A Palestinian woman disfigured by kitchen burns planned to blow up the Israeli hospital where she was being treated, apparently coerced by al-Aqsa Brigades.
A week later, amidst threats to kill the Israeli prime minister and “set the country on fire” if the Israeli Defense Forces evacuate Gaza settlers, a band of Kach-guided right-wing Jewish extremists threw rocks and blocks at a semi-conscious Palestinian boy, from a meter away.
Have we seen the abyss of humanity?
Can we reverse the course set by the pathological militant absolutism of a radical few?
Are we doing enough to counteract these fringes?
The case of 21-year old Wafa Samir Ibrahim al-Biss should have enraged citizens worldwide. She was hiding 22 pounds of explosives apparently embedded in her underwear through a mix of coercion, indoctrination and blackmail by terrorists. Wafa had been going for treatment to Israel since December 2004, when she suffered severe burns from a gas canister explosion in her home in the Jabalya refugee camp.
The terrorists sought to exploit a humanitarian allowance for travel into Israel and commanded Wafa to blow herself up in a "noisy, crowded place" at the Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva where she received medical treatment.
Palestinian militant groups seek to torpedo efforts at reconciliation through terror, and as such, they have an unwitting and unholy alliance with militant Israeli “thugs” (as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called them).
The actions of a radical minority of violent settlers should also infuriate us all. They went on a wild rampage in the village of Muasi, rioting, bullying and attacking young Palestinians. They blocked Israeli highways and threw nails and gasoline into the roads. They beat a young soldier into a coma.
Two militant West Bank settlers were detained after discovery of their plan to drive two cars filled with containers of gasoline in to Kibbutz Galuyot. Threats to assassinate Sharon and to bomb the al-Aqsa Mosque surface all too frequently. And last week they planted a “warning bomb” in Jerusalem’s central bus station.
Gen. Danny Rothschild, a OneVoice Israel board member, warned me of this weeks ago, when he explained that, unlike older patriotic hardliners, a new generation of rabid militants have no moral compass or boundaries and no sense of respect for the nation.
That description, it struck me, reminded me of a conversation I had with Fathi Darwish, director general of OneVoice-Palestine, about the “anarchy of arms” on the Palestinian side, and how certain villages are haunted by gangs of young hoodlums that answer to no one.
Sharon denounced the rampaging "thugs who try to terrify Israeli society and tear it apart by violence against Jews and Arabs." He added: “We cannot let a small group of law-breakers impose a reign of terror."
He insisted the battle was not over the disengagement plan, but over the future of Israel. In fact, how we battle violent absolutism will significantly define global society over the next few decades.
Numbed into inaction
Alas, Israelis, Palestinians and concerned citizens worldwide have been so desensitized by this ongoing conflict that their indignation
When we are unable to stand up in uniform condemnation against subhuman violent absolutism, when brutal ghastly behavior does not arouse the ire and action of the host population to discourage, isolate and eradicate it in all of its manifestations, it is time for us to ask whether each of us is doing enough to ensure the majority seeking a two-state solution and a better future for their children will ultimately prevail.
We cannot shrug our shoulders in silence. Each one of us must vocally and visually scorn militancy. Community leaders and ordinary citizens must start by sending a clear message to neighbors and fellow citizens uniformly reproaching all forms of violent absolutism. Disapproval must be heartfelt, active, and constant in order to alter the moral environment within which militants operate.
Majorities support non-violence
The silver lining of this abyss is that Israelis and Palestinians alike have peaked, and they do not like what they saw. The number of Palestinians supporting suicide bombings against civilians has steadily declined, ever since it skyrocketed to 86 percent in October 2000. Under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, who has taken strong steps against incitement, over 60 percent now oppose the path of terror.
Seventy-six percent of the 125,000 Palestinians and Israelis that took part in OneVoice Citizen Negotiations supported a two-state solution, consistent with survey data over the years. And Israelis are coming back to support Sharon’s disengagement plan in greater numbers, as militant settler strategies clearly backfire.
Unfortunately, the numbers are still far from what they need to be. Only once the supra-majorities of both populations vocally reject the path of terror and dehumanization, and recognize the need for working solutions that respect both sides, will the terrorist and militant infrastructure be isolated and their funding and moral support dry up until their extinction.
Remarkable efforts from dozens of aligned Israeli and Palestinian organizations fostering reconciliation and understanding are under way. Yet as you do not read about them in the news, you would think they are non-existent, and in this day and age, without media coverage, they may very well be.
Why is media reporting on positive newsworthy developments so absent? And what can we do to change that? We have to accept newscasters will look for the most provocative stories to increase their ratings, and the tools of reason and civic discourse are not sexy enough. Since only mean madness captures media coverage, dwellers drown in a sea of sordid insanity.
Violent extremists, while a minority, are so fanatically committed to their cause that they have thus far overpowered passive moderates in the majority. Can we, without resorting to violence, turn dark energies against themselves?
As advocates of absolutism are exposed as false messiahs, they are delegitimized. People will turn to brighter alternatives if demonstrated to them. But grassroots leadership is a prerequisite. The power of one should not be underestimated. If each one of us does just a little bit more to condemn violent extremism in our community, we can alter the environment.
We can and must tap the frustration that millions like us are feeling and provide tools to channel them towards constructive paths. But it will only succeed if we all play our part.
Not Israeli-Palestinian fight
In the end, the most important way to re-channel energies is to reframe the conflict. This is no longer a struggle of Israelis versus Palestinians. It is about the vast majority willing to live in peace versus tiny but dedicated minorities on both sides that will stop at nothing to achieve an absolutist vision denying the humanity of the other.
We need to stop them first. And we need to stop them now. If we do not, their bitter hatred will envelop us all. Know that they plot and fight for a delusional vision that will impact your future and that of your progeny.
Now ask yourself: What are you doing today to advance the cause of reason?