Saturday, October 10, 2015

10-Oct-15: There has never been and never will be a war on terror, and why this matters so much

Mourning at the Henkin couple's graves in Jerusalem [Image Source]
We were not able to attend, but at the heart-breaking funeral of Naama and Eitam Henkin on Friday October 2, 2015, some powerful thoughts were shared by Dr Yagil Henkin in memory of his murdered brother and sister-in-law. The whole text is online here, and appears as a full-page paid notice on page 3 of yesterday's paper edition of Haaretz. 

We think these few paragraphs extracted from Yagil Henkin's eulogy below get right at the heart of why Israel's struggle with incitement and glorification of the perpetrators is producing so few tangible results.

There's nothing new in this, but most (by far) of the news reporting we have seen since the latest outbreak of malicious savagery directed principally at ordinary, non-uniformed Israelis is superficial, un-curious as to motivations or detail, and misleading. The same can be said for most of the observations about the wave of terror attacks expressed publicly by non-Israeli political figures.
The murdered Henkins pose for a family shot 
just before the onset of Yom Kippur, two 
and a half weeks ago [Image Source]
...Eitam and Naama became involuntary fighters in this struggle. Eitam and Naama are person slain by acts of hostility. They are not “terror victims.” Do not call them “terror victims”. Do not say that Israel has a war on terror. Israel has no war on terror. There was never a war on terror, and never will be such war. 
Bernard Lewis, the great Middle-East scholar, once said (regarding the US’s “Global War on Terror”), that to declare war on terror is comparable to imagining Churchill, in the dark days of 1940, declaring in his famous speech to parliament something along the lines of: “We are fighting against submarines and warplanes, against tanks, against bayonets, against guns and three inch mortars! We will fight them on the beaches…” 
Technically this would have been correct. It would have also been complete nonsense. 
It was not the planes who fought the battle of Britain, but the pilots – British and German – and the nations – Britain and Germany – who sent them. Britain was fighting Nazi Germany, not planes and not submarines. There is no such thing as “terror of stones,” just like there is no “terror by individuals,” no “car terror,” nor is Jerusalem “plagued by stone throwing”. And similarly Eitam and Naama were not murdered (in contrast to a headline on a certain media site) – by a passing car firing at them. 
These are all methods. Not enemies. Terror is a tool. The one who uses terror is the enemy. Terror is the enemy’s tactic, knives and bullets – its weapons at hand. To say “We fight terror” is to say “We do not know who the enemy is; or we are not willing to define them as such.” In other words, “We have no strategy.” 
Do not fight terror, fight those who dictate it. I don’t mean, God forbid, to call for acts of vengeance against innocent Arabs. I’m also not implying that we should give up on war ethics and laws of war. My intention is that we should not pretend that there is no hostility, hatred, ideology, or agencies who manage terror. Nor should we pretend that there is no widespread support for terror. We should not forget that there is a religious and national conflict that has laid and continues to lay the foundation for terrorism.

Behind those murderers there is a society who supports this kind of warfare. A society which supports targeting civilians, a society which supports finishing off a young couple.
We ourselves say, rightly, “We should not be like them.” Then why do we lie to ourselves and say that there are no “them,” that there is no enemy but only an abstract and faceless “terror”? If we are fighting “terror,” then who are those “them”?  Do not promise that our hands will reach the murderers. Behind those murderers there is a society who supports this kind of warfare. A society which supports targeting civilians, a society which supports finishing off a young couple. (Thanks to God their children were not hurt; but do not credit the murderers with “mercy.”) The murderers are the hangmen. 
But those who preach that ‘here is a Jew and therefore he deserves death,’ - they will not be imprisoned. And those who today will give candies to children in order to celebrate the murder in cold blood of two more Jews, will pay no price. 
Eitam and Naama were not killed by “terror.” They are victims of an act of hostility. It was hostility behind the murder. Human beings driven by hatred went out to the road in order to murder Jews, and they succeeded. They took my brother from me and from my siblings; from Yishai they took his sister Naama; from my parents and from Naama’s parents they took their children; from the children – Matan, Nitzan, Neta and Itamar – they took their parents, they took the right to grow up in a family, with the experiences and memories of a warm, unified, and loving family. They took from you, who stand here, a talented and optimistic couple, who were destined to greatness. And they continue to take from everyone the sense of security. They were Arab murderers, backed by a too-large segment of Arab society, with far too little principled opposition to murder. 
An enemy. An enemy who utilizes Terror. 
Do not degrade their memory by turning them into victims of a force of nature. Debate about policy, not about the murdered. Do not find justification and sympathy for murderers. Keep your empathy for the children who were left orphans, to the parents who were left bereft. And for the people of Israel, who still have a long way before being able to sit peacefully beneath their vines and fig trees.
The people who stand behind the terror, those who incite terror, those who glorify and excuse and explain away the terror - each of them is complicit in the terror attacks that have left inconsolable mourners and devastated lives in the wake of their sickening actions. These are people, with addresses and job titles and responsibilities. They depend for their power on the consent and support of ordinary citizens, paying customers, non-governmental organizations, foreign aid, public opinion.

Until terrorism is better understood, they will keep getting away with their evil.

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