Massacre in Hebron

Si vis pacem, para bellum. If you want peace, prepare for war. This Latin proverb comes to mind when I think of what's happening in the state of Israel.

First and foremost, let me say that I am unequivocally regretful and saddened to acknowledge the recent massacre that took place in Hebron. The brutal killing of people in their place of worship is totally repulsive. There is no way possible to ever justify or explain this heinous act.

I also believe that now is the time for us to take a careful look at the events that caused the massacre. By identifying the events that caused the massacre, we will be able to prevent future bloodshed.  It is far more important to find the cause than waste time condemning the senseless act.

Our president, Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and the Pope have all expressed their outrage. They have called for mutual restraint during the time of crisis. The U.N. is being asked to pass a resolution condemning this barbaric act.

Why has it taken this long?

Ever since the signing of the Peace Accord there have been more murders than ever. This past week a young, pregnant Israeli mother was brutally murdered in front of her two young children. A 23-year-old Israeli taxi driver, Ilan Sudri, was riddled by bullets. Weeks before, another taxi driver in Beer Sheva was murdered by terrorists. Near Ramla, two more Jews were brutally murdered. They had been set up by the terrorists. A young man from Rechovot, Moshe Becker, was murdered in his orange grove. An 80-year-old retired policeman was axed to death in Kfar Saba. All these cold-blooded acts of terror and barbarianism on innocent citizens are calculated acts. The people murdered were non-violent and peace-loving, trying to live a sane life. They were killed in spite of all this.The list of tragedies goes on and on.

In the above cases, either the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility or the Hamas claimed a victory. Each group threatens to continue the bloodshed.

Why was there no call of condemnation? Why has the U.N. taken its time to consider a special resolution to condemn acts of random murder and mayhem? Why is it only now that leaders from all religions and countries are jumping on the bandwagon in condemning violence? It is not natural to expect a country, Israel, to suffer close to twenty-five to thirty cases of cold-blooded murder in the name of peace and not have its citizens respond.

Why did Dr. Boruch Goldstein open fire in the mosque? What message was he delivering? What drove Dr. Goldstein to do this?

I know that Goldstein's actions, extreme as they were, are somewhat reflective of many American settlers in Israel. To some, his actions were considered a heroic deed. They mark the beginning of an organized revolt against the Israeli government. Let me qualify this statement.

Late Saturday night I called a colleague who lives in the West Bank. I asked him what's happening. I asked him what's happening and what possessed Goldstein. He answered with the following. "I'm not a Kach member. I don't live in Hebron but I'm starting to understand the Kahane message. Dr. Goldstein speaks for many of us."

A few years ago my colleague Moshe moved to Israel with his American wife. They answered the call of the government to help settle the West Bank territories. Being a soldier, he and his family joined over 125,000 people in settling the areas. Now, the very same government is telling them that small settlements defy logic and are an obstacle in the final agreement with the PLO.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres wants all small settlements to be abandoned. Peres claims the settlements that are miles from other Jewish cities need to be surrounded by barbed wire, electrified fences, soldiers and its roads patrolled. This is too costly. Therefore, they should be closed. Why did he support them until now? How can a government reverse their ideology midstream?

The settlers were told by their own leaders to protest the new government position by peaceful protests.  In a recent visit Rabbi Aaron Soleveichik, a leading American theologian told settlers to engage in passive resistance. The Rabbi said if the settlers will be jailed in large groups, public opinion would surely be roused and the Peres/Arafat accord would be reevaluated. Unfortunately, this has not happened. Those involved in protesting have been physically beaten, arrested and their employment jeopardized. The passive resistance, Ghandi-style protest, has failed. The plan backfired.

Now the settlers are in a quandary over what they should do. On one hand they don't want to leave and, yet, they feel unsafe and betrayed. Six months ago leaders of West Bank cities, including Hebron and Gaza, met and laid plans for organizing an army to protect themselves. In Israel, where there is compulsory army service, there are thousands of soldiers who live in the West Bank. Imagine, they're now being forced to continue to confront their own families at protest marches and demonstrations. They don't like this one bit. The very idea of the government of Israel releasing thousands of terrorists and the disarming of the Jews in the settlements is causing the violent and uncontrollable rage among the settlers. The stress level has peaked. Something had to be done. I believe Dr. Goldstein acted with this in mind. The previous night Goldstein was mocked by Arabs as he tried to pray in the Jewish part of the mosque. Subsequently, he reacted.

His actions do not only represent those of Kach, the extreme movement. There is an astounding amount of settlers and non-settlers, Jews  from Israel and other countries, who are ready to take matters into their own hands.

Goldstein's actions have brought the ongoing terror that has been inflicted on the settlers to the public. This is to the great embarrassment of the Israeli government. Pandora's box is wide open.

The conflict is now affecting those living in the main cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The settlers will no longer be the   only targets by the Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Every Israeli citizen now fears becoming a target. By his terrible, murderous act in the mosque, Goldstein has projected the frustration to the public. The plight is now everybody's burden. The government's cover up of what's happening to the 125,000 settlers is now revealed.

What's particularly disturbing to American settlers is Prime Minister Peres' recent remark to a woman questioning the peace accord. The woman was attending a speech by Peres followed by a question and answer session. As the woman protested by pointing to the murders being inflicted on the settlers since the peace accord, Peres irrationally answered, "From your voice I can tell you're an American. If you don't like what we do in Israel, go home." Obviously, Israel may not be home for all Jews.

It wasn't surprising to hear that the Israeli government will now be taking away guns from the so called militants, freeing more and more PLO prisoners and arresting any of those voicing opposition to the Israeli government. In the name of peace, Israel has rejected the sensitivity of its settlers. They have betrayed them. The truth must be stated. The present government is guilty of bringing Dr. Goldstein to the brink, causing this untold tragedy.

I realize that this may be the beginning of a terrible and tragic battle between brothers, positioning families against families. The perfidious actions by the Israeli government is a disgrace. The state of Israel has made the laws, and now has broken them. Settlers will not tolerate losing their hard-earned freedom and the right to bear arms. They need to feel secure.

Israel must take a long, hard look at their role in the peace talks. Let's not be foolish and think that this problem of settlers will go away. As more attacks against innocent Jewish settlers take place there are sure to be more retaliations and tragedies. Remember, it's not the PLO who needs protection, it's the settlers!

The council of Jewish communities for Judea, Sumaria and Gaza have declared government action unwarranted. The detention and disarming of settlers is seen as the beginning of the end of the settlement movement. As the settlers lose the right to carry arms, the safety of the settlers will become more precarious.

It's important to remember that Rabbi Kahane, the founder of the Kach movement, did not preach outright murder. He never told anybody to go and kill worshipers in the mosques. I believe he would not rejoice with a Hebron massacre. On the other side of the coin, he would never allow Jews to surrender their homes, guns and land. There is a well-known saying that from every bad there comes some good. Let's hope that the present government of Israel realizes what they are dealing with.