Deep Shocks to the Psyche
The Rejectionist Palestinian Riots of 2000
brought with them a number of severe shocks
to the Jewish world and to the Jewish psyche.
Some 10 weeks after the riots began, Jews, in Israel
and in the Diaspora, are still deep in the throes of
To try to better cope with them, we
should identify what they are. To do
that, let us recap some of the events
and developments of the past 10
Thus, given all that has happened since Rosh
Hashanah, how could the Jewish psyche not be deeply
shocked? We struggle to find answers to troubling,
even numbing questions.
- The timing of the riots. While the
violence actually began in Gaza a week before the
start of the Yamim Noraim, the orchestrated Temple
Mount "eruption" occurred on the eve of Rosh
For most Jews, of course, this is a special time of
year, a very serious time of year, more reflective,
contemplative, introspective, a time when we
speculate upon life's uncertainties and ponder
specifically the unknowability of our own future. It is a
time when we feel, in a certain sense, vulnerable.
It was during this time, when we were feeling most
vulnerable, that the violence began, stirring, as it were,
our individual feelings into a collective national mood.
- The "spontaneity" of the riots. From the very first
moments of the riots, it was obvious that it had been
planned, directed and maintained under the
instructions of Yasser Arafat and his lieutenants. The
stones had been gathered into piles on the Temple
Mount; guns and automatic rifles had been distributed
to the Tanzim; schools had been closed; the
Palestinian media had begun delivering militant, martial
messages well before Arik Sharon's "stroll" on the
- Abuse of children. The celebrated use of children
by the PA on the front lines and, conversely, the
deliberate shootings aimed at Israeli schoolbuses or
private vehicles carrying children has been simply
shocking. The PA's goal was to ensure children on
both sides would be killed.
- Jerusalem, but not for Jews. Virtually
simultaneous with the rioting on the Temple Mount was
the launching of a public campaign by PA leaders
questioning the existences of the First and Second
Temple and "warning" against the attempt by the
Israelis to "Judaize Jerusalem." Thus the PA realigned
the conflict. It was no longer against Israel but against
the Jews; it was no longer against a competing
territorial claim but now against Judaism itself.
- Muslim anti-Jewish intolerance. Muslim religious
leaders have been among the most vitriolic and
venomous inciters of hatred against the Jews of Israel.
The fiercest rioting occurs regularly after Friday
- Worldwide, anti-Jewish intolerance. Like a callus
that we hardly feel any longer but know is still there,
Jews are not surprised by the occasional expressions
of overt anti-Semitism. But the anti-Semitism that
erupted around the world in the wake of the rioting,
especially in the West, was truly shocking. And the
incidents continue. The following was reported merely
last week: Australian police defused a bomb that was
found in a Sydney-area synagogue; about a dozen
Jewish-owned stores in a suburb of Rome were
vandalised; 17 gravestones were damaged in a Jewish
cemetery in the German town of Saarbrucken; nearly
all of the graves in the Jewish cemetery in the town of
Lichtenburg, South Africa were damaged. That was
only one week of reported incidents.
- The silence of the Christian world. Even
acknowledging, for the sake of argument, the
reluctance of the Church to support the justice of
Israel's claim in the territorial aspect of the conflict, no
Church leaders have commented upon, let alone
condemned, the breathtakingly harsh, anti-Jewish
nature of the conflict on the part of the Palestinians and
- The hypocrisy of the West. Western governments
- including Canada, alas - have reverted to the same
tired, dangerous, unhelpful Israel-bashing policies at
the United Nations that characterized the nightmarish,
morally-inverted days in the aftermath of the Yom
- The toll of the dead. All of the deaths, some 300 to
date, were avoidable. The rioting need not have been
ordered, need not have persisted, need not now
continue. No one should have died.
The first, and perhaps only true question, is: why?
Why is the perpetuation of hatred seemingly embraced
so much more enthusiastically by the Palestinian
leadership than the attempt to foster understanding?
Are the Palestinians irredeemably opposed to any
Jewish state in the Middle East? If so, what was the
point of the Oslo process? Was it simply a ruse by
Arafat, as the Oslo opponents always said? Is there an
alternative to a peace process with the Arafat-led
Palestinians? Is there an alternative peace "partner" to
Arafat? Can the two clashing cultures, societies, ways
of life and sets of values ever be reconciled? Why, in
the year 2000, do we still see and hear the same
ignorant, malicious, attitudes towards the Jews as
were heard in medieval times?
Editor - Canadian Jewish News
December 14, 2000.