Sunday, February 02, 2014

2-Feb-14: Reflecting on a momentary slip by the Secretary of State

The funeral of Evyatar Borowski, victim of a terror attack,
father of five, in May 2013 [Image Source]
There are hundreds of us Israeli families who have been twice-damned by those who embrace the usefulness of terror.

First, we're damned through the unbearable loss itself: a child, a parent, a partner, a spouse, a sibling, an aunt, uncle, cousin, friend. We understand that some see no difference between this and a loved one dying of an illness or an accident. But consider that in most bookstores there is a section that deals with coping with grief after a death by accident or illness. A smaller but not insignificant one focuses on how one goes on and tries to recover after losing a loved one to a crime. But literature to help people through the extreme trauma of murder by terrorist with all the various shadings and nuances and political dimensions that this entails? Doesn't exist. Skipping over a lot of the detail that accompanies this comment, let's just say that being a victim of terrorism involves a matrix of complexity and pain that, no matter in which country you live, modern society is just starting to address - at best. Dealing sensitively, respectfully and humanely with it remains a challenge that all too often and in too many places is beyond the capabilities of the responsible authorities.

And secondly we're damned by how politicians deal with us and our losses. From our own personal experiences over the past dozen years since our child's life was stolen from us, we have seen how the usefulness dimension that comes from the utterly cynical exploitation of terrorism's perpetrators.
  • For the Palestinian Arabs - in both the Hamas and the PA strands: the greater the savagery of the barbaric act of terror that put the perpetrator into prison or a grave, the more praiseworthy the lethal deed and the more urgent the need to have his or 'heroism' acknowledged by friends and by foes: a kind of theatre of the macabre.
  • For the governments of foreign states, the unparalleled opportunity to place the two sides in the Arab/Israel conflict on the scales and to find them morally equivalent. Yes, they intone, the militants and activists did what they did but it's time to move on, to seek new understandings, to get closure and set the pain of the past aside. And one man's terrorist is, after all, another's future statesman etc etc. Grand statements that fail entirely to deal with the human damage that is left behind.
  • And for the government of the United States - well, it pains us deeply to say that something baffling has been happening, something that continues to be mostly ignored in the media. The Kerry/Obama push to bring the Palestinian Arabs and the Israelis to some kind of peace table has resulted in a fierce push by the US against the government of Israel to get 104 convicted killers freed. Most have already walked. Not one has expressed remorse, and most have been publicly honoured by the Mahmoud Abbas regime for acts of 'heroism' that are, to be kind, invented. At the same time, Kerry himself, and his spokesteam have pointedly failed to address one very basic, highly relevant and politically embarrassing question. We have asked it here several times in the past half year. Here it is again: Are those 104 killers of elderly pensioners, of Holocaust survivors, of US citizens, of women, of children and of fellow Arabs (a) freedom fighters, (b) political prisoners or (c) terrorists? [Background here.]
Yesterday, in Germany, Secretary of State Kerry, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, making an already bad situation worse, said this:
President Obama and I and our Administration are as committed to this as anything we’re engaged in because we think it can be a game-changer for the region. And as Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed said – he’s here somewhere – to a Paris meeting of the Arab League the other day, spontaneously he said, “You know, if peace is made, Israel will do more business with the Gulf states and the Middle East than it does with Europe today.” This is the difference of 6 percent GDP per year to Israel... not to mention that today’s status quo absolutely, to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained. It’s not sustainable. It’s illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity, there’s a momentary peace. Last year, not one Israeli was killed by a Palestinian from the West Bank. This year, unfortunately, there’s been an uptick in some violence. But the fact is the status quo will change if there is failure. So everybody has a stake in trying to find the pathway to success. [Video here]
Not one Israeli killed by Palestinian terrorists from the West Bank? It's an important statement that sums up the scale of human loss in gross quantitative form - and baldly asserts it didn't occur. He may not realize even now he did that, and he surely won't lose sleep over it. But it's distressing that a Secretary of State, with the resources that come with the job, doesn't check. What does that tell us about the humanity that he invests in such matters?

Had John Kerry or his speech-writer or other staff done some rudimentary fact-checking, they would have come across the details [from this source] of Israeli lives forfeited in the West Bank to acts of hatred and terror during 2013.
  • April 30, 2013: Evyatar Borowski, 31, of Yitzhar, stabbed to death in a terror attack at the hitchhiking post  at Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank.
  • September 20, 2013: Tomer Hazan, 20, of Bat Yam, lured by a Palestinian co-worker to an open area north of the village of Siniria where he was murdered and his body concealed in a well.
  • September 22, 2013: Staff Sgt. Maj. Gal (Gabriel) Kobi, 20, of Tirat Carmel, killed when shot in the neck at a checkpoint near Hebron's Cave of Patriarchs.
  • October 11, 2013: Seraya Ofer, 61, beaten to death by men wielding metal bars and axes outside his home in the Brosh Habika vacation village in the northern Jordan Valley.
  • November 13, 2013: Private Eden Atias, 19, of Nazereth Illit, stabbed to death in a terror attack on a bus at Afula's central bus station.
(A sixth Israeli, Salah Shukri Abu Latyef, 22, of Rahat, was shot and killed on December 24, 2013 by sniper fire in a shooting attack near the Israel-Gaza border fence. Was the shooter from the West Bank? Does anyone know? Should it matter to the analysis?) 

Perhaps it's mere human error, a momentary slip. Perhaps he meant 2012 when numerous Israeli deaths were the result of terrorist acts emanating not from the West Bank (as if that mattered) but from the Gaza Strip or in Bulgaria, and not 2013. And maybe the fact that Kerry's staff at State still cannot say - after so many months - whether those terrorists they have impelled the Israelis to release are actually political prisoners etc is simply because they're distracted with higher-order matters, have important jobs to do and so on.

We're here to say, even while being ignored, that these issues are about humans and human values and lives. It's frustrating that we find ourselves having to keep reminding public figures, policy makers, parliamentarians of this even as they push ahead with matters of great strategy and significance. But if we choose to ignore the human pain and the social need that are at the heart of these big, weighty matters, what in the end have we achieved?

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