeli family and three Israeli young men?

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A young boy plays with a Palestinian flag in a street in Rafah near to the Egyptian border on August 21, 2011 in Rafah, Gaza. (Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)

This happened on Thursday on the West Bank:

Five Palestinians were seriously injured on Thursday after Israeli settlers threw Molotov cocktails at their car south of Bethlehem, medics said.

The injured were all from the Hassan family, and included four-year-olds Iman and Muhammad, their parents Ayman, 37, and Jamila, 25, and Hassan Hassan who was driving…. Both children suffered first degree burns, and the adults suffered second and third degree burns.

This happened in the heart of Jerusalem today:

Dozens of Jewish youths attacked three young Palestinians in Jerusalem's Zion Square early on Friday morning, in what one witness described as "a lynch" on Facebook.

One of the Palestinians was seriously wounded and hospitalized in intensive care in Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem….

The three were allegedly attacked by youths shouting "Death to the Arabs" at them, as well as other racial slurs. One of them fell on the floor, and his attackers continued to beat him until he lost consciousness.

In both cases, Israeli authorities (the Prime Minister, and Jerusalem’s chief of police) issued statements of concern and promised to pursue the perpetrators of these crimes—much as the Palestinian Authority does when such incidents occur on their watch. So here’s another good question: How much does the average Israeli or American Jew believe such pronouncements when they come from PA officials?

How much do you think Palestinians tend to believe the Israelis?

Honestly, though, the single most disturbing fact about these events is that they are not particularly rare, a fact that Palestinians know, even if the rest of the world does not seem to.

Settlers have been attacking Palestinians and their property for decades even as the Israeli military often looks the other way (in at least one case, soldiers looked the other way even as settlers used live fire). In one incident, settlers continued to stone an injured Palestinian man though he was being tended by the IDF’s own paramedics; in another, an Israeli soldier was caught on tape ambushing and kicking a Palestinian child. Jews have been terrorists, too, and there’s plenty of documentation to prove it.

There is no such thing as a nice war. There is no such thing as a war in which combatants fight, but people do not learn to hate. Israelis are rightly concerned about the content of Palestinian textbooks – but do they grasp the meaning of the racism that an Israeli academic has found in their own? Israelis rightly call the Palestinian Authority to task for anti-Semitism or incitement within their midst – but what about young Israeli Jews who believe that Israeli Arabs don’t deserve the same rights they enjoy? What about Israeli teenagers who say things like “[Palestinians are] whores, not people, and they don’t deserve to live”? What about the Israelis who dance through our Holy City shouting “Muhammad is dead,” “may your village burn,” and “slaughter the Arabs”?

We Israeli and American Jews often say that such Israelis (along with violent settlers and abusive soldiers) are bad apples. They don’t represent us, we think, nor do they reflect what we’re teaching our children—even as we so often insist that the violence or evil words found on the Palestinian side are all that might possibly matter about the Palestinian people.

We are only human. Our own pain hurts first, and it hurts most.

But for one minute, let’s pause to consider how we would feel about a little boy suffering from Molotov cocktail burns if he had been one of ours. Let’s wonder what we might tell him as we tend his wounds, and how well we might sleep that night.