Wednesday 23 March 2011

To those who are about to kill, we salute you

An armed man enters a house of prayer. He kills 29 people and injures another 125 before being killed by the crowd. Some now revere this man and his gravesite is considered a shrine.

A 19 year old woman leading a small group of accomplices hijacks a bus and takes the passengers hostage. In a final confrontation with police, the woman and most of her group are killed but of the hostages, 37 people including 13 children are killed and another 72 are wounded. Some now view this woman as a heroine and a martyr. Numerous sites and institutions bear her name, including a public square, a computer center, soccer tournament, and summer camp.

I read the words revere, shrine, heroine, and martyr and I look at the actions of these two people. Their motivations were political. They both felt that there was a "bigger picture", a greater cause, the importance of which trumped the importance and the safety or lives of the others involved in these situations. A total of 66 innocent people were killed; 66 people who had no direct connection to these political motivations. 66 people who just happened to be, let's say, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Baruch Goldstein
The first person I mention above is Baruch Goldstein (1956-1994). This American-born Jewish doctor perpetrated what is known as the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in the Israeli town of Hebron.

Born in Brooklyn, New York to an Orthodox Jewish family, Goldstein joined the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a militant Jewish organization founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane who apparently was a boyhood friend. Goldstein immigrated to Israel in 1983 and served as a physician in the Israeli Defence League (IDF), then as a civilian, continued as a doctor. However, Israeli press reports stated that he refused to treat Arabs.

On February 25, 1994, Goldstein, dressed in his army uniform, entered a room in the Cave of the Patriarchs that was serving as a mosque, and systematically fired off supposedly over 100 rounds which resulted in 29 deaths and 125 injured. Some reports say he started his mayhem by lobbing a grenade into the middle of the 800 worshippers gathered for prayers. A Mosque guard later described how there were "bodies and blood everywhere".

The crowd apparently overpowered Goldstein then beat him to death. Palestinians rioted after the news got out and during the following week, 25 Palestinians were killed by the IDF and five Israelis were also killed. Israel imposed a two-week curfew on the 120,000 Palestinian residents of Hebron.

Goldstein the Saint
Wikipedia describes the veneration of Goldstein and celebration of the massacre. At Goldstein's funeral, Rabbi Yaacov Perrin claimed that even one million Arabs are "not worth a Jewish fingernail". Samuel Hacohen, a teacher at a Jerusalem college, declared Goldstein the "greatest Jew alive, not in one way but in every way."
In the weeks following the massacre, hundreds of Israelis traveled to Goldstein's grave to celebrate Goldstein's actions.

Some visitors kissed and hugged the gravestone, or even kissed the earth under which Goldstein was buried, declaring him a "saint" and "hero of Israel."

Jenny Peto
This young Jewish lady kicked up a storm in Toronto, Canada in the fall of 2010 when her Master's Thesis came to the attention of the general public. I don't want to delve into that story (see my blog Jenny Peto and Baruch Goldstein) but want to point out a passage in the introduction of her paper where she recounts an incident from her teenage years:

It was 1995 and I was almost 15 years old, attending a private Jewish high school in Toronto. One day, during a Jewish History class, our teacher was giving a lesson on the city of Hebron. During the class, he mentioned Baruch Goldstein – the Jewish settler who, in February 1994, had massacred over 50 Palestinians while they were praying at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. When my teacher said Goldstein’s name, he followed it with ‘zichrono livracha’ which is Hebrew for ‘may his memory be blessed’. This is a common practice among Orthodox Jewish people when mentioning the name of someone who is deceased. I remember being completely shocked that he would bless the name of a man who had committed such a horrible act of violence. I raised my hand and asked him why he had blessed Goldstein and not said ‘yemach shmo’ which, in Hebrew, means ‘may his name be erased from history’ and is commonly said after mentioning the name of an evil-doer that has died. My teacher, who himself was an Israeli settler, became enraged, refused to engage in this debate with me and sent me to the principal’s office where I was reprimanded for being disruptive in class.

Dalal Mughrabi
Dalal Mughrabi (1959-1978) was a militant with the Fatah faction of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization). She directed the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre in Israel.

As an 18-year-old Palestinian girl from Lebanon, she led a bloody attack against Israel that still haunts the public imagination on both sides of the border 30 years later. In 1978, Mughrabi led a team of 13 Palestinian and Lebanese fighters who landed at Jaffa beach intent on attacking the ministry of defence in Tel Aviv. On the coastal highway, Mughrabi's team hijacked two buses carrying civilians. An intense 15-hour gun battle ensued with forces led by future Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak. Mughrabi raised her national flag and declared the Palestinian state.

One of the buses exploded, killing many inside. Israel says Mughrabi threw grenades into it; Palestinians maintain the bus was fired on from the air by Israeli helicopters. At least 37 Israelis (Palestinians claim 70) were killed, as well as 11 guerrillas. Mughrabi's body was dragged off the tarmac and shot several times by Barak in images captured by the media. (The Guardian)

Mughrabi the Saint
In 2008, an exchange of prisoners and bodies saw Mughrabi returned to Hezbollah. The English paper Gulf News published in Dubai wrote:

Three decades after her death, Dalal is still seen by Palestinians and Arabs as a hero and an outstanding fighter.

In a massage she sent shortly before she died, Dalal appealed during the last gasp of her life to Palestinian factions to point their guns to their enemy - Israel, and not to get involved in internal fighting.
She inspired thousands of young Palestinian and Lebanese women to follow in her footsteps, such as Sana Muhaidaly, Yvonne Abboud, Wafa Edris, Ayat Al Akhras and Hanadi Jaradat among others.
According to her mother, who was speaking to an Arabic TV channel "Dalal will never be forgotten as she will remain an admirable symbol of the Palestinian women's struggle and an example to be emulated by young Palestinian men and women who will pursue the armed struggle until the liberation of Palestine."

Out of curiosity, I search for the five names mentioned above and find references for four of them.

Sana'a Mehaidli:
In 1985, at the age of 18, she blew herself and a Peugeot filled with explosives up next to an Israeli convoy in Jezzin, South Lebanon, during the Lebanese Civil War. Two Israeli soldiers were killed and twelve were injured. She is believed to have been the first female suicide bomber.

Wafa Idris:
On January 27, 2002, she detonated a 22-pound bomb in the center of Jerusalem outside a shoe store on Jaffa Road that killed her, an 81 year old Israeli man and injured more than 100 others.

Ayat al-Akhras:
On March 29, 2002, she detonated her explosives outside the Kiryat HaYovel supermarket in Jerusalem killing two people: a 17 year-old Israeli girl Rachel Levy and a 55 year-old security guard and injuring 30. The guard apparently prevented her from entering the supermarket and thus saved the lives of many.

Hanadi Jaradat:
She blew herself up on October 4, 2003 in an attack on Maxim's restaurant in the northern Israeli city of Haifa. Twenty-one people were killed and 51 injured. Among the dead were four Israeli children and three Arabs.

Final Word
I have to tell you that I am absolutely horrified. In all of these stories, innocent people, bystanders have been killed just because they happened to be where they were at a certain moment. But on top of it, there are those among the living, who are carrying on after these horrendous events, praising and glorifying the actions of these people. Do you praise the killing of innocent people? Do you glorify those who kill innocent people?

Now I am sure there are those who are immediately going to say I don't understand the background of these stories, the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Was Baruch Goldstein motivated not just by hate, but by the idea of scuttling the Oslo Peace Accords started in 1993 between Israel and the PLO? Apparently the actions of Dalal Mughrabi, planned by Abu Jihad, were aimed at halting peace talks between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat which led to the Camp David Accords of September 18, 1978.

Ah yes, the "bigger picture". Would you kill one person to save a thousand? It's an age old conundrum asked by many people. While most would answer, "yes", the problem in more practical terms is whether or not the death of that one truly leads to the saving of the thousand. That is where the connection between the action and the (desired) outcome becomes very fuzzy and very difficult to prove.

The other interesting way out of the dilemma of killing that one person, is to volunteer yourself. Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest imprisoned at Auschwitz. When a prisoner escaped from the camp, the Nazis selected 10 others to be killed by starvation in reprisal for the escape. One of the 10 selected to die, Franciszek Gajowniczek, began to cry, "My wife! My children! I will never see them again!" Kolbe stepped forward and asked to die in his place. His request was granted. FYI: Gajowniczek did survive.

I return to my horror at all this killing. There are those who may say it makes a difference, but I would contend that while sometimes it may temporarily result in something, overall in the long run it does not. I always return to the story of Ghandi. He wanted the British out of India. However the story goes that he knew you cannot force anyone to do something they do not want to do, but if you can get them to "want" to do it, they will do it. His peaceful protest against the British worked because in the end, the British didn't leave India because they were forced out, they left because they wanted to leave. It's ironic that after all this, Ghandi dies violently.

To all the people mentioned above. I am sure that at the moment of your actions, you thought you were doing something so important, you were going to change the world. You didn't. I look around me and I see absolutely no change in the world due to what you did. Your actions in the grand scheme of things have not amounted to a hill of beans. Here's the final tally: zip, nada, zilch. Ghandi got the British out of India; you didn't succeed in doing anything, except to kill innocent people. That is your legacy. That is not to be revered. That is not to be celebrated. It is however something we should not forget.


Wikipedia: Baruch Goldstein
Baruch Kopel Goldstein (December 9, 1956 – February 25, 1994) was an American-born Jewish Israeli physician who perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in the city of Hebron, killing 29 Muslims at prayer there and wounding another 125.

Wikipedia: Dalal Mughrabi
Dalal Mughrabi (1959–1978) was a Palestinian militant who was a member of the Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and directed the 1978 Coastal Road massacre in Israel. The attack resulted in the death of 37 Israeli citizens, including 13 children, and one American photographer. Mughrabi and nine or ten other militants were also killed over the course of the operation. She has been hailed as a martyr and a national hero among Palestinians, while in Israel she is a figure reviled as a terrorist.

Wikipedia: Jewish Defense League
The Jewish Defense League or JDL is a Jewish nationalist organization whose stated goal is to "protect Jews from antisemitism by whatever means necessary". While the group asserts that it "unequivocally condemns terrorism", and claims to have a "strict no-tolerance policy against terrorism and other felonious acts," it was characterized as "a right-wing terrorist group" by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2001, and as a hate group involved in "anti-Arab terrorism" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to the FBI, the JDL has been involved in plotting terrorist attacks within the United States.

Wikipedia: Meir Kahane
Kahane founded both the Jewish Defense League (JDL) in the USA and Kach ("This is the Way!"), an Israeli political party. In 1984 he became a member of the Knesset when Kach gained one seat in parliamentary elections. In 1988, the Israeli government banned Kach as "racist" and "undemocratic" under the terms of an ad hoc law. In 1994, following the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre perpetrated by a Kahane follower, Kach was outlawed completely. The U.S. State Department listed it as a terrorist organization in 1994.

Israel National News - Feb 11/2011
Court: Lauding Baruch Goldstein is Not Incitement
The Jerusalem District Court ruled Thursday that statements praising Dr. Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 Muslims in Hevron in 1994, do not constitute incitement to violence, Haaretz reported.

In so ruling, the court upheld an earlier Magistrates' Court decision in the case, which ruled that the statements in question, by nationalist activist Michael Ben Chorin, do not constitute incitement.

Wikipedia: To Die in Jerusalem
To Die in Jerusalem is a 2007 HBO documentary film about the effects of a March 29, 2002, Jerusalem suicide bombing on the families of the 17 year-old Israeli victim Rachel Levy and the 17 year-old Palestinian female suicide bomber, Ayat al-Akhras. Al-Akhras blew herself up at the entrance of Kiryat HaYovel's main supermarket, killing two people and injuring 28.

official web site: To Die In Jerusalem

my blog: Extremism: I'm right and you're wrong.


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