Douglas AltabefThe writer is a member of the Board of Directors of Im Tirzu and the Israel Independence Fund.
Suddenly, there is a new threat to world peace and stability. There has arisen a diabolical force, so sly, so threatening, so innately evil as to challenge the very foundations of Western Civilization.
Spraying a wall with paint is not in the same league as spraying a car with bullets. Slashing a tire does not quite equate to slashing a throat.
This despicable, unspeakable force moves with the cunning of a cat, strikes with the force of the Mongol Hordes and, when the rest of the world is naively asleep, stealthily arrives to…
Spray Paint the Side of a Building!…or even worse, unbelievably worse, to…
Have we perhaps lost some perspective here, or is the hysteria about Price Tag attacks meant very much to be a straw dog for a larger issue, against a more serious enemy.
First things first. I am not excusing Price Tag attacks. They are the criminal acts of hooligans.
But let’s also apply some perspective. Spraying a wall with paint is not in the same league as spraying a car with bullets. Slashing a tire does not quite equate to slashing a throat.
But judging by the reactions of many on the Left there is no difference. Worse yet, those who find justification for the actions of Palestinian Arabs feel no compunction in labeling these perpetrators “terrorists” or even, to quote Amos Oz, “ a monster that needs to be called what it is: Hebrew neo-Nazi groups.”
Wow. Isn’t that just a wee bit extreme?
And it is that lack of perspective that is so telling, telling us more about the labeler than the labeled.
Why is there such a double standard for the actions of supposedly Jewish actors creating disgusting mischief – but mischief mind you – and the murderous, or at the least violent-to-the-person, acts of identified Arabs?
Why are some so quick to whip out their college sociology textbooks, citing the frustrations of living under “the Occupation” while never giving a thought to the extenuating circumstance of having your community ripped down or your neighbors assaulted and killed?
This isn’t even moral equivalence, one of the great foolish indulgences of the politically correct crowd. That’s because there is no equivalence. To them the Arab marauders are oppressed and frustrated youth, or even "freedom fighters", and the allegedly Jewish hooligans are “neo-Nazis.”
What’s even more fascinating is that the Jewish perpetrators have been tried and convicted before they have even been identified. We don’t know or care whom they are, or why they did what they did. They are the utterly deplorable, the lowest of the low – monsters, as Oz would have it.
(By the way, if you were an astute Palestinian Arab trying to stick a finger in the Israeli eye, wouldn’t you be tempted to spray paint “tag mahir” on the side of a building? It gets a Pavlovian reaction in the Israeli media every time.)
So what is really going on here? I think there are at least a few aspects to this, all related and each depressing in its own right.
For one thing, the price tag perpetrators (PTPs) have become the symbol by which the Left can hate the “Settler” movement (to use the coded term that carries the negative connotation of occupiers), and also all "Settlers". They are not human, literally, nor from the rabid language used to describe them, metaphorically.
The Useful Idiot of the Year, Tzipi Livni, has managed to turn PTPs into a great security threat, and it is perhaps but a matter of time before Martin Indyk and John Kerry will lay the failure of recent talks on the doorstep of the PTPs.
For another, the extreme reaction to the PTPs clearly exposes the larger world view of the accusers. Ms. Livni, for example, has never uttered condemnations of the murderous actions of Arabs, yet she sees war crime material in the actions of the PTPs.
What the PTPs seem to have achieved is a flushing out of those who have now been able to channel their previously coded animosity towards the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria into full throated, dare I say, over-the-top condemnation of the PTPs. This extreme reaction seems like a release for all that restraint about the whole "settlement" enterprise.
There is a not so subtle equation of what the PTPs have done and what the Movement to Return to Judea and Samaria is all about. This use of a few bad apples to depict the whole bushel basket is of course reminiscent of classic anti-Semitism, wherein Jews were only as good as their most reprehensible fellow.
Lastly, the unvarnished depiction of the PTPs is yet another in the recent annals of what I would call nostalgia-driven hatred. Best exemplified by Ari Shavit’s “My Promised Land,” this hatred is borne out of displacement resentment and is directed at the newer, messier Israel that is no longer run by Israeli WASPs (White Ashkenazi Secular Poalim [meaning Socialists]), and which no longer conjures up the idyllic remembrance of pre-1967 Israel.
Whatever is ultimately going on, it is not good. While the PTPs are certainly not to be cheered nor excused, the over-the-top depiction of what they have done is in and of itself a huge problem.
While there can be reasonable debate as to how to best handle the ultimate configuration of the State, we ought to remember that there are about 500,000 Jews over the Green Line, which makes them about 8% of Israel’s Jewish population. They are a very strong component of the IDF and they have a great attachment and love for the Land, People and State of Israel.
These people are in so many ways the spiritual, ideological and Zionist backbone of Israel.
These are people that we need, that we rely upon more than we know. Most of them share a disapproval and rejection of PTPs, even as they may understand the underlying frustration that has given PTPs an unwanted outlet.
To self-righteously condemn the "Settlers" because of the actions of the PTPs would be a major self-inflicted wound. It is playing into the hands, the very many hands, of those who truly hate Israel, and would be happy to use any means to weaken it.
So many of Israel’s detractors are probably thrilled to have this straw dog to pummel. They are excited to be revving up their righteous indignation, conjuring up in the PTPs all of the civil dissension of the ‘90’s that culminated with the Rabin assassination.
Fortunately, we have moved far from that terrible place. The PTPs serve no purpose for those who love Israel and cherish Zionism. The adults in the room can certainly condemn the deeds of the PTPs without reaching overarching and misplaced conclusions.
Dealing with PTPs is a chance to show political maturity and a quiet existential confidence.
Let’s hope we are up to the task.