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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Feb. 9, 2004 / 17 Shevat, 5764

The Bones of Our Dead

By Jonathan Tobin


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The value of human life is at the crux of the Middle East conflict


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | When it comes to mass murder, it seems that everyone is a pop psychologist. Everyone wants to know why some people strive to become killers, even at the cost of their own lives, as is the case with Palestinians.


For years, the talking heads on television and those who wrote about the situation for mainstream publications parroted the same line: The Palestinians are motivated by a sense of poverty and hopelessness that has made their lives untenable. What else would you expect desperate people to do but explode themselves on Israelis?


But after 311/2 years of a Palestinian war of attrition against Israel, that argument doesn't hold up anymore. The majority of those who have committed such crimes were not dispossessed or poor. They are just as likely to come from educated classes — and to have a great deal to live for. The Palestinian woman who last month faked an injury, then blew up solicitous Israeli soldiers at the Erez checkpoint who tried to help her, came from a wealthy family and had two children under the age of 3. And last week's atrocity on a Jerusalem bus was perpetrated by, of all things, a member of the Palestinian Authority police.


It's no good pretending we can understand such people via the rhetoric of compassion or the sort of inductive reasoning used by detectives on American television shows such as "Law & Order." Instead, we need to try to begin understanding the society that bred them.


But to even suggest such a thing opens us up to criticism for generalizing about a people rather than discussing individuals. We are told that only racists would even suggest such a thing.


Yet when it comes to Palestinian terrorists, focusing on the individual over the group gets us nowhere. These terrorists are acting in accordance with values that are lauded in their culture, and as part of a war that a particular society is conducting against Israel. The suicide bombers and other terrorists who kill Israeli men, women and children in cold blood are doing what their state schools and religious institutions have been telling them is an honorable, even saintly, deed.

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So we must, albeit reluctantly, ask ourselves what sort of a society would think it is a good thing to commit gruesome murders? Are Jews not considered human? Are Palestinians truly barbarians, who, as historian Benny Morris recently suggested, need to be penned up?

DEHUMANIZING THE FOE
In the past, even those who lived in enlightened liberal democracies have not been troubled by generalizations about their enemies. Look at any movie made in Hollywood during World War II and search in vain for a humanized portrait of a German or Japanese soldier.


We can snicker at the crude chauvinism of that time, but what else were Americans to think about people who had committed untold atrocities in Poland, China and elsewhere? And the truth is, the screenwriters and the audiences of those films actually didn't know a fraction of the horror that was committed by the Nazis and their collaborators in the Holocaust, or in the Far East by the servants of the Japanese empire.


Americans then assumed that the Japanese and the Nazis, didn't place the same value on human life as we did. But by the time of the Vietnam war, Americans were too sophisticated to buy into such reasoning.


So, too, when it came to depictions of their Arab foes, have been most Israelis. Almost from the start of the modern Zionist movement, Hebrew popular culture has done its best to depict Arabs respectfully. Most films and plays produced in Israel have gone out of their way to humanize Palestinians, and to anguish over the conflict and the loss to both sides.


The notion of sacrifice for the nation is part of Zionist lore. But even a work such as Nathan Alterman's classic poem "The Silver Platter," in which the slain heroes of Israel's War of Independence remind the nation that the Jewish state was bought with their lives, does not glorify death or dehumanize the enemy; it reminds us of the terrible price of even a just war.


Even today, at a time when Jewish blood has been spilled so readily, mindless hatred against Arabs is still a marginal factor in Israeli society.


Not so among the Arabs. You need only read the translations from the Arab press and television that are published by the Middle East Media Research Institute (www.MEMRI.org) to understand that the delegitimization of Israel and the Jews is an integral part of mainstream Arab culture.


Some will blame Israel for this, and claim its refusal to give in to Palestinian demands and its insistence on fighting back against terror is creating Arab hatred. But that assertion flies in the face of the fact that the current war is one the Palestinians chose when they could have had a state. The goal of the Palestinian national movement — Israel's destruction — remains unchanged.

MORE THAN A PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTION
Yet even in the middle of this desperate war, we saw last week the willingness of Israel to trade hundreds of terrorist prisoners for one Israeli captive, along with the bodies of three slain soldiers. Israel was reportedly willing to release even more terrorists if only Hezbollah or any other Arab group would hand over the long-sought Israeli prisoner Ron Arad, or at least his lifeless bones. Recent reports in the Israeli press revealed that DNA tests proved that a bone fragment that was received recently from Hezbollah (a down payment on future trades?) was not that of Arad.


Why are Israelis so willing to trade so much for a single life when the Palestinians are willing to expend their own so needlessly? I suspect that it may be not so much a matter of devaluing life as it is the greater value they place on the ultimate victory they seek.


This is more than a philosophical question, because if we think that Israel's foes share our horror at the conflict, then we will always try to appease them with concessions. If their goals are different from those of the Jews, then a change in long-term strategy may be in order.


We may not understand why Arabs honor murder and Jews don't, but at this point in history, we're forced to at least pose the question. If, rather than a dispute about territory, something darker within Palestinian society is driving t his terrible war, then every debate about the peace process is ultimately moot. And that is a possibility very few of us wish to acknowledge.

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JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here. In June, Mr. Tobin won first places honors in the American Jewish Press Association's Louis Rapaport Award for Excellence in Commentary as well as the Philadelphia Press Association's Media Award for top weekly columnist. Both competitions were for articles written in the year 2002.

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© 2004, Jonathan Tobin