Tinteretto’s painting of Cain – who asked ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ – killing Abel
The true meaning of ‘Brother’s Keeper’
By Robert Cohen, Micah’s Paradigm Shift
July 01, 2014
Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
When I first heard the news on 12 June that 19 year old Eyal Yifrah, 16 year old Gilad Shaar, and 16 year old Naftali Fraenkel, were missing, somewhere near Hebron on the West Bank, I knew this was not going to end well.
My first reaction was as a parent, with daughters the same age as the three boys. I could feel my heart tightening as I read the news reports and thought their chances of being found alive were slim. I began to imagine what the political consequences would be. Most of all though, I thought about the boys’ parents.
It didn’t matter to me that the three teenagers were from Settler families. It didn’t matter to me that what the boys called ‘home’ was stolen land for the Palestinian people. I didn’t matter that I would probably find much to disagree with in the religious teaching at the Yeshivas they attended. Actually, it didn’t matter that they were Jewish at all. What mattered was that they were children and what ever their background or the actions of their parents or the political movements they supported, they did not deserve this.
I could come up with a list of reasons why the murderers of the boys acted the way they did. Who knows what their personal experience of Israeli occupation has been. Who knows if they have suffered personal family loss or the destruction of their property or the confiscation of their land. In the end, any mitigating circumstances or explanations for their motivation don’t change the nature of their actions. They kidnapped three children and shot them dead. Resistance to the occupation is entirely justified but it cannot looks like this.
And before the bodies were found, what did the Israeli government do?
The Netanhayu government played this tragedy for everything it was worth. Without any published evidence, Hamas was blamed for the abduction and once again Netanyahu could claim that Israel and the Jewish People were at the mercy of hate filled anti-Semitic terrorists. Never mind that the Hamas leadership denied any involvement and the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the action and called for the teenagers to be released.
And why would the Hamas leadership order and plan such a thing? Why would they even agree to sanction the action by more lowly operatives? What possible advantage could it bring? What ever you think of their stated aims, Hamas is political and rational. With the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, they have been on the back foot looking for a way to remain relevant to their followers and influence the Palestinian future post the Obama/Kerry failure to get peace talks started. Forming a unity government with Abbas’ secular Fatah does not look like the action of crazed religious fundamentalists.
But for Netanyahu it was too good an opportunity to miss.
Having been blamed for intransigence on the latest American peace initiative, he wanted to remind the world that Israel is forever dealing with murderous Palestinians out to kill Jews because they are Jews. By putting responsibility squarely at the door of Hamas he could discredit the fledgling unity government long before it has a chance to give Palestinians a chance to vote in long over-due elections.
And so Operation Brother’s Keeper was launched with the aim of shutting down Hamas on the West Bank. Homes were raided, houses destroyed, more than 400 hundred arrests were made. Five people were killed during clashes with the IDF as they made their round-ups, including 15 year old Mahmoud Dudeen who was struck by live bullets in the chest on June 20 in the village of Dura. He was with other youngsters throwing stones at the soldiers who had stormed into his village.
And now the three boys’ bodies have been recovered the revenge begins. I knew it was going to end badly.
Here is what Netanyahu said last night (Monday 30 June) in a media statement:
“Revenge over the blood of a small child is not the devil’s work, and neither is revenge for the blood of a teenager or young man…Hamas is responsible. Hamas will pay.”
On Monday night the revenge began. After an emergency cabinet meeting, Israel launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip, hitting 34 targets claimed to be terror-related, whatever that means. In the West Bank city of Jenin, another Palestinian child was killed in more clashes with the army, this time it was 16 year old Yusef Abu Zaga who lost his life.
Of course the deaths of Mahmoud and Yusef are not considered tragedies in the way that Eyal, Gilad and Naftali are. The Palestinian boys’ acts of resistance against the IDF mean they forfeit all innocence. They became terrorists and therefore legitimate targets. At best, their deaths are just unfortunate mistakes made in the heat of battle.
Following the three funerals of the Israeli teenagers this afternoon, the Israeli cabinet is in session again planning the next acts in its stated aim to eradicate the evil of Hamas.
How far they will go is anyone’s guess. It will not be good news for the people of Gaza or the West Bank. This is unfocused collective punishment on a grand scale. I’m not sure it is even revenge. Just bad politics.
And what do the Israeli government really understand to be the true meaning of the ‘Brother’s Keeper’ title of their ongoing operation? What does it tell us about their worldview?
The phrase originates from the story of Cain’s murder of his brother Abel in the book of Genesis. Cain denies to God that he is responsible for his brother’s welfare. The teaching is of course that exactly the opposite is true. We are all responsible for our siblings and indeed the welfare of all humanity. The actions of the IDF though, and the entire Israeli government apparatus that keeps the Occupation ticking along, points towards a very different attitude.
While the price of young Jewish lives will be made extremely high in the coming days and weeks, young Palestinians are a very different matter. If we are to be true to our traditional Jewish teaching then the ethic of ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ has to mean more than this. We have to take more care of each other’s children.
Prime minister convenes ministers for second night to deliberate on appropriate Israeli response to the killing of three Israeli boys.
July 07, 2014
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Tuesday night on Israel’s response to recent rocket fire from Gaza and the murder of three Israeli teens saying, “Hamas is responsible, Hamas will pay, and Hamas will continue to pay.”
His comments came before a special session of the Security Cabinet convened to continue deliberations on the appropriate Israeli response for the kidnapping and murder of the teens: Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Naftali Frenkel.
“We won’t remain silent and won’t stop until we reach every last one of them,” said Netanyahu referring to the search for the suspected murderers and any others involved in the kidnapping. “We will reach everyone even if it takes time. This is our first mission. And it will be completed.”
Netanyahu then turned on Hamas as an organization saying that security forces must work against them firstly in the West Bank and secondly in Gaza. “Hamas… is directly responsible for for the firing of rockets and mortars into Israel in the last few hours,” he said.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also spoke before the cabinet meeting and took a slightly more moderate stance suggesting that Israel needs to act after careful consideration and not react from the gut.
The three Israeli teens were laid to rest earlier in the day at a Modi’in cemetery after the families of the boys had decided to bury them together.
Before the prime minister’s address, five mortar shells were fired from Gaza towards the Eshkol Regional Council in southern Israel. Code red sirens were also heard in Sha’ar HaNegev.
The Israeli Air Force carried out 34 attacks on terrorist targets in several different sections of the Gaza Strip overnight Monday, targeting structures and even some open areas, the IDF spokesperson confirmed early Tuesday morning.
Since the beginning of Operation Brother’s Keepers, a total of 419 Palestinians have been arrested, among them 59 were released in the Shalit deal, and 279 are Hamas operatives. The IDF has searched 2,200 sites.
Liberman: Israel should conduct widespread military operation in Gaza
By Herb Keinon, JPost
July 01, 2014
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday called on Israel to launch a “Defensive Shield” type of operation in the Gaza Strip to deliver a crippling blow to Gaza.
“We should not bury our heads in the sand, and should realize that there is a connection between the murder of the youths and the increasing rocket attacks on the South,” he said.
According to Liberman, this “flows from Hamas’s efforts to take control of the Palestinian Authority and Judea and Samaria, following the establishment of a Palestinian unity government.”
Hamas, Liberman continued was and remains a terrorist organization, and its murderous activities are the core of its operations. “Therefore there is a need to to prevent Hamas’s control of the territories by way of a determined military action, as was done with Defensive Shield over a decade ago.”
Such an operation, he said, would damage Hamas’ infrastructure, its capabilities and its operational abilities.
Operation Defensive Shield was a wide-spread military operation launched in the West Bank in 2002 following the Park Hotel massacre in Tanya on Passover eve.
Liberman has recently suggested that Israel, if it wants to end the endless “exchange of blows” with Hamas over the rocket fire in the south, will need to once again completely take over the Gaza Strip.