The images of Palestinians rejoicing after Wednesday night’s terrorist attack sicken me. It nauseates me to think about the dozens of Jerusalemite Palestinians who were cheering the gunmen at the Damascus Gate, only about a mile and a half from my home, and passing out candies in cities and towns throughout the West Bank.
It disgusts me that on social media, Palestinians were quick to come up with hashtags for their heroes, like “#Carlo Bullet” (after the name of the improvised submachine gun) and “#Ramadan Operation.” Or “#We broke the fast killing them,” since the terrorists broke their solemn Ramadan fast in a restaurant — and then shot and murdered the other patrons.
The Palestinian cult of death, constantly stoked by official and popular incitement, appalls me. It frightens me to think about the meaning of a national struggle centered on the murder of innocents and a future state founded on the bodies of victims.
But I am no less sickened, nauseated, disgusted, appalled and frightened by some of the responses coming out on our side.
I’ve stopped expecting anything better from our leaders. As some of us do our best to hold on to our values and our humanity in the face of the helpless rage that we feel, we can count on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and newly installed Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to try to incite us in order to garner a few more votes. So far, they haven’t disappointed.
It’s the responses on social media that trouble me the most.
“Are you satisfied now?” I was asked in an email, sent early this morning from an address I don’t recognize. It was soon followed by another greeting: “So they got those Tel Aviv lefties, too. It’s about time.”
On a Facebook page, someone wrote, “I guess it’s a bit of consolation that one of the victims was a self-hating, treasonous leftist that got his just desserts from the Death Cult he so loved and defended.” The writer was referring to Dr. Michael Feige, a wise, kind and modest man, and an outstanding academic anthropologist from Ben Gurion University whom I had the privilege of knowing.
Dr. Steven Plaut treated us to this little ditty on his Facebook page:
99 napalm bombs on the wall, 99 canisters here, If on Yata the last one should fall, 98 napalm bombs on the wall. 98 napalm bombs on the wall, 98 canisters here...
(It goes on, but we get it.)
And then he added, “It is not known whether Feige managed to renounce his leftist delusions before he himself became one of the victims of them.”
It sickens me to think that anyone could ask me if I’m really satisfied now. It nauseates me to know that someone thinks that an innocent person deserved to die in a terrorist attack because of his political views or for any other reason. It appalls me to think that the incitement on our side has produced these distortions.
And yet, on this very sad day, through the blur of celebrations and funerals, hashtags and emails and Facebook postings, some things remain very clear.
The real divides in our region are not between Palestinians and Israelis, or between left-wingers and right-wingers, pragmatists and delusionists, religious and secular. The divides that matter are between those who strive to hold on to their sense of what is right and moral, no matter how abused they feel, and those who embrace hatred and vengeance; between those who mourn the loss of any innocents and those who are so busy vilifying the “other” that they’ve lost any semblance of compassion. Between those who know that “truth” is complicated and often contradictory and those who believe theirs is the only truth.
I still believe that at some point in some future, the Palestinians will have a state, because statehood isn’t a prize that we, the Jews, get to bestow on the Palestinians if we think they are good boys and girls. The Palestinians will have a state because political and collective self-determination are inalienable rights.
And they will have a state because it is the best solution for us, too. Israelis and Palestinians are two national collectives who covet each other’s space and do not want to share our communities. Therefore, we have to negotiate and find ways to divide the space without violating our respective national values. Quite clearly, that means that we must separate into politically workable, economically viable and socially feasible states.
But right now, I feel, above all, terribly sad. In the end, when the rage, the hurt, the political expediency, the misguided zealotry and the vicious incitement all subside, we, Israelis and Palestinians, will have to swallow hard, start over and continue to try to learn to live here, separately and together.
Eetta Prince-Gibson, the former editor in chief of The Jerusalem Report, is an award-winning journalist who lives in Jerusalem.