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Over the past two days, watching the reactions here in the US and in Israel to the deaths of two Israeli boys and one Israeli-American boy, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frankel, I can’t help but notice a huge disconnect.
“Driving down highway no.2, leading from Haifa to the center of Israel, the road is by no means empty, and yet – the sadness and tension are tangible. You could literally touch them [other drivers] – as if everyone is driving out of necessity, a habit really. As the sun is in full force high above in the sky, and the heat seems to be reflecting from the barren and brown land below, the radio is playing slow and sad music. The same sounds so many of us remember from the Oslo days of the mid-90s, when Hamas was executing (what a choice of words …) its “quality” suicide bombings on buses and in restaurants against scores of innocents.
“The TV and radio are broadcasting nonstop the eulogies, the last call of Gilad [Gilad Shaar, one of the three victims] to the police, the politicians and the families –all in a mixture of pain, grief and unity.
“And the thing which strikes us all the most is the cruelty – unthinkable cruelty – of the non-humans who kill, cold-bloodedly, innocent teenagers, and for what?
The pictures below show the throngs of people who turned out for the boys’ funerals yesterday.
Reading Azani’s words, I can’t help but remember what New York, and the rest of the US, was like in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001. The entire country was united in unthinkable grief. In New York, the same sadness and tension that Azani now describes filled the air, the conversations, the media, every available space. The cruelty that could underlie such an attack was incomprehensible. And Americans, by and large, recognized what had happened as an act of war, war on the US, and recognized the need to respond accordingly. We pursued Al Qaeda into Afghanistan, and when Bin Laden was finally found in Pakistan and killed, without any due process, Americans almost universally cheered.
Yet today most Americans, especially those in the White House, can’t seem to see that this attack on three teenagers was also an act of war, in this case, an act of war against Israel. It was not an isolated criminal attack, but a part of a larger campaign “designed to sow fear and depression and anxiety and impotence in civilian populations.”
Just as the September 11 hijackers targeted Americans simply for being American, these boys were targeted simply for being Israeli. While the number of victims does not compare, neither does the size of the two countries — in tiny Israel, three dead boys means a lot more than we here might understand. Israelis, like Americans in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, are united in their grief.
Many are debating what the best response is. The Prime Minister has made clear, however, that a response will come. Instead of condemning the actions of a government which is obligated to protect its citizens, just as our government is obligated to protect us, let us here in the US draw on our own recent history, and simply say, we understand.