Our Jewish way

Joseph Aaron

Let’s talk about dead Palestinians, shall we.

No, not because I’m pro-Palestinian, but because I’m pro-Israel, because I truly believe that peace is what is in the best interest of the Jewish state and also because I truly believe that the world’s one and only Jewish state must act like a Jewish state is supposed to.

The sad thing about today’s Jewish world is that right wing Jews can’t understand that left wing Jews like me are just as pro-Israel are they are, love Israel just as much as they do

See like so many Jews today, if you are not Jewish just like them then you are not really in their eyes a Jew at all. And so for right wingers, if you don’t insist on not giving back one inch of land, if you don’t think Israel and Bibi are always right, they just dismiss you, demean you, defame you, say you are a self-hating Jew, against Israel, a Palestinian lover.

I am no Palestinian lover, especially not for the Palestinians I will be talking about. But I am a Jew lover and so I find it very painful when Jews, however pure they think their motives are, ignore Jewish values in their hate for Palestinians.

Let’s start with five dead Palestinians, Islamic Jihad terrorists who were killed when the Israeli army blew up a terror tunnel they were in, which stretches from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

Now I fully grant you that these tunnels are a significant danger to Israel and that Israel has every right to blow them up before they can be used to sneak Palestinian terrorists into Israel to kill innocent Jews.

The tunnels are wrong and symbolic of the sickness that still grips Palestinian society where they focus much more effort and energy and money on finding ways to commit terrorism against Jews than spending that time and energy and money to improve the lives of Palestinians.

And the terrorists who use these tunnels are the absolute worst of mankind, ruthless killers who want to take the lives of innocent Jewish men, women and children. I grant all that, fully recognize the tunnels are wrong and the terrorists who use them are wrong.

But that has absolutely nothing to do with the wrong that Israel is doing in holding on the bodies of those five terrorists.

A Jewish state means we live by certain values and principles that define Judaism. No, Israel is not just another country and yes, Israel is and should be held to a higher standard. And so all Jews should be concerned when Israel fails to meet that Jewish standard instead of trying to find ways to excuse or rationalize or justify unJewish behavior.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is becoming more and more Trumpian each and every day, sounds and acts more like the Donald each and every day, even is more and more using the same phrases when he engages in tough talk. Which he does a lot having evidently learned from his orange faced idol, that it’s more important to talk tough than to act humanely, more important to sound irrational than to act honorably.

And so it was soon after those five Palestinians were killed that Netanyahu decided to engage in some Trumpian art of the deal behavior, where nothing is too sacred to be used as a bargaining chip, no value is too precious to be used in the service of seeming like a tough guy.

And so Netanyahu said he would not return the bodies of those five Palestinians unless Hamas returns the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in the Gaza war in 2014 and whose bodies are being held by Hamas.

“There is no such thing as a free gift. We will bring our boys home, but I repeat: There are no free gifts,” Netanyahu said.

Now again, try to focus. We are not talking about how sick it is that Hamas is holding the bodies of those two Israeli soldiers. Yes, that is sick and disgusting. And yes, Israel should be doing all it can to get its boys back.

And I know that the Middle East is one big bazaar and that Bibi learned from Trump that it’s all about the deal. But this is not how a Jewish state acts. Just because Hamas is holding our boys does not justify us holding their terrorists.

Please consider that Osama bin Laden masterminded the worst terrorist attack in American history, that he killed almost 3.000 people, most of them Americans. And yet when Seal Team Six took him out, how did the United States treat Osama’s dead body? In a way consistent with our values, not with al Qaeda’s.

What the U.S. Navy did was follow all Muslim burial rituals, gave Osama everything that Islam calls for, even had an imam give him the Islamic equivalent of last rights.

Because there is such a thing as American values. And it is precisely because we live by those values that we did not act like al Qaeda did and would do, we did not cut his body up into little pieces, did not spit at it, did not deprive him of the burial rites his religion requires. Because as Americans, we live by what we believe is right, didn’t use all they do wrong to justify us acting not in accord with the values that define us.

And so yes Israel should give those bodies back because Islam calls for burial as soon as possible after death. Because Israel is supposed to live by Jewish values, not do to them what they do to us, not act towards them like they act toward us. Yes it violates everything Judaism holds dear that they are holding on to the bodies of those two Israeli soldiers. But that does not mean we should violate Jewish values by depriving those Hamas terrorists of a proper burial.

Yes it takes real strength of character to do that, real commitment to living and sticking to our values even in the face of what the families of those two Jewish soldiers are living through, even though doing to Hamas what they are doing to us would feel good, would seem to be justice. But doing wrong is never right.

So Israel should give those five terrorists back immediately. No, I don’t think Hamas will appreciate that or respect that, they might even see it as weakness, but imagine the powerful lesson it would send to ourselves and to them about how Israel lives by the values of Judaism, does not lower itself to act by the savage laws of Hamas.

And then we have another dead Palestinian by the name of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif. Here’s what happened. Back in 2016, an Israel soldier, Elor Azaria, came on the scene following a Palestinian stabbing attack on soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron. One of the terrorists was killed and another, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, was injured. Minutes later, while Sharif was lying on the ground, Azaria shot him in the head. The shooting was captured on video by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Because Azaria shot the Palestinian even though he was unarmed and lying on the ground, neutralized, Azaria was arrested that day and indicted a month later. Autopsy reports showed that the shots fired by Azaria killed Sharif.

After his trial, Azaria was sentenced to 18 months in prison, later reduced to 14 months by the army chief of staff. But just recently, no less than Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman asked the country’s president to pardon Azaria.

This despite the fact that Azaria has never expressed any remorse for what he did.

Look, again, I have no sympathy for the Palestinian, whose goal was to kill Jews, and I do have sympathy for Azaria, a young soldier who no doubt was scared. But that doesn’t make what he did right.

He killed someone who was unarmed and lying on the ground. He walked up to him and shot him in the head. That is not how an Israeli soldier is supposed to behave.

One of the most touching things I have ever witnessed was the induction of new soldiers into the Israeli army. The ceremony took place, as it always does, at the Western Wall and concluded with each soldier being given a rifle — and a Tanach, which contains the Torah and the books of the prophets.

That is done to send a very strong message right from the beginning that yes, an Israeli soldier needs his rifle to defend his country, but that means defending its values, which means being guided by the teachings of the Tanach, by the ethical and moral values of the Torah.

Azaria did not act in accord with those values. He shot someone in the head there was no reason to. And he hasn’t even said he regretted it, has come to realize he did the wrong thing.

It only makes what he did and how he has responded to what he did all the worse when Israel’s defense minister is ready to pardon him, says “We must put an end to the affair that shook Israeli society, and at this time show leniency and mercy to the soldier.”

Seems to me giving him only a 14 month sentence is leniency and mercy enough. To let him off scot free, to seem to excuse his actions, is to desecrate Jewish values and all the Jewish state is meant to stand for.

It was one of the most amazing scenes of the Six Day War, which was nothing less than a battle for Israel’s very survival. On Shabbat, Israeli pilots, of course, were completely permitted by Jewish law to fly their missions, to do their part to defend our homeland and defeat our enemies.

And yet when those pilots returned to base, exhausted, they did not take a jeep back to their barracks, as they obviously had every right to do, but instead walked back to the barracks. Why? Because it was Shabbat and they wanted to show respect for the Jewish holy day, realized that the war they were up in their jets fighting was all about defending the Jewish state, which meant defending Jewish values, and so respecting Shabbat seemed like absolutely the right and appropriate thing to do.

Elor Azaria can learn much from what those pilots did. I understand he was young, he was scared, he was dealing with a stressful situation. But an Israeli soldier does not walk up to a Palestinian lying on the ground and shoot him in the head.

The whole point of being an Israeli soldier, having an Israeli army is to fight for, defend, uphold Jewish values, show that Jewish soldiers are not like other soldiers, that the Jewish state is not like any other country.

Only Israeli soldiers are sent into service with a rifle – and a Tanach.

The Jewish state shouldn’t be preventing dead Palestinians from receiving a proper burial, no matter how sick their actions, how depraved they are. The Jewish state should not give a pardon to an Israeli soldier who shoots a Palestinian in the head and doesn’t even express remorse for having done so.

I don’t grieve for those five Palestinian terrorists in that Hamas tunnel and I don’t grieve for that Palestinian terrorist shot in the head. I do grieve for the loss of Jewish values that allows the Israeli prime minister to act that way, for an Israeli soldier to act that way.

We need to be who we are and are supposed to be, no matter who they are and how disgusting they intend to be.

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