The Revenge Doctrine

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 8 2014 @ 12:15pm

The situation in Israel and Palestine continues to escalate, with Israel going all-in on its latest offensive in Gaza to quell renewed Hamas rocket fire:

The Israeli military announced the call-up of 1,500 reservists and the deployment of two infantry brigades along the Gaza Strip. Convoys of trucks carrying Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers were seen on the highway headed south Tuesday. … Over the last 24 hours, Hamas and other anti-Israel militant groups in Gaza have fired more than 100 mortar rounds and rocket shells at Israel. More than a dozen were intercepted by Israel’s U.S.-supported Iron Dome missile-defense batteries, but many others fell on Israeli soil. Most of the rockets landed in open fields, but some hit structures.

Yishai Schwartz remarks that the torture-murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir by alleged Jewish extremists last week is a symptom of a growing pathology in Israeli society:

[I]deas have power, and it would also be a mistake to write these murders off as the insane acts of deranged lone wolves. The perpetrators were deranged, but they were not alone. The same pathologies that animated Kahane’s followers and that Wieseltier identified decades ago have not disappeared. Radical nationalism, militant millenarianism, and social resentmentoften tinged with the fundamentalism of religious dogmaare all too alive in Israel’s underclass. And after years of steady Palestinian violence and rejection, too many in Israel shrug off the rhetoric of its own racists as regrettable, but understandable. …

It’s that resignation in the face of racism that scares me, and partly that’s because it comes from a place I understand. There is something beautiful about the belief that because we are Jews, racist rhetoric will never lead to brutal murder. And there is beauty to the genuine shocknot just horror, but surprisewhen it does.

Do you remember when American newscasters and presidents could still honestly declare themselves “shocked” and “unsettled” by mass shootings and school violence? In retrospect, that shock was a beautiful thing. But in the United States, those days are gone. We have grown accustomed to domestic mass shooting. And I fear that a similar thing is happening here in Israelthat this will be the last time that an Israeli defense minister can seem genuinely shaken by the reality of Jewish terror.

Dershowitz remains optimistic that Israel will bring Abu Khdeir’s killers to justice:

I believe the Israeli legal system will be fair, or perhaps even bend over backwards, when it comes to the brutal murderers of Khdeir. Criminal trials in Israel do not involve juries. Accused criminals are tried by professional judges, who are in general selected on a non-partisan basis. Verdicts and sentences are less likely to be influenced by popular opinion than in the United States, where judges are either elected or politically appointed, and where jurors are supposed to reflect the views of the people.

Even if some Israelis might have more sympathy for Jews who killed a Palestinian than for Palestinians who killed Jews, that sort of public bias will have little impact on the trial of those accused of killing Khdeir. The age of the defendants, however, might. There are reports that some may be minors, and Israeli law does take account of the age of accused criminals. But older vigilantes may well be involved as well, either in planning, inciting or protecting the actual killers. The investigation is ongoing and will not stop until everyone who has played a culpable role in the murder is apprehended and brought to justice.

But Saletan has his doubts about Netanyahu’s pledge to treat Abu Khdeir’s murder the same as other acts of terrorism:

It’s not just Netanyahu who has pledged that Khdeir’s killers “will face the full weight of the law.” Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economy minister, says he and his right-wing supporters “will demand the Terrorist Law we put forward be applied to the boy’s killers.” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says the killers “should be treated as terrorists.” Khdeir’s parents point out that there’s a simple way to make good on these promises. “Destroy their houses just like [Israel] destroyed the houses of the suspects in Hebron,” says the boy’s father. “Demolish their houses and give them life sentences,” says his mother.

Some Israelis are already concocting excuses for not applying the policy to Jews. Almagor, a 28-year-old organization that claims to speak “for terror victims’ rights,” says in its mission statement that every victim “is entitled to justice: punishment of the criminal, the psychological closure that comes with punishment, laying down the law in its full force.” But on Monday, in a letter to the Israeli government and members of parliament, the group’s director pleaded that while “we need to deter Palestinian terrorists by destroying houses and exiling their families,” Jews don’t need to be treated this way, because they seldom kill.