These are trying times for people who define themselves politically left of centre.
Israel’s Zionist left is suffering from a dearth of charismatic, forceful and compelling leaders and sadly there are no worthy pretenders to the throne coming up the ranks or waiting in the wings to be parachuted in.
Reality doesn’t make things easier for those who believe peace with our Palestinian neighbours is not only worth striving for but also realistically attainable.
Some recent examples:
On June 23 Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appeared before the European Parliament in Brussels. In a speech reminiscent of medieval anti-Semitic slander, he accused rabbis in Israel of calling on our government to poison the water used by Palestinians. His assertion was unsubstantiated. He got a standing ovation at the end of the speech.
In an interview four days later with a Palestinian news site, Sultan Abu al-Einein, Abbas’ adviser on civil society organizations and a Fatah Central Committee member, was asked about normalizing relations with Israel. He replied that he was “against talks, negotiations, meetings, and normalization in all its forms with the Israeli occupation”, adding that “wherever you find an Israeli, slit his throat.”
And around 9 a.m. on June 30, 17-year-old Muhammad Tarayrah, from the Hebron area township of Bani Naim, climbed over the fence surrounding Kiryat Arba, entered a secluded house in the Givat Charsina enclave of that West Bank settlement, a house bounded by fields of grape vines, found a young girl sleeping in her bed and stabbed her viciously.
Kiryat Arba’s rapid response team rushed to the scene. A short battle ensued in which a member of that team was severely injured. Tarayrah was shot and killed.
Hallel Yaffa Ariel, 13, had completed Grade 8 just days earlier and was getting a bit of extra summer holiday sleep before joining her dad in the fields. She was pronounced dead soon after arriving at a Jerusalem hospital.
Hours later, Tarayrah’s mother told Palestinian social media her son was a hero “who died as a martyr defending Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque,” adding her pride in him and that “God willing” all the youth of Palestine would “follow this path.”
Abbas did not condemn Hallel Yaffa Ariel’s brutal murder.
Fatah (no-not Hamas or Islamic Jihad) posted on its Facebook page that the “Martyr Muhammad Tarayrah, carried out today’s operation in which one female settler was killed, and a male settler was injured.”
I know we Israelis have been occupying the West Bank for decades now – next year it will be 50 years – and I know Palestinians have been bearing the brunt of that occupation daily and continue to do so. That they want a state of their own. Political rights.
I support some Palestinian demands. I think governing millions of Palestinians undemocratically is not healthy for our own society. I believe we’ll have to make painful territorial concessions if we really want peace, concessions which could tear at the fibre of our own society, but must be made.
And, like most Israelis, I oppose any form of Israeli terrorism against Arabs, any type of unwarranted violence. I believe in the Rule of Law and am satisfied when any such acts are unequivocally denounced by politicians and others of almost all political hues.
Hatred and incitement from within the Palestinian mainstream and beyond is unacceptable. Support and understanding for shameless acts of terror against Israelis is a blemish on their leadership. Upon their society.
And it’s counterproductive. Driving well-meaning Israelis from the left to the centre and right. Fewer believe peace is achievable and extremism grows among both Palestinians and Israelis.
Entering that 50th year, I pray for courageous new leaders of conciliation and charisma, on both sides, leaders capable of breaking the vicious cycle of violence and hatred. I’m not certain any are among us.