Stop the Downward Spiral of Hate in Israel

07/10/2014 12:32 EDT | Updated 09/09/2014 05:59 EDT

When Golda Meir greeted Anwar Sadat on the latter's historic trip to Jerusalem, she is reported as having said: "We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours." This quote, or a variation of it, is often repeated by Jews with great pride. The same sentiment is still in existence today. That a group of Jewish youths could have killed an innocent teenager of any persuasion is an anathema to the vast majority of the community. The question must still be asked: what could have possibly led to this?

The answer of course lies in the tragic murders of Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped on their way home from school three weeks ago. What happened to these three boys, of course, cannot and does not justify what these vigilantes did to Mohammed Abu Khdeir, but these kidnappings somehow changed the atmosphere in the land to the extent that this type of vigilantism could unfortunately ferment. While Israel is not new to terrorism, and while tragedy, sadly, has filled its history, what happened to Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, distinctly, caused the nation to be overwhelmed with grief. Despite being a country embroiled in violence since its inception, this kidnapping, culminating in the death of these three boys, shook the nation to its very core. It was this reality that led, albeit corruptly and wrongly, to this equally atrocious further travesty. Yet, we must still question: why did the kidnappings so specifically touch the nation's soul?

There may be many reasons for why the nation especially grieved for Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, however, I would like to offer one perspective. With their deaths, the nation may have felt that it was encountering an even greater malevolence than in the past. The original promotion of terrorism was built on a philosophy that the ends justify the means. What happened to Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, however, seems to have nothing to do with the ends justifying the means.

Terrorism grew out of an argument that there were situations in the world whose eradication may demand, and therefore give legitimacy to acts that otherwise, if viewed solely within a vacuum, would be clearly abhorrent. The theory of terrorism just declared such acts to be 'necessary evils'. The theory still recognized that these acts were individually wrong. The desired results were deemed, however, to override this wrong. The ends justifies the means.

Two general arguments thus exist against any act of terrorism. One is substantive, an argument that the situation which the terrorist defines as necessitating eradication is, in fact, not the case. The terrorist's perception and determination of the facts, in themselves, are challenged. Accordingly, there is no argument for terrorism as there is no need for terrorism. There is no need for an argument of the end justifying the means for the end, in itself, is not a true necessity.

The second argument against terrorism, though, concerns the theory rather than the facts. Accordingly to this argument, even given the propriety of the desired end, we must still ask if it could actually justify such means. The terrorist, of course, says yes; the opponent of terrorism powerfully maintains no. Within this perspective, both sides still recognize that that the act itself, and by itself, is morally problematic. The terrorist simply maintains that, nonetheless, because of the need of the result, the act must be undertaken. The opponent argues no, for such an act would still not be justified. The act still is wrong. The terrorist himself/herself could also even be seen as a victim of the terror, deemed suffering in feeling the need to promote and perform such a morally reprehensible act.

In the case of the kidnapping of the three boys, though, the motivation no longer seemed to be one of ends justifying the means. There was no tinge of such a question or the balancing of conflicting paradigms. The act of violence seemed to be seen by the perpetrators and their supporters as good in and of itself, not one problematic in itself. It was celebrated, deemed joyful regardless of result. The desire seemed to be the act itself, not some other desired political purpose, such as the release of Palestinian prisoners. This morally repugnant act was not justified by a projected purpose; that no group took credit for it further indicated its lack of political purpose. This reflects a greater maliciousness than we've seen in this conflict before.

With the murders of these three young Israelis, there was no reason, within the original deemed purpose of terrorism, for this action. It, right from its inception, could accomplish no end. The theory that the boys were kidnapped in order to be used in bargaining was immediately dispelled. The political situation would make any such undertaking counterproductive. It would seem that the kidnappers simply wanted to, and felt that it was good to, kidnap and kill. There was no purpose. There was just the desire to harm.

Is it no wonder why the kidnapping had thus so touched the nation? Three teenagers on their way home from school were harmed by individuals who simply wished to harm three teenagers on their way home from school. There was no objective, no reason, no desired end. There was simply this act of extreme violence, undertaken by individuals who simply wanted to harm for the sake of harming. Such feelings, regrettably, also further spawned similar feelings. Israel, in its response to the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, including reaching out to his family, undertook to ensure that such feelings are quelled immediately. A downward spiral of hate must be stopped. That must be a necessary undertaking of all in the area.


Thwarted Terrorist Attacks