This sick glee in the face of a terrorist attack

Many Israelis find “educational” value in horrifying attacks, as long as they happen to others…

Following the terrorist attack in Norway, before the Israeli media had to reluctantly admit it was actually carried out by a Norwegian neo-Nazi, the media, aside from Haaretz, kept its readers in the dark about the killers’ pro-Israeli agenda, the comment section on the internet sites was filled not with expressions of horror and sadness, but with virulent attacks on Muslims and Islam, and a strange and awful sort of glee. Even when it turned out that the killer was, in fact, Anders Breivik, many of the readers commenting on Israeli websites justified his act.

It is not, in fact, at all surprising that a neo-Nazi would support Israel. The extreme European right loves Israel, often describing it – as did Breivik (and, for that matter, founder of Zionism Theodore Herzl) – as a bastion of the West in the lands of Islam. Under Liberman, the Foreign Ministry has began making contacts with extreme right wing parties; the latest example being the meeting between an Israeli deputy minister, Ayoub Qara, and representatives of the Austrian Freedom Party formerly led by Jorg Haider. While Haider was alive, his party was described as a “Neo-Nazi” party by Israeli officials. Well, turns out lepers can’t be choosers, and Israel needs every friend it can get. I mean, Israel was South Africa’s best friend during Apartheid; we’re used to that.

But where did the glee come from? It is not new. During the shock following the 9/11 attacks, a strong undercurrent of glee showed up. Four Israelis were actually arrested in New York for dancing in front of the burning towers. They spent quite some time in detention before being kicked out of the US.

Much of it stems from the feeling that “now, after a terrorist attack, they will understand how we live, and we’ll see how they’ll deal with it; let’s see them preach to us after suffering a suicide attack.” This sort of sentiment is not at all limited to right-wingers: Doron Rosenbloom, generally a sharp leftist satirist, wrote one of his poorest columns based on this fantasy of attacks on London and Paris. Three years later, following the 7/7 attacks in London, Ha’aretz republished the column.

Of course, the attacks on London did not end up as Israelis hoped: The Londoners have a long history of resisting terror, from the Fenian “underground dynamiters” of the late 19th century to The Troubles of Northern Ireland. Blair’s government did not react to the attacks as the Israelis expected. No hysterics. No moaning and chest-beating in front of the cameras. Quiet, dignity and a stiff upper lip. Nor did Blair’s government respond as an Israeli government might, presumably by bombing Islamabad.

This glee is not reserved for gentiles (it is never present when a Jewish target is attacked abroad); it often appears after a terrorist on Tel Aviv, of which there were many. It is often expressed after a rocket attack on Sderot or an attack on a settlement in the wish for an attack on Tel Aviv, or on a leftist demonstration. Rather than opposing all terrorist attacks, they accept some of them – as long as they have an “educational” value. Strangely enough, this is quite similar to what the terrorists are trying to do: To educate a hostile public about their grievances by violence.

The support of Breivik’s act after his identity was discovered, even though most of his victims were children, follows the same pattern: Israeli commentators support his ideology, and, having adopted him – who is merely an armed and ruthless version of Glenn Beck – they tend to forgive him for this minor indiscretion. The fact that many people could identify with a mass murderer of children spotlights another problem, one rarely mentioned: The de-humanizing effects of Jewish Orthodox education, which most Israeli Jews receive in one form or another. Being taught from an early age that you belong to a master race, and that other people are inherently inferior, that their lives aren’t worth as much as yours will take its mark.

Yossi Gurvitz

+972 is a blog-based web magazine that is jointly owned by a group of Israeli journalists and bloggers. The writers’ goal is to provide fresh, original, on-the-ground reporting and analysis of events in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The name of the magazine is derived from the telephone area code that is shared by Israel and the Palestinian territories.

July 25 2011

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