The Zionist Conspiracy
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Celebrating 73 Dead IDF Soldiers
Yesterday was the 10th anniversary in the Hebrew calendar of the February 1997 collision of two IDF helicopters, resulting in the loss of 73 IDF soldiers on their way to southern Lebanon.
The crash was a national tragedy, and was one of the catalysts for the erosion in national support for Israel's presence in southern Lebanon, eventually resulting in Israel's withdrawal in 2000.
One of my law school classmates was a Lebanese Christian. During the first year of law school, I'd often talk about the Middle East with him and Avi, a modern Orthodox classmate. Basically, our Arab friend said that he was interested in business opportunities. He seemed like a moderate Arab who could accept Israel.
By the time Yigal Amir murdered Prime Minister Rabin during my second year of law school, my Lebanese classmate was a bit less of a moderate, but not quite an extremist. He asked me if I was celebrating the murder. Of course not, I told him. He said he thought Orthodox Jews all wanted Rabin dead.
As for him, he said he had mixed feelings. On one hand, Rabin was an Israeli leader and on that basis, he was happy to see him dead. On the other hand, Rabin was leading the peace process, and he wanted the peace process to succeed. Most other Arabs, he assured me, were simply happy that Rabin was dead, and even happier that it was a fellow Israeli who had killed him.
He told me he was happy that I opposed the murder and supported the peace process, as opposed to the Likud fanatics. I explained that while I opposed the murder and supported the principle of a peace process, I thought Oslo was a sham and was a Likud supporter. That didn't seem to make any sense to him. If I opposed Oslo, why was I so upset about the Rabin murder?
After Binyamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister shortly after the end of our second year, my classmate's politics took a different turn. He organized anti-Israel events under the guise of human rights, and railed against Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon, then a minister in Netanyahu's government. I told him that I understood why someone from Lebanon disliked Sharon, even if I disagreed with his depiction of Sharon as a wanton murderer. But Sharon was just a cabinet minister, not even a senior one, I assured him.
After the helicopter crash, Avi and I were discussing the tragedy in the school lounge, when our Lebanese classmate overheard us and matter-of-factly expressed his delight. On an intellectual level I understood where he was coming from. Israel was the enemy. But why was he so happy about something so painful to us? Didn't he understand that the soldiers were just boys with parents, siblings, friends? I didn't expect him to mourn or even to empathize, but was disappointed that he was celebrating.
I didn't express these thoughts, but he must have sensed them. Later, he approached me to tell me that his excitement was nothing personal, explaining that while Avi was a nice guy, he had been an IDF soldier, and he (i.e. the Lebanese fellow) would kill him on the battlefield if he had the chance. I thought it was bizarre that he felt the need to say that.
A month later, as I was driving to school, I heard on the radio that a Jordanian soldier had murdered 7 Israeli schoolgirls. As I walked into the school building, there was my Arab classmate, taking up a large table on the first floor of the law school with a protest about Israel's purported human rights abuses against Palestinian children.
I sent out a mass e-mail to the entire school, asking whether anyone cared about the human rights of the Israeli girls who had been shot dead. There was a bit of back-and-forth e-mail debate, along with some angry debate between me (and a few other Jewish students) and a number of Arab students. I knew that most of the students in school resented the intrusion to their e-mail. I was really trying to resonate with my fellow Jewish students, who disproportionately seemed to take a special interest in the Arab propaganda.
My classmate approached me to discuss the matter. He insisted that the murder of the schoolgirls was a Mossad conspiracy to take some international pressure off Netanyahu. I told him that I saw no point in discussing the Middle East with him anymore.
I last saw my classmate during bar review the summer after graduation. He asked me if I would be spending time "in Tel Aviv" after the bar. I told him that I hoped to go to Israel before starting my working life, but that I would probably stay in Jerusalem.
"Maybe one day we'll meet in Jerusalem and have some shawarma and hummus," he said.