Answer violence with action

Answer violence with action

Israelis and Jews around the world were stunned last week by separate violent attacks, both attributed to Jewish extremists, both leaving an innocent person dead and families shattered.

On July 31, Jewish extremists were suspected in an arson attack on two homes in the West Bank village of Duma, which killed a Palestinian toddler, Ali Dawabsheh. On July 28, a fervently Orthodox Jew stabbed six people during Jerusalem’s gay pride march; one of the victims, 16-year-old Shira Banki, died of her wounds. Yishai Schlissel, who spent 10 years in jail for a similar attack, will stand trial for the stabbings.

Both attacks have been grouped under the heading of “Jewish terrorism,” and accountability has been demanded from the communities from which the attackers sprang. For too long many in the haredi community have ignored violent anti-gay rhetoric among their leaders and followers and later deny a connection between incendiary language and violent acts. Among the settlers, various extremist cells, from vengeful “price taggers” to messianic cultists, have too often organized and acted with impunity, beneficiaries of a double standard when it comes to investigating and prosecuting Jewish and Palestinian terrorists. 

These are problems for Israel to address, through its political, security, and law enforcement institutions. But Diaspora Jews shouldn’t be left off the hook. Through our political and philanthropic activity for Israel we can help support the organizations and individuals in Israel who are standing up for tolerance, democracy, and pluralism. We can push back against anti-democratic forces in Israel who seek to silence organizations that monitor civil rights and promote peace. And we should encourage and learn from religious organizations that promote a Torah of love and tolerance and that provide a clear alternative to the extremists. 

The famed talmudic saying, “All of Israel is responsible one for another,” is not just an expression of collective responsibility, but of collective culpability. During the Days of Awe, our confession is said in the plural, to acknowledge that the community must do teshuva — repentance — for the individual. But teshuva without action is hollow. Regret is not enough. Instead, Jews have the responsibility to fix what’s wrong — and to support others who are working for what is right.

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