One of the most gruesome scenes of the ongoing intifada happened right at its beginning. On October 12, 2000, Israeli military reservists Vadim Norzhich and Yosef Avrahami were beaten to death in a Ramallah police station. Their bodies were then thrown out of the window into the hands of a mob of Palestinians, who mutilated them.
The civilized world was shocked. Jews were enraged. “This was the act of a primitive and savage people,” cried Masada2000.org, a Web site specializing in exposure of Arab and Islamic vileness.
The same Web site then went on to describe how some months after the lynching, residents of Ramallah showed just how sorry they were: “Hundreds of Palestinians, including leading Palestinian Authority and Fatah officials, conducted a hate-filled rally against Israel, complete with a donkey clad in a Jewish prayer shawl and a nose painted with a Star of David and Nazi swastika!”
That is primitive and savage indeed. Now consider what Jews did last week in Gaza.
Extremist Jewish settlers, who had first clashed with Israeli soldiers, turned their wrath on Palestinians. On the walls of an abandoned Palestinian home they had taken over in the village of Muwassi, they painted “Muhammad is swine” in large graffiti letters –– an act that, needless to say, sparked an angry Palestinian response.
In the exchange of stones thrown, one of the Palestinians was badly injured. As he lay there unconscious, settlers almost stoned the Palestinian to death, defying an Israeli soldier who tried single-handedly to protect him.
Let’s be absolutely clear about one thing: What those yarmulke-wearing Jews did in Gaza was utterly not Jewish.
Have these people ever read the line “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man” (Genesis 9:6)? And if someone tries to be smart and interpret it as if by “man” God meant “Jew” only, then let’s read on in the Torah: “As ye are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord” (Numbers 15:15), and numerous references reminding the People of Israel that they had been strangers in the land of Egypt. And if this is not enough, and someone still insists that the Palestinian who was almost lynched wasn’t really a stranger in the biblical sense (ger), then one must just cling to the basic commandment, “Thou Shall Not Kill.”
One of the greatest contributions of the Jewish people to humanity, apart from the belief in one God, is the universalistic and humanistic message of our prophets. Those hooligans cursing Islam and stoning an unconscious man were the total opposite of what true Judaism stands for.
I would have expected, therefore, that every rabbi in every synagogue in every Jewish community around the world would denounce in the harshest terms possible these people in his or her weekly sermon. I would have expected that every self-respecting Jew would speak out against it by, for instance, writing letters to the editors of secular, Jewish and Israeli newspapers.
Alas, other than a few outspoken voices here and there, there hasn’t been anything close to the wall-to-wall denunciation that the barbaric act should have earned.
And for God’s sake, don’t give me the old line of, “Shh, not in front of the goyim.” The whole world has seen the ugly scenes, and the damage to Israel’s image has already been done.
But what the world still hasn’t heard is a loud and clear message from Jews condemning the barbarous act in no uncertain terms.
If we fail to make clear our disgust at the extremist settlers’ actions, then the next time a Jew is harmed somewhere in the world — and we all know it’s going to happen eventually — we won’t be able to raise hell because our hands won’t be clean.
There is no great love in this world for Jews; let’s not arm our foes with weapons of our own making.
Uri Dromi, director of international outreach at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem, was chief spokesman for the Israeli government under Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.