Senseless in Gaza
Rabbi Avi Shafran
Those nefarious Jews did it again. They had the gall to not destroy their 19 synagogues in Gaza, leaving them to silently stoke the passions of uncontrollable Arabs. It was a “political trap,” in the words of Mohammed Dahlan, the Palestinian civil affairs minister.
“Civil” is not a word that comes easily to mind in the wake of the torching of several of those synagogues by Palestinians – people who would not likely be sanguine were their houses of worship in Jewish areas entered with shoes, much less set aflame.
Nor did civility shine very brightly from the words of Israeli Arab Knesset member Ahmed Tibi, who explained that the Palestinians should not have burned down the Jewish holy places but simply destroyed them as “their right.”
Joining the abuse by the jubilant savages, tee-shirted and besuited alike, were the media.
Referring to the orgy of looting and mayhem that rushed like sewage from a drainage pipe into Israeli-abandoned Gaza – and ignoring the fact that the Israeli Gazan communities had been built on land where no Arabs lived – the BBC framed the scene with the words “Israelis stole 38 years from them; today, many were ready to take back anything they could.”
The New York Times, for its part, didn’t see fit to even mention the synagogue burnings in its print-edition headline, simply informing its readers that “Israel Lowers Its Flag in the Gaza Strip” and, in a sub-header, that “Palestinians Celebrate Departure With Fireworks and Gunshots,” making mention of the arson only in a strangely passive-voice, en passant reference. Deep in the story, the paper noted how looting of window frames and ceiling fixtures from a Gaza synagogue took place “as fires burned inside the empty building.” As if the flames had ignited themselves.
The primitives on the ground vandalized not only synagogues, but their own future. Ahmed Qurei, the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister futilely implored his fellow Arabs to at least leave alone the technologically sophisticated Israeli greenhouses purchased on their behalf (by American philanthropists, since the Palestinians, despite offers of capital for the purpose from the United Nations, refused to do business with Israel directly). The greenhouses were left standing to provide income for Palestinians. Taysir Haddad, a Palestinian Authority security guard assigned to one of those facilities expressed his frustration at his fellow citizens-of-a-Palestinian-state-to-be. “We’ve tried to stop as many people as we can,” he told The Times. “But they’re like locusts.”
Shortly after the withdrawal of Jewish residents from Gaza, an op-ed piece by Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab appeared in the aforementioned New York daily. In it, he wrote of the “human cost on both sides of the conflict” and strove to assert an equivalence of good will among the Israeli and Palestinian populaces.
Even then, before the Israeli army had left the area, it was a difficult thesis to assert. Over years, we have repeatedly seen that when innocent Palestinians are harmed even accidentally, the vast majority of Israelis are sincerely pained; but when Jews are set upon and murdered, large numbers of Palestinians rejoice.
We have seen, too, that when the rare Israeli extremist commits violence, Israeli leaders and Jewish groups condemn him unconditionally; but when the Palestinian extremist acts, his or her act may be perfunctorily denounced as ”counterproductive to the Palestinian cause” by some Palestinian leaders, but nothing more; and the perpetrator is lauded as a hero among the Palestinian masses.
And we have also seen (now, once again) how Palestinians and Jews treat one another’s holy places. In 1967, when Israel captured all of Jerusalem, it was discovered how Arabs had utilized inscribed Jewish gravestones as path-paving and latrine walls; Israel made no move to evict the mosques from the Temple Mount, and explicitly guaranteed their protection as Muslim holy places.
Of late, even as rampaging Arabs were gleefully burning synagogues (and scrawling graffiti on the walls of others, like “Yes for freedom! No for Jews! – Hamas”), Israeli police added extra patrols to ensure that no one attempt to treat mosques in Israel in a similar manner. The Israeli Sephardi Chief Rabbi declared that any Jew who vandalized a mosque would be ostracized from the Jewish community.
It is hard not to wonder how so much of the world can still resist the truism that there are civilized peoples in our world and uncivilized ones – and that the political calculus in the Middle East make a compelling Exhibit A for the contention.
And yet some of us still hold to the hope that, somehow, the temperate elements that are claimed to exist in Palestinian society will emerge to control the others. Certainly, serene self-interest would lead in that direction. Alas, hatred and nihilism seem the dominant Palestinian products at present.
Imagine, though, what would have happened had the Palestinian populace decided neither to burn nor otherwise destroy synagogues. Had they demonstrated good will by respecting the sanctity of the buildings, and by preserving them for Jews to visit and pray in on better days in the future. Imagine how encouraged Israelis would have been by the thought that they might actually have a peace-partner in the Palestinians.
Alluding to the Jewish tradition that the ancient Holy Temple service in Jerusalem served to channel G-d’s blessings to all of humanity, the rabbis of the Talmud contended that had those who destroyed the Temple understood what it was, “they would have mounted fortifications” to protect it instead.
Had the barbarians of contemporary Gaza understood what the synagogues they torched could have been, they would have fortified them as well.
To their eternal shame, they chose otherwise.
Published by Am Echad Resources