This week, the latest round of attacks of Arabs against Jews and Jews against Arabs promise to make the year 2015 one of the most violent. It’s nothing new. Attacks and counter-attacks date back more than 100 years, decades before Israel was established. What is new are the actors. It is no longer army against army, or militias against insurgents, or tribesmen against organized kibbutz settlers. This time individuals, vigilantes, and loners take center stage. Just in the last 48 hours, ten Arabs, acting independently of one another, lashed out at Israeli-Jews all over the country. These young Arab men (and two Arab women) were armed with knives, screwdrivers, any sharp implement they could get their hands on. Weeks before, Jewish extremists also lashed against Arabs villages, burning houses with the occupants inside.
Who are these madmen?
On the Jewish side, it’s mostly right-wing settler-extremists who want to drive away Arabs from the West Bank. They’re driven by faith to settle Judea and Samaria at all costs. Through their elected members of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), they wield great influence to build more settlements. When their demands are not met, they take the law into their own hands and raid Arab villages and mosques in the dead of night. After numerous attacks, few if any were apprehended. Those caught by Israel’s security forces and police choose to remain silent under investigation. With no “evidence” to try them, they are soon released. It’s this kid glove attitude; it’s this turning a blind eye to the violence that invites counter-violence from the Arabs.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not justifying the recent Arabs’ violence. Throwing rocks is wrong. Hurling burning molotov cocktails at innocent Jewish drivers is wrong. Running over Jews with automobiles is insane. Stabbing Jews in the street is cowardly. Arab social media instructional video on how to stab and kill Jews is demented and sick. But why are they killing? Arab frustration is at an all-time high. Despair is higher. Fear of Jews infringing on their sacred Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem turns sleeper-cell Arabs, college students, and seemingly normal men and women into murderers. Something goes berserk in their heads, and they start looking for the first Jew to kill. I attribute much of this insanity and violence to conspiracy theory. Here’s my theory: The more educated and democratic a country, the less the likelihood its people will subscribe to conspiracy theory. Let me illustrate. Some people in America still think Americans never landed on the moon, that JFK was killed by the mob, or by space aliens, or that the tragedy of 9/11 was an inside job. They’re the minority. Most Americans know better. However, in Arab countries ruled by strongmen with an iron fist, conspiracy theory is alive and kicking. It’s their narrative; it’s how they explain the world. It’s how the uneducated and no access to power by peaceful means deal with events beyond their control. Were it not the Arabs who invented the fables of One Thousand and One Nights? They love a good story to explain life’s mysteries. Let me invent a story to help explain: There’s a dinner party in Washington DC. A senator is rushed to the hospital where he’s pronounced dead. The next day, the newspapers reveal he’d suffered a heart attack. End of story. Take this same event, only this time put it in Cairo. An Egyptian delegate dies after eating a rack of lamb at the president’s banquet. The word on the Arab street the next morning: “Delegate was poisoned because he was critical of the president’s policies.”
Why am I telling you a story of conspiracy? Recently Naftali Bennett, Israel’s current Minister of Education, chose to speak less of math and grammar and more of God-given rights to Jews. As a right-wing extremist he said Jews have the right to visit Jerusalem’s entire Temple Mount, including the compound assigned to the Muslims at the doorstep to the Al Aqsa Mosque. This is a definite red line. It was crossed before in 2000 by then prime minister Ariel Sharon. Hell broke loose. The trampling over this holy Arab site triggered an Arab Intifada (uprising) that took the lives of many. Today, one slip of the tongue, one misspoken word (Bennett’s), one incitement or challenge to their faith or Mosque ignites the Arabs’ imagination that we’re out to get them. They soon run into the streets with knives between their teeth. Conspiracy theory at work.
Who’s the winner? No one. Who’s the loser? Everyone. Israel is isolated diplomatically. To those who say it doesn’t matter, only security matters, think again. We need friends. We can’t cut off everyone. Tourism is down. Hotels in Jerusalem are near empty. Jerusalem’s mayor urges his residents to carry pistols. Schools in the city are closed until security guards can vouch for the children’s safety. Arabs too are losing big time. Jews who wanted to give peace talks a chance are now disillusioned. Images of Arabs stabbing innocent bystanders will not convince even the doves in the crowd that Arabs want coexistence Jews are boycotting Arab businesses. Daily 50,000 Arab documented laborers and 50,000 undocumented workers come to work in Israel from the West Bank. If violence were to continue, they will be blocked from entering. Assuming these 100,000 workers provide for a family of six, then 600,000 will go wanting. This will lead to more despair, more violence.
What’s the solution? There isn’t any. But for now, cool heads must prevail. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should stop with his “rally around me because everyone’s out to kill us” rhetoric. Enough of scaring us. Not all Arabs are killers. Netanyahu is not acting; he’s only reacting, turning his nightly appearance on our TV into a war room. He’s weak; he lets right-wing extremists run the show so long as he stays in power. For what purpose? But he’s done two things right this week: 1. He put a freeze on expanding the Jewish settlements in the West Bank (reacting, not acting). 2. He prohibited all members of Knesset – Jews and Arabs — from entering the Al Aqsa area (reacting, not acting). Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, is still coordinating his security forces with those of Israel to stem out the violence. It’s not because he loves Israel; it’s his fear that if the PA falls, Hamas and others will come after his neck. Abbas may walk softy, he may carry a long stick, but he knows there’s no military solution to his aspiration for a Palestinian statehood. Knives will not help. Our futures are locked for generations. And that’s no conspiracy theory.
Jerusalem today: below is a video showing the aftermath of two Israeli policemen hit by friendly fire (Israel’s security forces) after trying to apprehend an Arab terrorist/stabber. He was later shot dead.
Maurice Labi is an Israeli-American who lived in Los Angeles for many years. In 2011 He returned to Northern Israel (Galilee) with his wife and twin teenage daughters. He is of two lands, of two cultures and he blogs about his experiences in Israel, particularly from Galilee where Jews and Arabs dwelled for centuries.
He has also written three novels: “Jupiter’s Stone,” “Into the Night,” and “American Moth” — available at Amazon.com
or at BN.com