Nineteen-year-old Israeli Eden Attias dreamed of becoming a DJ one day. His special knack for mastering electronics and technology attracted the attention of the Ordnance Corps of the IDF, who recruited him for basic training in November 2013. But this position with the Israeli army would never be fulfilled. As Attias closed his eyes to sleep on a bus with his fellow soldiers in Nazareth one fateful Wednesday morning, he had no idea that he would never wake up. As the bus rolled to a stop in Afula, Israel, a Palestinian terrorist boarded, pulled out a knife, and stabbed Attias several times in the neck and chest area. Aspiring to one day fill the world with music, Attias would instead succumb to his wounds and die an untimely death.
Attias’ story is sadly not an anomaly; Jews commuting on buses and in cars are frequently attacked by Palestinian terrorists throughout Israel, creating headlines that play across Israeli news television screens all too often.
This political landscape wherein Palestinian extremists see fit to attack Jews going about their daily work serves as the primer for the rationale behind Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s proposed security measure to compel citizens of the Palestinian areas who work in Israel to “return through the same crossing they left so there will be supervision of entry and departure like in any sovereign country that protects itself and takes care to admit foreign residents into its territory in orderly fashion.”
According to Ya’alon, the policy does not ban Israelis and Palestinians from riding the same busses. Instead, it compels Palestinians to exit through the same checkpoint through which they entered, namely the Eyal checkpoint. This will enable the IDF to “better account for the thousands of Palestinian laborers who enter Israel on a daily basis by tracking their return back to the West Bank.”
To be sure, the pragmatics of this security policy must and should be debated and discussed by Israeli policy makers in the Knesset; that is what democracies do. Yet it must be stressed that this policy does not come out of a vacuum. As noted above, it comes out of a pattern of repeated incidents of aggression towards Jews; any debate must bear these conditions in mind.
But context is a foreign concept to J Street U leaders Catie Stewart and Gabriel Erbs, who describe the policy in a Haaretz article as “segregation” and an act of “denying Palestinian civil rights and self-determination.” In a hit piece published on November 4, Stewart and Erbs invoke the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King to suggest that policy makers trying to protect Jews from racist attacks are themselves guilty of racism.
“The idea of segregated buses should send chills down the spine of anyone who has ever … learned about … the segregated Jim Crow-era American south,” they write, after describing Ya’alon as a bloodthirsty fiend who wants to end the “Palestinian cancer” with “chemotherapy.” Yet both accusations are disingenuous. Yet Ya’alon clearly says, “We do not have intentions to annihilate them [the Palestinians] and we have also expressed readiness to grant them a state, whereas they are unwilling to recognize our right to exist here as a Jewish state.”
Moreover, creating a different bus route so as to deter attacks on Jews is no more “segregationist” than blacks refusing to go through an all-white neighborhood for fear of a lynch mob in the 1950s. Heaven forfend they should value their lives and take reasonable precautions so as to prevent beatings, raping, stabbings, and hangings. No, no, that would be a form of self-imposed “segregation,” a systematic disparaging of white people that should be publicly denounced by human rights folk everywhere.
Unfortunately, in Stewart and Erbs’s world, inversion is in vogue. Protection from racists becomes racism and a person’s right to defend himself is eroded, turning victims into victimizers.
To make matters worse, Stewart and Erb represent an organization that has no qualms about preventing Jewish communities from being established in the West Bank. According to J Street’s website, the very presence of Jewish communities, “undermines the prospects for peace by making Palestinians doubt Israeli motives and commitment.” Erb specifically writes in The Jewish Week that Jewish communities, “fuel inter-group tensions.” To wit, according to Erb, the presence of Jews in certain areas is itself a provocation; it is Jews who are responsible for the incitement against them.
That Stewart and Erb arrogate to themselves the authority to give commentary on the issue of “segregation” when they actively advocate for the establishment of a state which, according to them, must segregate Jews before it comes into fruition, illustrates the absurdity of their own hypocrisy.
And this is what their appraisal of Israeli policy ultimately boils down to: an excess of hyper-idealistic solipsism whereby members of a mutual admiration society think that referencing the name of a prominent civil rights leader means they are just like them. Yet, Dr. King understood fundamentally that a persecuted people will grow tired; they will grow tired of being pelted with stones; they will grow tired of having their children run over with cars; they will grow tired of having their soldiers stabbed to death while they sleep. “So in the midst of their tiredness, these people … rise up and protest against injustice.”
Security officials says that this policy seeks to address that injustice. Perhaps it isn’t the right one; perhaps it is. But one thing is certain: Stewart and Erb’s faux righteous indignation are categorically not.