Settler rioters as sweet boys? Not! – opinion

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The Jerusalem Post  06.07.2023


Settler rioters as sweet boys? Not! – opinion


On Monday morning, after a sleep-deprived night spent following reports of the long-in-the-making, most necessary actions our soldier-heroes took draining Jenin’s terror swamps, I woke up confused. The headlines made Israel sound like some sci-fi dystopia, where only our late teenagers and twentysomethings act maturely, as too many adults act like idiots.


At this moment, with our kids risking their lives to save us, the coalition should suspend its judicial reform crusade, and the protesters should stop protesting.


Instead, to my Left, protesters blocked Ben-Gurion Airport, as our children neutralized terrorist headquarters, seized arsenals and destroyed bomb-making labs. They’re not “mowing the lawn” – they’re cutting out cancers.


Anyone landing in Israel today deserves hugs, not hassles.

Harassing tourists still willing to visit, let alone seniors arriving for family occasions, middle-aged hi-tech peers, twentysomething backpackers, and overtired children after an overseas flight, is as politically sophisticated as toddlers’ temper tantrums. Martin Luther King Jr. knew better than to target Bull Connor’s home or Washington’s National Airport. A protest that loses its moral compass and lashes out wildly becomes a mob.


To my Right, the behavior is more appalling. Our soldiers must concentrate on fighting terrorists, not dodging rocks from spoiled settler-brats, subduing rioting vigilantes, or teaching government ministers how to behave. Yet last Wednesday, we read another ugly Jerusalem Post headline, “Ben-Gvir: Settlers who torched Palestinian villages are ‘sweet boys.’”


The best Hebrew word for the proper way to describe such behavior is “meza’azea.” Beyond its onomatopoeic payoff, meza’azea implies being shaken by disgust.


It is meza’azea, horrifying, watching Israel’s national security minister undermine security by applauding thuggery against innocent Palestinians – and some are innocent. Consider one targeted village, Turmus Aiya. Eighty percent of its residents are also American. Many visit their vacation homes there every summer, to reinforce their children’s identity, tradition and sense of community – sound familiar? 


It is meza’azea, sickening, that a supposed nationalist excuses his “sweet boys” who often spit at and stone my genuinely sweet soldier boy and our sweet soldier boys and girls.


I love this country deeply. But I cannot imagine how I would feel if any soldiers I know came home with an injury inflicted by fellow Jews younger than they are, unfit to serve, whose savagery my government’s ministers encourage!


This hateful rhetoric undermines Israel’s security. The more these bigoted maniacs lash out, the less diplomatic leeway and moral leverage Israel has to fight our true enemies – Palestinian terrorists and Iranian mullahs. 


Before partisans who forever excuse this government say Ben-Gvir was just being Ben-Gvir , consider his cabinet colleague, National Missions Minister Orit Struck. When IDF generals joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in condemning the settler rampages, Struck compared Israel’s military brass to the mutinous Russian mercenaries, the Wagner Group. 


Less awful, yet nevertheless despicable, was MK Simcha Rothman ’s absurd comparison. Rothman snorted: “Those who support the protests but oppose the riots are hypocritical.” Equating remarkably peaceful protests, week after week, even at self-defeating sites like Ben-Gurion Airport, with 28 violent anti-Palestinian rampages even Rothman calls “riots,” is ethically obtuse. It’s as amoral as the world’s equating terrorism most Palestinians cheer with deviant “sweet boy” behavior most Israelis denounce.


What’s wrong with these politicians? Are they playing some sick drinking game whereby whenever they say something outrageous, unpatriotic, anti-Zionist, demagogic, or bullying they get to sip some kiddush wine? Is some party hack tracking who most frequently assails the dignity of the Jewish people and Israel’s rule of law? Do they enjoy mocking their party names – the Religious Zionist Party and Otzma Yehudit – by acting in irreligious, anti-Zionist ways that diminish Israel’s strength? These are politicians whose salaries we pay, who claim to represent us, and whom our prime minister chose to hire – and chooses not to fire.


In fairness, Netanyahu scolded Struck. Still, what redline must one of them cross before Netanyahu – and his other cabinet colleagues – say “enough.” Apparently, in this coalition, it’s open season on the IDF, the police, the courts, civility – let alone anyone who dares to protest or think a dissenting thought. 


And let’s preempt the tired, sloppy, amoral, “what about the left-wing protests ?” defense, by saying “two wrongs don’t make it right.” It’s hypocritical for ministers who bash the IDF to then lecture reservists to overcome their own reservations about serving. While I condemn the few reservists who haven’t served, the burden on MKs, ministers, and the prime minister to speak and act responsibly is greater. If you want to represent the State of Israel, represent it with dignity, understanding that your rantings risk reflecting on Israel’s state. 


Before I am attacked as “soft” on terrorism for being hard on vigilantism: Yes, I condemned the Hummus Eliyahu massacre – and every terrorist attack – even more vociferously. Yes, I distinguish between torching cars and homes – which are replaceable – and targeting innocents, which is unconscionable.


Yes, I distinguish between a Palestinian political culture that celebrates much worse violence and an Israeli political culture that overwhelmingly condemns this milder violence. And yes, I even wrote a Wall Street Journal column explaining why the settler rampages, while reprehensible, are not “pogroms,” and should be viewed in historic proportion.


Finally, I ask Ben-Gvir, Struck, and Rothman, are these word-barfs of yours worth it? What do you think such bile accomplishes? Is your party standing so weak that you must keep riling your base? Or is it your judgment, your love of Israel, or your true Zionist spirit, that we should question? 


A Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University currently living in Jerusalem, Gil Troy is an award-winning American presidential historian and a leading Zionist activist. He is, most recently, the editor of the new three-volume set, “Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings,” the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People ( www.theljp.org )  . Two years ago he co-authored with Natan Sharansky Never Alone: Prison, Politics and  My People,  was published by PublicAffairs of Hachette. Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of  The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist. 




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Prof Gil Troy · 20 Derech Bet Lechem · Apt 2 · Jerusalem 9310925 · Israel