Where’s the Civility?

Josh_RunyanNo sooner had the international condemnations of the kidnappings of three Israeli teenagers begun their slow trickle that the hand wringing by some in the Jewish community sought to assign blame anywhere than at the foot of the Palestinian government.

The Palestinians are an occupied people, went one argument, so outbursts of violent activity are to be
expected. Indeed, news had surfaced just before Thursday’s kidnapping that Israeli security forces had prevented several attempted terrorist attacks — including intercepting a future suicide bomber outside Jerusalem — in recent months.

Another argument castigated the wider Jewish community for appropriating the motto of the Bring Back Our Girls movement that sprung up last month after the mass kidnapping of Nigerian girls by the Islamist group Boko Haram. To use #BringBackOur Boys as their rallying cry, the Israeli Embassy, Jewish federations, JCCs, synagogues and concerned citizens had caused a grave injustice to Nigerian victims of terror, according to this particular viewpoint.

The implicit assumption, of course, in both of these cases is that no Israeli citizen is innocent — not a child, not a mother and certainly not a “settler.” That there are those who, although they won’t admit it outright, think this way is deplorable. That some of them are Jewish is inexcusable.

It is not in the nature of this column to take political stands, which is why there’s no problem in calling out the capture of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, for the unjustified Palestinian terrorism that it is. Because there’s nothing political in condemning the purposeful targeting of innocents, especially when those targeted are children.

As you’ll read in this week’s JT, it is possible to have reasoned disagreements with your fellow man. That’s why in a democracy such as in the United States — and in Israel — you will find op-ed pieces like the spread in this week’s issue written by politicians of all stripes.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose passing 20 years ago is being commemorated by a slew of books and local events, characteristically refused to mention those with whom he disagreed by name. Moved by a profound love of the Jewish people and a belief in the innate power of the individual, the Rebbe provided a model of how to find agreement between opposing parties by limiting disagreements to ideas and not people.

But those who would choose to inflict death and disorder to achieve their ends are more like the hordes of ISIS terrorists sweeping through Iraq than the freedom-loving citizenry typified by the American ideal.

When such is the choice, between chaos and anarchy on the one hand and peace and prosperity on the other, the outcome should be predicted. And yet in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa, it isn’t.

Maybe it’s time to simplify things a bit by invoking the famous choice presented to the Jewish people in the desert thousands of years ago, between “life and death, the blessing and curse.”

Let’s pray that we all — including our enemies — choose life. It’s time for our boys to come home.

jrunyan@jewishtimes.com

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