Op-Ed: What the Murders Tell Us Now
There will be no sweets passed out for the Israelis accused of brutally murdering sixteen-year-old Mohammad Hussein Abu Khedir in retaliation for the murder of three Israeli high school students - if that is proven to be true. No one will be kidnapped to obtain their release. No street, school, or public square will be named for them. They will not be lionized as role models. They will not be invited to schools to speak about how murder embodies and glorifies the aspirations of national identity.
For Israelis, if proven guilty,they are a blot on the collective conscience; they are more than an embarrassment; they are human stains.
In contrast to the Palestinians initially denying the kidnapping of the Jewish high school students, Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - before indictments and the findings of a trial - wasted no time to parse who killed Abu Khdeir or why. He hastened to call the murder “despicable” and vowed to find the killers, even before anything more was known than an Arab teenager had been murdered. Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat called it a “horrible and barbaric act.” Israelis organized a rally against hate in Jerusalem and thousands showed.
Now that it is alleged that Israelis are responsible for the murder, the Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America condemned the murder, calling it a blight on the face of God. The International Rabbinic Fellowship called it an abomination. Israel’s chief Ashkenazic rabbi, Rabbi David Lau, condemned the killing as not being the way of the Torah.
Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, a leading rabbi of the settler movement in Judea and Samaria, called for the imposition of the death penalty on Abu Khder’s killers, saying it made no difference that the victim is an Arab and the murderers are Jews.
When in the contemporary relations between Arabs and Jews has a Muslim religious figure ever called for sentencing Muslims to death for killing Jews?
Yishai Frenkel, the uncle of the murdered Israeli teen said about the murder of Abu Khder, “There is no difference between blood and blood.” Frenkel went on to add, “A murderer is a murderer, no matter his nationality and age. There is no justification, no forgiveness, and no atonement for any murder.”
In contrast Suha Abu Khdeir, the mother of Abu Khdeir, openly called for vengeance, even as Palestinian youths were running through the streets of east Jerusalem and throwing stones at police, burning vehicles, and destroying Jerusalem’s light rail system.
The moderate Fatah organization told Israelis to prepare body bags. On Monday, July 07, Hamas launched some seventy rockets from Gaza forcing not only Israeli retaliation from the air but the prospect of a full-scale war.
Before Samuel Huntington wrote about the clash of civilizations, my colleague, the late Ada Bozeman, wrote about the inherent nature of culture in state craft. Politics is a manifestation of culture, and culture defines, for Bozeman, how we treat the “other,” the person who is different, the person who is a member of a minority outside the cultural consensus.
From Malmo to Paris to the 'West Bank', there have been no shortages of incidents defining how Islamic culture treats the other, when they are Jews. When the three Israeli teens were kidnapped there was much celebration in the territories and Gaza. The mother (name not given) of Abu Aysha, one of the alleged kidnappers, said, "If they [Israel] accuse him of this (the kidnapping), and if it is a true accusation, I will be proud of him until Judgment Day.”
I cannot imagine one of the parents of the alleged Israeli murderers making that statement or anything like it.
There in essence is the cultural divide about which scholars like Huntington and Bozeman wrote. There is the reason that, after sixty years, peace remains as unattainable as ever.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati and a former counterterrorism consultant to the Department of Justice.