Who is the enemy? These words, asked recently by the American-born leader of the Zehut party, Moshe Feiglin, are easy to articulate yet harder to answer. Who is the enemy? As Americans, we believe, as the Founding Fathers did, in the importance of standing up for righteousness in the world, to fight oppression. As Jews, the aim is similar yet deeper—we are an ohr lagoyim, a light unto the nations; our purpose is to vanquish evil and maintain peace. On what scale, and to what ends, is a different question, but the enemy is clearly identified: evil. Society has a responsibility, as a gathering of moral, just people, to fight wickedness and right wrongs.
This makes sense on a very basic, black-on-white level. But how do we apply this to the real world, and answer Feiglin’s unanswerable question? Stealing is objectively wrong, but how do we distinguish between a violent diamond thief and a boy shoplifting food to feed his starving family? Killing is definitively evil, right? Is it any better if the killing was done by a freedom fighter whose family was murdered by occupiers rather than by a tyrannical dictator? How is society supposed to react and self-correct these crimes? Who is the enemy?
I believe the answer lies in focusing less on the individuals and more on the society as a whole—how it reacts to evil. Let us compare two similar yet radically different stories in order to see if we can better understand who the enemy is.
On March 24, 2016, two Arab men attempted to and succeeded at stabbing an Israeli soldier on guard duty in Hebron. The two were quickly subdued, with one dying in the process, and the other, also shot, lay unconscious on the ground. What exactly followed is hardly clear, with both Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials crying foul play, but the end result was a bullet leaving the gun of IDF medic Elor Azariah and killing the already subdued terrorist. In the months following, Azariah was put on a very public trial in military courts, ending with his sentence of imprisonment. Despite claims, which were likely correct, that Azariah saw the now-deceased terrorist moving and attempting to reach for what may very have been a suicide vest, he was punished. Why? Because, despite the extenuating circumstances, the State of Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces do not condone extrajudicial killings, even of enemy militants, and the trial and sentence ensure that all know their position—that the killing was wrong.
Contrast this with a decidedly more tragic event that took place 15 years earlier, on August 9, 2001, when a terrorist entered Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem and detonated a bomb, killing himself and 15 Israelis and injuring 130. Hamas and other Jihad movements immediately claimed responsibility, with the former calling the attack a response for Israel’s assassination of two of their leaders only a few days earlier. Ahlam Tamimi, a 20-year-old student who was convicted as a conspirator in the attack and was later released as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange, explained after her release exactly how she was greeted after leaving the site of the attack: “Afterwards, when I took the bus, the Palestinians around Damascus Gate [in Jerusalem] were all smiling. You could sense that everybody was happy. When I got on the bus, nobody knew that it was me who had led [the suicide bomber to the target]... I was feeling quite strange, because I had left [the bomber] ‘Izz Al-Din behind, but inside the bus, they were all congratulating one another. They didn’t even know one another, yet they were exchanging greetings...I admit that I was a bit disappointed, because I had hoped for a larger toll. Yet when they said “three dead,” I said: ‘Allah be praised...’Two minutes later, they said on the radio that the number had increased to five. I wanted to hide my smile, but I just couldn’t. Allah be praised, it was great. As the number of dead kept increasing, the passengers were applauding.”
The reaction of the small population of Arabs on that bus is a fairly accurate microcosm of how the Palestinian Authority reacted to this tragic attack, and how both the government and the people react to the deaths of innocent civilians. Meanwhile, Elor Azariah had a host of reasons to justify killing the terrorist in Hebron, if it had been on purpose—aside from the blood of hundreds of Jews being on the hands of the Arabs of Hebron since the 1921 massacre, this specific individual had literally tried to murder an Israeli soldier only a few minutes earlier. One could even go as far as to say that the IDF soldier had a moral obligation to permanently neutralize the perpetrator, especially given Israel’s history of releasing prisoners (including Tamimi, who helped mastermind the 2001 Sbarro attack). Yet, the Israeli government and military held a tribunal for the better part of a year before sentencing Azariah to imprisonment. The difference in morals is so very stark.
Ever since the secret talks that led to the Oslo Accords began in 1993, concerted efforts have been underway to bridge the gap between the Israeli people and their Arab neighbors. The concept of “peace at any cost,” supported by Israel’s left and the dominantly liberal Western world, would see a future agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. This would be, despite recent evidence showing the PA’s support and funding of terrorists, and their less-recent unity government with Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization with the blood of thousands of Israeli civilians on their hands. In the echo chambers of the mainstream media, where the words “Islamic” and “terrorism” cannot be written in the same sentence under any circumstances, it is much easier to think of the Palestinian Authority as a voice of reason in the unstable Arab Middle East, and to envision outgoing President Mahmoud Abbas, the paymaster of the murder of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, as a leader who seeks peace. However, history would prove this to be incorrect, and, aside from no Palestinian leader ever accepting a peace agreement that included recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, there is simply no reason to make peace with the Palestinian Authority. A governing body and society that calls for murder of innocent people, whose policemen hand out sweets when Israeli and American civilians are injured, and whose funding goes directly to terrorism and subjugating its own people, is not a partner for peace; they are evil. The Palestinian Authority is the enemy.
By Tzvi Silver/JLNJ Israel
Tzvi Silver, a Teaneck native, has been living in Israel since 2011. He recently graduated electrical engineering at JCT-Machon Lev in Jerusalem, works as an investigator for Israel’s Ministry of Justice and serves as JLNJ and JLBWC’s senior Israel correspondent. He will be drafting into the IDF at the end of the year.