World to Israel: Terrorism is bad, but so is fighting it
This Saturday night was one of those when you wish you hadn’t turned on your phone after Shabbat, when observant Jews don’t use electronics, because the news you’re catching up on is so atrocious.
Every little “ping!” from my phone came with another horrible detail. A shooting in Jerusalem the evening before. Seven dead. Outside a synagogue. Another shooting. A father and son murdered. By a 13-year-old. Mothers handing out candy to celebrate their sons’ success at massacring Jews. Politicians bickering, as if their point-scoring matters at a time like this.
Then came the supposedly good news: US President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well: Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey's foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel's Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.
It feels wrong to criticize those statements. After all, opening fire on civilians at a place of worship ought to be denounced. It should be unacceptable to any decent human being.
But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism.
These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.
The IDF and Shabak (Israel Security Agency) entered the Jenin refugee camp on Thursday to try to stop Islamic Jihad from carrying out a massive terror attack against Israelis. The military aimed to capture three known terrorists who had taken part in past attacks and were planning more; the IDF called the terror cell a "ticking bomb."
Israeli forces tried to minimize harm to anyone who wasn’t involved in terrorism. The Shin Bet called a Palestinian family to warn them to safely leave their home ahead of the operation.
Of course, the terrorists put up a fight. Israeli soldiers overcame barricades at dozens of points in Jenin on the way to the terrorists' home. An IDF explosives expert safely exploded two bombs. Palestinians attacked Israeli forces with IEDs and Molotov cocktails.
The IDF killed nine Palestinians in the operation.
The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadis from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way. Of course, the English media coverage, with all referring to nine Palestinians dead and very few (like my employer The Jerusalem Post) mentioning the terrorism aspect, did not help.
The UAE "condemned Israeli forces' storming of the Palestinian camp of Jenin" and "called upon Israeli authorities to assume responsibility for reducing escalation and instability in the region."
Turkey, while understated by the standards of only a couple of years ago, still put the onus on "Israeli authorities to take necessary measures effectively to prevent further escalation of tension and loss of lives in the region."
Others made sure to mention terrorism but were squeamish about what it actually takes to fight it.
"The European Union fully recognizes Israel’s legitimate security concerns, as evidenced by the latest terrorist attacks, but it has to be stressed that lethal force must only be used as a last resort when it is strictly unavoidable in order to protect life," read a statement from Brussels. As though Israel could have just asked the Islamic Jihad members nicely, and they would have stopped being terrorists.
The State Department was more understanding of Israel and "recognize[d] the very real security challenges facing Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and condemn terrorist groups planning and carrying out attacks against civilians." However, they still haven't dropped their habit of creating an equivalence between terrorists and a sovereign state trying to protect its citizens, referring to a "cycle of violence," and "underscor[ing] the urgent need for all parties to de-escalate" (emphasis added).
This list could go on much longer, so there's just one more interesting comparison to make. Russia decided to "All Lives Matter" the massacring of Israeli civilians with a statement "on the escalation of the situation in the...Palestinian-Israeli conflict." It included the murders in Jerusalem as well as the Jenin operation and said they "perceive this development of events with deep concern. We call on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and prevent further escalation of tension."
In contrast, there is Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelensky, who would be forgiven for being too busy to comment at all, but chose to condemn terrorism without having to equivocate by denouncing those who fight terrorism.
Zelensky’s Ukraine has a complicated relationship with Israel. He has been publicly critical of Israel not providing Ukraine with military aid and his country has voted with the Palestinians and against Israel at the UN far more often than it has voted with Israel.
But in this case, Zelensky’s moral clarity comes in deep contrast to so many others.
To condemn terrorism while condemning efforts to stop terrorism is depraved.
The fact that these events coincided with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, when so many of these countries said “Never Again” and mourned the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis, only highlights that, as Dara Horn has so eloquently written, people love dead Jews.
It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths.
It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the State of Israel is.
On another matter:
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