There is a reason for the right-wing rage. Behind the instinct to attack any left-wing speaker hides a great fear of a change in public opinion. Because if there is a reason and a motive for acts of terror, it may be possible to stop them and prevent the next casualty; because if the Palestinians are fighting Israel over the occupation, ending it could put an end of the circle of violence, pain and bereavement. That is something the Right doesn’t want anyone to think about.
When the IDF and the Shin Bet lay their hands on a wanted Palestinian, they thoroughly interrogate him, not just from the military aspect but also from the psychological and ideological aspect, in a bid to understand the interrogee’s motivation and motive to join terror organizations. Understanding the reasons which led a young Palestinian to pick up a stone, a knife or a rifle, can help us understand the reality and take steps which will reduce the chance of aggravating the conflict.
What the IDF does behind closed doors, however, must not be done in public as part of an open and public critical discourse. Because, politically, the need to prevent the terror attack is a marginal need, compared to the interest to instill the message that they murder because they are animals, that there is no motive, that there is no partner and that they will never change.
We should study the motives which make a Palestinian teen protest, throw stones, attack soldiers and join terror organizations, not out of empathy but out of an interest to know whether and how we could put a real end the mutual bloodbath.
If on the other side there are people rather than monsters, if in the other side there is willingness to reach a compromise and a desire for equality and national coexistence, then perhaps we can talk to them, and perhaps we can reach an agreement and sustain two states, and that already means evacuating settlements, that already means making concessions, and that is something the Right doesn’t want under any circumstances, even at the cost of war, even at the cost of losing peace.
The peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan turned the two states from bitter enemies into neighbors with shared interests, with systems of cooperation, trade and tourism. If that happened with King Hussein and President Anwar Sadat, it might also happen with the Palestinians, and the price will be paid by the ideological Right, which considers the land more important than any peace agreement.
The huge reward in reaching peace and ending the violence is one of the most important reasons for reaching a compromise and ending the occupation. Only those who deny the occupation will keep arguing that dying in battle or getting killed in a terror attack is a predestination and that force is the only way to subdue terror.
The joint ceremony held by Palestinian and Israeli bereaved families shatters all the theories into pieces and shows each side that there are people on the other side who have lost everything, and that to prevent it from happening to others, they are willing to march forward, with their faces exposed, and call on both sides to end the conflict and make peace.
This is the most defying and effective message against the “no partner” and “they are all murderers.”
Poll after poll prove that for the sake of peace, and for the chance to live without the threat of death or bereavement, the Israeli public is willing to make painful concessions, just like it did vis-à-vis Egypt and Jordan. This is the Right’s nightmare, its greatest fear.
So every sentence linking the occupation to terror automatically becomes illegitimate and “a justification of terror.” And so Palestinians who lost their loved ones as part of the occupation are nothing more than families of terrorists, who only seek our destruction and have no interest in a compromise or in peace.
Because if they do have such an interest, the only thing the Right can sell to the public is more optional wars, commemorative plaques and memorial services.