Are you a terrorist if you shoot at villagers, smash cars or burn the houses of innocents? The answer depends on whether you’re a Jewish Israeli or an Arab.
“Simcha Rothman, of the Religious Zionism Party (RZP) defended the law-breaking attacks on Palestinians by equating them to the anti-judicial reform protests in Israel.”
Likewise, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, head of the RZP, after IDF heads and Israeli Security Agency, (Shabak, known as Shin Bet) “condemned the outbursts as ‘national terror,’ insisted that the term ‘terror’ cannot be applied to the behavior of Jewish settlers.”
Also jumping on that bandwagon was Minister of Settlements and National Missions Orit Struck, of the same party, who, “attacked Shabak for acting like the (despised, mercenary) Wagner group in that only were they wrong to condemn the violence – in so doing they were acting against the government.”
When you add up all of these troubling comments, they attest to a double standard with regard to who is considered a lawbreaker and who isn’t. But how is it possible for one group, who perpetrates acts of violence, to be guilty while the other isn’t? And what if some of the recipients of those violent acts were Palestinians who have never harmed anyone? Wouldn’t it be ironic if they were actually supporters of the Jewish State, who are aware of the corruption and evil in which their leaders are involved? How would they, then, feel after having had their property vandalized or seeing other innocents in their community shot or harmed? Would it not change their minds about our own leadership being unwilling to condemn indiscriminate and gratuitous violence as they should?
What message are we sending to our bordering neighbors with whom we say we want peace? As Yitz Greenberg wrote in his article entitled, “A distorted version of Judaism leads the assault on democracy,” "modern Orthodoxy taught that being religious meant being committed to a higher standard of morality. This did not mean special exemptions but greater responsibility for fellow human beings.”
And how true that is! There is simply no justification for enacting terror upon people who have done nothing other than being associated with a particular group that, regrettably, has some bad actors amongst them.
But isn’t that true of just about every group on the face of the planet? Who among us is part of a flawless ethnicity?
What’s worse is that this double standard is coming from the top – the very government which is cloaked in religious observance and ethics. So how can these three individuals, Rothman, Smotrich and Struck justify the abominable actions of extremist Jews who take the law into their own hands by revenge attacks on those who did nothing? And where is the outrage of religious leaders?
It is this kind of distorted and perverted view of Jewish justice that must be challenged by every right-thinking person who believes that each individual should be judged according to their merits and actions rather than being lumped together in one group and labeling the whole lot as evil.
It is exactly this very kind of mentality and radical ideology that is turning off many in Israel and outside as well. We, of all people, must be willing to put forward the best version of the Jewish people – those who take the Scriptures seriously when commanded: “To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before our God. (Micah 6:8)
The irony is that those, among us, who are doing just the opposite are the same individuals who are holding themselves out to be the most righteous and zealous upholders of God’s laws, but how can they be?
For the political leaders, who govern our country and want our support, as loyal citizens, how can they hope to ever win us over with this kind of convoluted justification that extremist Jewish settlers are innocent just because they are ethnically in the right camp?
This is not to say that our country doesn’t have a serious problem, as enemies all around us, both those from within and those from outside, are constantly planning and plotting to harm us. We know this to be true, but that cannot justify revenge attacks by our own Jewish citizens who want to harm the good with the bad. This is where government and law enforcement come in. It is their job, and theirs only, to retaliate when that is called for, and not the role of private individuals.
More than that, it is the absolute obligation of our legislators, officials and politicians to judge rightly as to anyone who is the offender of terror attacks, irrespective of their ethnicity. Failure to call them out is a failure to justly determine good from evil, and, again, given that our leaders are overwhelmingly from a religious background, that should not be a difficult task, since they claim to have divine instruction.
However, until we see evidence of such divine instruction, we must call out the double standard that so blatantly exists amongst these leaders who seem incapable of ruling fairly when it comes to our own.
If we ever hope to be a light to others, which has always been our intended destiny, we must be able to be above reproach in matters of rendering justice. If not, we will be seen as no better than those who hate us for no cause and are tirelessly working towards our demise.
Collectively, we would do well as a nation, and a people, to heed the words of the great prophet, Jeremiah who said, “Thus says the Lord, do justice and righteousness and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also, do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” (Jeremiah 22:3)
Let’s hope that our leaders, especially those who claim to be people of faith, take these words to heart so that they can then speak truth to the rest of us and have the ability and conscience to properly render justice!
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.