Beyond all the Arab declarations of animus for Israel, beyond Hamas’ firing of rockets from hospitals and schools, beyond its cynical propagandizing of the resultant civilian casualties when those batteries are destroyed by Israeli jets, beyond the Gazan crowds celebrating the extension of Hamas missiles’ ranges to within reach of Israeli population centers, one image may best capture the jihadi mindset: the dragging of a man’s corpse through the streets of Gaza City.
The executed man was an Arab, like the rider to whose motorcycle his body was tied, like the cheering men atop the other bikes in the macabre motorcade. He, along with several others who were likewise summarily murdered, had been accused of “collaborating” with Israel – i.e. with sending information to the Israelis that helped them identify missile sites or the whereabouts of jihadi military leaders.
The gleeful bikers, in the end, are but an unvarnished representation of a society that seems to suck in hatred and violence with its every breath. They reflect the essence of Hamas, the movement that Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi lauds when he speaks to his people, of the West Bank residents who cheered on the rockets launched from Gaza, of the ostensibly civilized Arab countries whose representatives rushed to Gaza to show their own solidarity with the lusters for the blood of innocents.
At the same time, though the recent conflict also featured heartening happenings, if too few of them. President Obama’s unequivocal endorsement of Israel’s right to defend herself, for example, and his placing of responsibility for the current conflict squarely where it belongs, in the lap of Hamas and other jihadis. It’s not unheard of for an American president to suffice in such circumstances with a mere obligatory call for an end to the violence on both sides. Instead, the president spoke clearly about how “no country on earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens,” and how “a genuine peace process” must start “with no more missiles being fired into Israel’s territory.”
And then there were the successes of the Iron Dome missile interception program (for which Mr. Obama also deserves our hakaras hatov, as it was expanded by a special allocation he requested and Congress approved in 2010); it likely saved many Jewish lives.
Another, less readily apparent bit of light, though, might glimmer in the ugly spectacle of the motorcycle savages in Gaza City.
It’s certainly entirely possible, perhaps even probable given Gazan society’s cultural proclivity for barbarity, that the unfortunate man whose corpse was so desecrated (in such telling contrast to the treatment of Osama Bin Laden’s remains, which were given an Islam-sanctioned burial-at-sea send-off by American troops) was no Israeli spy at all. He may have been someone on the wrong side of a business deal, or of a marriage agreement, or of a rental dispute. Accusations of helping the Zionist Entity have long been a convenient way in places like Gaza and the West Bank to dispose of inconvenient lives with impunity.
What, though, if the deceased and the others recently executed were in fact helping Israel? It’s not inconceivable. Just as there are operatives in enemy territory during every conflict, there are likely Palestinians who are in Israeli intelligence’s employ. And what if their motivation were not monetary but… a recognition of the depravity of their society, their observation that its hatred gauge is perpetually in the red zone? Could it be that there are thoughtful Arabs in Arab countries, people who aspire to righteousness – not the jihadi-corrupted version but the real deal – who are willing to help Israel target evil people, even at the risk of their own lives?
I don’t know. But even the possibility is a heartening thought. Our tradition teaches us that there are chasidei umos ha’olam, “unusually good people among the nations of the world.”
I’d like to hope that there are members of that special human subspecies among the Arab masses. And if in fact there are, may Hashem bless and protect them.
© 2012 Rabbi Avi Shafran
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