March 28, 2008

Our Response to the Mercaz Massacre

ON MARCH 5, 1770, a British regiment shot and killed five American colonialists, in what became known as the Boston Massacre. The massacre became a rallying cry to revolution against the British, even though what had taken place was not really a massacre, but acts of self-defense against a violent mob that taunted: "Fire and be damned!"

Although ultimately proved false, the very idea of a massacre of unarmed civilians by British soldiers riled Americans to fight to be free of the British. The fledgling American nation had a right to defend itself against massacres.

The right of a nation to defend itself against an aggressor is a lesson that the Jewish nation has been taught particularly well by the harsh stick of exile. As soon as we were able, we therefore organized ourselves to declare our own emancipation from the yoke of the nations. With a Jewish state and a Jewish army to protect and avenge us, never again would a Jew be stricken like a slave, with no defense, no recourse, and no just consequence being meted out to the assailant.

The response of the current Jewish government to the brutal slaying of unsuspecting children in the eternal capital of our people - agreeing to a ceasefire or "lull" in violence with those ultimately responsible - defies the logic of its own existence.

Following a war of terror which lasted several years, the members of this government in the name of peace, led an assault on its own citizenry, expropriating their property, homes, livelihoods, and communities without just compensation. Our enemies responded with kidnappings and a torrent of indiscriminate rockets, which has lasted two years. Now, after the Mercaz massacre, the government continues in its policy of active inaction, proving once and for all the maxim that Jewish blood is cheap.

The confrontation between the victims and their community and Education Minister Yael Tamir was a continuance of this policy. While a visit by an education minister to an educational institution where there was a tragedy sounds normal, Tamir is infamous for cutting funding to religious schools like Mercaz HaRav, while allowing Palestinians to label Independence Day as al-Nakba (the catastrophe) in their textbooks.

Furthermore, the government and Tamir know that the religious community views Tamir as a symbol of those complicit in terror attacks like the massacre, because they have given and continue to give the terrorists money, weapons, moral support and diplomatic legitimacy. This, in turn allows the terrorists to get money and guns from other countries.

Tamir was therefore asked not to come to the yeshiva in its time of mourning. When she came anyway, angry students yelled insults at her and spat on her, and she claims she was kicked in the back. Their anger and actions were both understandable and predictable, if not rational and advisable.

But the government's declared policy was far more shameful.

Immediately after the massacre, Mark Regev, a spokesman for Olmert, called the massacre "a defining moment" and Ehud Olmert denied that there were any negotiations with Hamas.

Despite these statements, the security officials confirmed to the press the existence of an agreement for a lull in violence between Israel and Hamas. Olmert has denied this, but as yet there has been no appropriate retaliation to the massacre.

Israel has continued in its policy of restraint and concessions as if the massacre as well as the continuous bombardment of Israel's South has never happened.

Though Olmert claims to be following the policies of his predecessor Ariel Sharon, Sharon's response to the 2002 Passover Massacre was to send troops into the terror stronghold of Jenin. By 2003 Sharon had put Palestinian terror to a halt.

In the 1970s and early 80s, when the PLO bombarded Israel's North and carried out attacks similar to the Mercaz massacre, Israel under Menachem Begin responded with a war that destroyed the PLO's infrastructure in southern Lebanon. Even though the results of the Lebanon war are disputed, it was necessary for Israel to respond to Palestinian barbarity.

Unlike the effect of prior massacres on the Sharon and Begin governments, however, the Mercaz massacre has not even dented the Olmert government's ghetto mentality.

Rabbis at Mercaz have compared the massacre to the 1929 Arab riots, in which Arabs murdered, raped, pillaged and plundered the Jews of Hebron, in order to prevent Jews from erecting a partition at the Kotel so they could pray there, and from establishing the Jewish State at all.

The Yishuv responded to the riots by asking Rav Avraham Hakohen Kook - father of modern religious Zionism and the founder and namesake of Mercaz Harav - to sanction giving up the Jewish right to the Kotel in order to appease the Arabs. Of course, he did the opposite by proclaiming the Jewish right to sovereignty over the Kotel and Eretz Yisrael before a League of Nations investigating committee.

In the pre-state era, Arab attacks on Jews were rampant. The Haganah and the Yishuv's policy was one of "havlagah," self-restraint. They acted similarly towards the British declaration in the form of a White Paper on the eve of the Holocaust that Jewish immigration to Palestine would be limited a maximum of 75,000 total spread over a five year period. Ben-Gurion response was that we "would fight the war as if there was no White Paper and fight the White Paper as if there was no war."

Israel's policy today is the same one of restraint. Olmert even told the residents of Ashkelon that Israel's situation "demands restraint." But this 90 year-old defeatist policy of the left is no longer acceptable.

In the midst of talk of civil war, we left Gaza, but the enemy still fires missiles at the kindergartners of Sderot. The prime minister talks of giving up Judea and Samaria as well, yet the enemy points their AK-47s at the yeshiva students in Jerusalem.

The government is deaf to the sounds of rockets and bullets as well as the cries of the victims. It directs its fury not at the murderers, but at the massacre's survivors and their community, and at religious Zionism itself. It deals with the Arabs as if there was no terror, and deals with terror as if there are no Arabs.

In Ashkelon, the prime minister said they should get used to rockets saying, "we have no way of preventing these things from recurring." Similarly, Olmret’ s disgraced former chief of staff, Dan Halutz, once said that "There will always be some terrorist to fire a missile." Leaving aside that this is not a case of a single missile or attack by some free radical every few years, but a barrage of premeditated attacks, let us momentarily concede that they are correct. Perhaps we will never have ultimate security as we cannot control every Palestinian. But at least we can control how we respond to these acts of murder.

Today, the Jewish State must do more to protect Jews than the mandatory British government did. In response to the barbaric massacre in the capital of Israel, the government must do more than to conduct further negotiations. Surely, a state with one of the most powerful armies in the world can do more to protect and avenge its citizens than the under-armed and underground Jewish armies of the Mandate era.

Originally published in Arutz Sheva.