The new tactic proposed for stopping the terrorist knifing frenzy raging for the past month is that “the IDF will buffer between Jews and Palestinians” in the West Bank. In anticipation of the inevitable outcry accusing Israel of apartheid and racism, a few words of introduction are in order.
Though Asher Ginsburg, popularly known as Ahad Ha’am, wrote his essay regarding the difference between Judaism and Christianity a long time ago (1910), his conclusion still reflects what many Israelis think today. Ahad Ha’am boiled down the difference to this: Christians strive to live a perfect moral life, while Jews maintain that given the sinful man’s nature the ideal is unattainable.
Furthermore, Ahad Ha’am explained that uncompromising moral positions do more harm than good. As a case in point, he noted that divorce is forbidden in Christianity, but permissible in Judaism. According to Jewish logic, forcing a couple to live together against their wishes can damage the relationship far more than living apart. In certain cases, therefore, divorce is simply a lesser of two evils, and hence must be permitted.
It is from this perspective that many Israelis see the high moral ground taken by the IDF as reflecting a Christian sense of morality that inadvertently serves to prolong the conflict rather than end it.
For instance, during the 2014 Gaza war, Israel identified five mortar launchers targeting Kibbutz Nahal Oz. When residents of the kibbutz asked the IDF why these mortars were not taken out, the answer was that they were positioned too near to residential homes in Gaza. Israel has repeatedly found itself in this conundrum by attempting to appease the Christian sense of morality reflected in the international community’s demand that it avoid all collateral damage.
This high moral ground taken by the IDF has been harshly criticized by Israelis who see it as a twisted sense of morality that places the well-being of Israel’s enemies over its own citizens.
The recent Palestinian knifing attacks have forced Israel to take certain actions to reduce casualties, and one solution now emerging is forced separation between Jews and Arabs. But this is not a new idea.
After thousands of Israelis were killed and wounded during the Second Intifada, Israel built the “separation fence,” as it is called in Hebrew, to physically divide between rivals. Though this fence has saved many lives, Israel’s opponents insist on calling it the “apartheid wall.” Yet, like divorce, this fence was the lesser of two evils: better separated than living in hell.
The new tactic Israel plans to implement in the West Bank is called “buffering,” which means that soldiers will do whatever they can to prevent contact between Israelis and Palestinians. And though Israel risks being charged with racism, it is hoped that this time our government will not compromise the welfare of Israelis in a vain effort to appease the conscience of those who would demand that Israel either die or live according to an unattainable standard.