Monday, July 7, 2014

The moral force of four grieving families

The horrific murder of a Palestinian teenager in Israel last week has shaken those of us who care about peace to the core. Not only was the crime itself utterly barbaric, inhuman and a violation of all the principles that democratic nations such as Israel hold dear, it was also a clear attempt to subvert any current attempts at peace. Just as I wrote when the three israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered by terrorists, this death is not only a profound tragedy for the family and friends of this young man, but a terrible blow to any prospects of coexistence in the near future.  As Prime Minister Netanyahu has said, whomever is found to be responsible for this heinous crime not only needs to be caught and prosecuted, but they have no place in Israeli society.

As others have pointed out, when the Israeli teenagers were kidnapped (and murdered) no such statements were made by Palestinian leaders. In fact, the Palestinian general public celebrated the abduction of the three Israeli teens. Now there are 4 dead teenagers, murdered simply, it would seem, not because of anything they did, but because of who they were. Because they happened to be Jewish or Arab, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This is not the first time, and sadly, it is unlikely to be the last. As I write this, rockets continue to rain down on Israel, threatening the lives of Israeli civilians, and rioting has caused damage and injury in eastern Jerusalem and in Israel's north. Whether or not one agrees with everything that Israel does to protect itself, it an indisputable fact that Israeli leaders have moved swiftly and forcefully to find and capture the killers of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, and to denounce whomever is responsible. This stands in stark contrast to Palestinian leaders who seem unable or unwilling (or both) when it comes to exercising moral leadership or significant influence in calming tensions.

I am under no illusion that Hamas will do anything even remotely helpful in this situation, but the Palestinian Authority would do well to look the example set by the bereaved families and their supporters, both Israeli and Palestinian. Despite the intense pain of their loss, they have called for calm instead of bloodshed, they have reached out to offer their condolences and words of comfort, across the great divide that separates so many Israelis and Palestinians.  If Israeli leaders can do it, if regular Israeli citizens and Palestinians can do it, then I think the time has come for the world to turn to the PA and ask why it cannot do the same.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2014.

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