Where are our Leaders?

5 Jul

Morale in Israel is very low. Tensions are high.

Because there is so much going around the Internet and media about this latest “escalation”, I hereby provide my humble viewpoint to shed light onto the violence – both verbal and physical – that has once again overtaken this land.

As if the news that the three kidnapped teens were dead was not horrible enough, things have devolved dramatically since then.

The night of the teens’ funerals the authorities released the full version of Gilad Shaar’s brave call to Police, in which their murder is documented: his hushed but clear words “I’ve been kidnapped”, the kidnappers yelling at the three, screams, shots, the kidnappers congratulating each other.

Yet, despite this, the police and army did not act until seven hours later, even after the parents contacted authorities several times as well. They thought it was a prank. In a call by Shaar’s father that was also released to the public post-mortem, he politely begs the army to get involved. The woman on the other side dismisses him outright, saying usually these things resolve themselves in the morning.

Hello!?! Kidnappings happen here. Relatively often. This is not a far-fetched scenario. I simply can’t get over the complete incompetence that led to a 7-hour delay in our well-oiled military machine getting into action.

That being said, the army and government, as well as the media and the families knew early on from the call itself that the chances of the boys being alive were extremely low. I can understand the families’ need for optimism. I can even sort of understand the need for gag orders and the military to do their work, but we, as a public, were misled big time. Many of us feel duped.

Since the media announced the grim news of the  killings on Monday, Israel has exploded. Our Facebook feeds and other media overflow with explicit racist comments and calls for revenge. We’re talking  incitement to murder, not freedom of speech.

In a Jerusalem protest march, wild-eyed demonstrators called for revenge and “death to Arabs.” Some physically attacked Palestinian passersby.

The day after the boys’ funeral unknown perpetrators kidnapped and murdered Muhammed Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teen.  Many, including the Palestinian authority and the boy’s family, allege that Jewish terrorists are responsible.  The authorities have not yet found the culprits.

Things are very bad. Violence has returned, and spirits are as low as I can remember them.

Read this excellent column in Haaretz by Sayed Kashua for a Palestinian citizen of Israel’s perspective on things.

What upsets me almost more than the acts themselves is our leaders’ silence. Though our Prime Minister, ministers and dozens of other public figures made a grandiose show of visiting the parents’ of the kidnapped teens and attending their funerals, they are noticeably silent in the aftermath.

Why has there been no official public condemnation of the racist photos, posts, and actions going around the Internet? And if there has, why haven’t I seen it on the news or Facebook feed? Why are people not afraid to post these things?

I’m not talking about prosecuting the offenders (though this of course should happen too). I am talking about a clear, public statement, telling the people of Israel that these are not our values.


(Courtesy the Prime Minister’s Office)

Yes, Binyamin Netanyahu meekly condemned the murder of Abu Khdeir. Why doesn’t he address the nation and call for tolerance and calm, encourage us not to repeat the crimes of our foes? We know he is articulate. He spoke at the teens’ funerals. Where is Bibi now?

Yitzhack Aharonovitch, our Minister of Public Security, and top officials at the Israel Police have done their best to downplay both the ignored kidnapping call and Abu Khdeir’s murder. Why isn’t he or Netanyahu promising to put the same efforts into solving this murder as they did to find “the boys”?

In the past two days, while East Jerusalem and other Arab towns are ablaze in riots, Aharonovitch appears on TV, urging the protesters to keep calm and promising that Police will act against anyone who breaks the law. Why is he not openly condemning the hundreds of Israelis inciting to violence and threatening revenge?

I am deeply disheartened by our leaders’ silence. They have missed a golden opportunity.

In the wake of this week’s events, Israel’s leaders had the chance to prove that despite the occupation, the ongoing violence, and many other problems, when push comes to shove Israel strives to treat people equally, is a moral and democratic country, and condemns murder and racism in their most explicit forms.

But that hasn’t happened, and Israel’s leadership has revealed its true face more than ever. Now, we are forced to watch the results unfold. We can be appalled but we can’t be surprised.







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