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December 6, 2008: A Necessary Response

December 6, 2008

Motzei Shabbat (After Shabbat)

It has been a difficult Shabbat because my mind has been so much on the happenings in Hevron. The bias of the media is most distressing and factual errors abound. Consistently the impression is left that Barak had no choice but to evacuate Beit HaShalom, when in actuality the option was his.

The fact that he opted for the forceful way when another choice was available to him speaks volumes about his intentions and his style.

Says Noam Arnon, who is the Chair of the Jewish Community of Hevron, says:

“We tried our best to convince the government to solve this in a peaceful way, but the government chose to act brutally, we think, in order to turn people against us in Hevron.”


Barak is cashing in on that “style” now — representing himself with a broad grin as the “tough” defender of the State.

A mere day after the Beit HaShalom evacuation, his campaign (for the general elections in Feb.) released four posters. Each has the same photo of him. Each has a different phrase describing him: “Not a pal” “Not sympathetic” “Not nice” “Not trendy”


The media has also been talking about “violent settlers,” painting all with the same brush, because of a handful of kids who acted inappropriately. I hope to learn more about exactly how many acted this way, and what they actually did, in due course — it is not clear that all reports of fires set, etc. are accurate although some clearly are. There were, for example, reports of two Jews who shot an Arab, but they have turned themselves in and what I’m hearing is that they say they were attacked and acted in self-defense.


Noam Arnon has made the policy of the Jewish Community of Hevron crystal clear: They are against any violence, any action against soldiers or innocent Arabs.

Noam also provided additional information that is of interest: There were two different groups of youngsters at Beit HaShalom. One group consisted of Yeshiva students from Judea and Samaria who had been invited — with their teachers — by the Hevron community. They remained in the house, studying and praying, as they would have done in their yeshivas.

The other group consisted of youngsters from all over the country — not yeshiva students. They came to lend support, on their own, not accompanied by teachers. Ultimately, whatever their motivation, some number of them acted foolishly and rashly.


Noam says that the community holds the government responsible for what happened because these kids were exposed to an anti-Jewish policy.

In saying this he gave voice to part of what has been going round in my head all this day. I do not condone violence, either. And I do not excuse those who were violent. But I can put the behavior of these kids into a context:

The reaction of the Israeli government, after statements by the PA, seemed more supportive of the PA than of the Jewish community — there was no defense of Jewish rights, but rather a declaration of commitment to protect Palestinians.

Following this, Barak refused to negotiate with the community in good faith to prevent the evacuation. And then, when the evacuation took place, with excessive force, Arabs gloated — on the roofs of nearby buildings they danced, and even came closer calling out their expressions of delight.

What was the feeling on the part of these youngsters? Fury. A sense of betrayal and abandonment by the government. And a sense of being on the losing side vis-a-vis the Arabs. A sense of being squeezed into a corner.


What I have been thinking about is the sin — I know no other word for it — of turning Jew against Jew when it is not necessary to do so.

In particular I want to mention use of the army for evacuations of citizens. In this country it is legal to use the IDF this way — although there are those campaigning for a change in the law. Most — if not all — other democracies forbid soldiers to act against citizens of the country: Soldiers are only to protect citizens against enemies. There are dangers implicit in using them as they were used last week:

It demoralizes the soldiers and puts them in an emotional/ethical bind. We need a strong army and that requires them to have strong morale.

And it diminishes respect for our armed forces.


Lastly, we cannot forget that we are greatly beleaguered in this world — attacked from all sides. This is hardly the time to foment tensions between various segments of the population. We require a cohesiveness and inner strength.

Barak’s “toughness” weakened our nation in several respects. He acted in a manner both self-serving and short-sighted.


Nadav Shragai, writing in Haaretz, put it thus:

“…our nation’s government is developing its own fanaticism whereby the ends – the banishment of Jews from Hebron – justify nearly all the means, to the point where that government and its mouthpieces become mute, deaf and blind. Even in the face of the facts and from a moral standpoint.”




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