Why launch a devastating incursion, targeting militants yet harming countless civilians, when that method has been proven to exacerbate rather than contain violence? What’s the point of threatening attackers with home demolitions when thousands of innocent people, including the attackers’ own families and neighbors, are equally threatened with the same fate? Why put guns into the hands of more civilians when there is already an armed resident, soldier, police officer, or security guard on every street?
Most Israelis didn’t bother asking these questions when the army raided the Jenin refugee camp on Thursday morning, killing 10 people while causing wanton destruction. They certainly didn’t want to consider these questions the next day, when a young Palestinian shot dead seven Israelis in the East Jerusalem settlement of Neve Yaakov, or when a 13-year-old Palestinian boy later shot and wounded two Israeli settlers in the neighborhood of Silwan. And they barely raised those questions when, like clockwork, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the government’s usual measures to “deter” further attacks, from punishing the assailants’ family members to approving more gun licenses to building more settlement units.
For many Israelis, such reflections on their leaders’ habitual responses are best avoided in order to preserve a simple, rigid worldview: Palestinians hate us for no reason, they attack us without cause, and so we have no choice but to beat them down. More critical Israelis may instead lament the worn-out aphorism of a “cycle of violence,” seeking to draw some moral parity of responsibility and harm between the two sides.
But there is no “cycle” here. From the structural to the physical, violence is a constant, daily experience for Palestinians, and far less so for Jewish-Israelis. Few media outlets, for example, spent ink on the fact that about 30 Palestinians have already been killed this past month, and if they did, it was invoked only in light of the killings of Israelis last weekend. Many Israelis would not have heard that, on Saturday night, settlers set fire to and destroyed Palestinian property across the occupied West Bank — a so-called “price tag” that is already inflicted on villages every week. Thanks to the boasting of government officials, though, they may have seen that Israeli forces are currently demolishing multiple homes in Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem — never mind if the owners have any connection to the recent murders.