The deaths of two children in Israel and the West Bank last Thursday and Friday underscore the tragedy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On Thursday, a radical Jewish terrorist stabbed 16 year old Shira Banki to death and seriously wounded 5 others. On Friday, an Israeli Jewish settler set fire to a Palestinian house, killing 18-month old Ali Dawabsha and seriously wounding his mother Reham, father Saad, and brother Ahmad.
Israel's national anthem Hatikva expresses the aspiration for Jews "to be a free people in our land." When LGBT Israelis and their straight supporters put their lives at risk by parading through Jerusalem, this aspiration goes unmet. When settlers terrorize Palestinians and endanger all Israelis with the threat of Palestinian reprisals, this aspiration goes unmet.
Israelis, like most decent people, have taken steps to respond to these tragedies. It is disappointing to see these steps taken too late. But it is also disappointing to see that instead of embracing these actions, some commentators downplay them. Here are some of the steps Israel took as a society in the wake of last week's attacks:
- The term "terrorism" was used to describe the attacks by Israel's Prime Minister, President, Defense Minister, and Leader of the Opposition.
- 100 Jews visited the Dawabsha family to pay their respects.
- Thousands of Israelis rallied in support of gay rights across Israel.
-300 settlers held a vigil with Palestinians for the Dawabsha family.
- Israel arrested right-wing extremists including the grandson of Meir Kahane.
- The lack of prevention for the attacks was condemned by major opinion leaders in Israel, including MK Yair Lapid.
Neither these actions - nor any actions - can prevent what has already happened. That structural problems remain in Israel is a given. At the same time, it would be a mistake to treat all Israelis as a monolith, or equally responsible for these attacks. Opponents of Israel often decry calls for "moderate Palestinians" to condemn terrorist attacks on Israelis. The same opponents should be consistent with regards to Israeli terrorist violence and give credit to the Israeli public where it is due. This consistency is important not only for fair debate. Preventing future violence will require sustaining the current sentiments in Israel's public discourse and translating them into meaningful action.