THREE BOYS

Three Boys

(Eyal Yifrach, Gilad
Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel)

By

Leonard Zwelling

         The word hit the wires on June 30. The bodies of the three
teenagers missing from the West Bank have been found under rocks in a field
near Hebron. They were shot.

         First thoughts are for revenge and it is without doubt that
the Israelis will enact a heavy price on the Palestinians for this latest
atrocity. But that will solve nothing.

Second
thoughts are for responsibility and accountability. I am afraid we all share
that, but it mainly rests at the feet of those on the ground in the Middle East
who have mutually agreed to perpetuate this 66-year old battle.

Third
thoughts, which should be the first ones, are how does anything good come of
this?

         There is only one way. Both sides, or how ever many there
are now with Israel, the Palestinians, non-Hamas variety (West Bank or Gaza)
and Palestinian Hamasniks simply cannot go on like this forever. That being
said, only they can decide that this is so. The United States has no role in
forcing any agreements on, between, or among the principals. Either the people
who live in the Middle East will settle their differences for the sake of their
children or they won’t.

         On this last point, I fear there is still a long way to go
as indicated by the Wall Street Journal piece this morning (7/1) by Bret
Stephens (“Where Are the Palestinian Mothers?”). It seems there is still glory
attributed to suicide bombing on the Palestinian side. What this basically
means is that the Israelis and the Palestinians are not singing from the same
hymnal on any level. Even Sting insisted that the “Russians love their
children, too” in his 1985 song Russians. All too commonly, the Palestinian
mothers seem not to share the belief of their Israeli counterparts that the
long life of their sons is worthy of peace-making. How sad!

         Those who know my views on Israel know that I do not believe
that the Jews have some right to the land given to them by God. Nor do I
believe that the Jews have a right to the land because of what they have
suffered in the Holocaust or for everything else done to us in the Diaspora.
The Jews have Israel because they won. Period. Those Jews in America who
believe that the Jews have an innate right to the land of Israel ought to move
there and give back their homes in Bellaire to the American Indians.

         That being said, I am sure that the Israeli military and Israeli
government will investigate the deaths of the 3 youths and try to bring the
perpetrators to justice. And they should. But the larger issue is how can the
combined leadership of the various factions in the Middle East stop killing
each other and learn to live together.

         I have no idea, but I do know it is up to them to figure it
out, not us.

         Throughout the American Jewish community there will be much
gnashing of teeth. Some will call for revenge for the deaths. Some will call
for restraint. Most will just be sad. It is so reminiscent of the deaths of the
three civil rights workers in Mississippi 50 years ago. That event did
galvanize public opinion against racism and was instrumental in obtaining the
passage of civil rights legislation by President Johnson as the Broadway play
All the Way depicts graphically.

         I don’t know what to do. My heart is with the families of
these young men, but my head is with the leaders of both the Israeli and the
Palestinian people. When I last visited Israel in 1999, it looked like peace
was possible. We traveled to Bethlehem, Jericho and Nazareth on the West Bank.
We passed checkpoints easily. Israeli and Palestinian troops co-existed and
chatted with one another and we were asked to shop at Palestinian souvenir
stores, and we did and were welcomed. Then came the Second Intifada (correction thanks to an observant reader) and the many
examples of never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

         I was born right after the state of Israel came into
existence. It would really be nice to die seeing peace in the region. It would
even be nicer to not bury any more young Israelis or Palestinians. It would be
nice.

         But, as Mr. Stephens notes: “a culture that celebrates
kidnapping is not fit for statehood.”

         There is still a long, long way to go.

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